Personal and Political: LGBTQ+ Students’ Perceptions of Safety and Harassment in the Rural South

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Youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are often at an increased risk for multiple forms of victimization and discrimination throughout the life course. The transition to college can be a source of stress for all students, and LGBTQ+ students face unique challenges during this transition. However, college can also provide LGBTQ+ youth with a safe space within which to develop coping mechanisms, feelings of efficacy, and community support. The present study employs semi-structured in-depth interviews with a diverse group of LGBTQ+ students conducted between 2013 and 2017. Data collection for this study is ongoing, and participants are recruited using social media, flyers, and advertisements with the university’s student organization for LGBTQ+ students and allies. In this paper, we identify participants’ common experiences with safety and harassment in the context of a University located in the rural South, and examine important differences using an intersectional theoretical approach. In addition, we examine the role of the 2016 Presidential campaign in shaping LGBTQ+ students’ perceptions of safety and harassment in this context. Finally, we ascertain the sources of social and institutional support that protect students from some of the negative effects of stress including drug abuse, depression, and suicidal ideation.


American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting (ASC)


Philadelphia, PA