04 May 2011

Help make it better for queer students at U of I

The Palouse in summer. Photo by jby.
Just as I'm wrapping up my time at the University of Idaho, the University's LGBTQA Office is starting up an important new initiative: an emergency fund for queer students who've been disowned by their parents.

Moscow, Idaho, isn't what you'd think of as a good place to come out of the closet—it's a tiny university town in the middle of lots and lots of farmland. But Moscow is disproportionately queer-friendly for its size, and many U of I students come from even smaller, more isolated, much more conservative towns in other parts of the state. For queer students coming from towns like that, Moscow is the first town they've ever lived in with a any kind of queer community, and the first chance they've ever had to explore and express their identities without fear of ostracism or worse.

Unfortunately, parents back in small, hyper-conservative Idaho towns are not necessarily supportive when a son or daughter comes to terms with a new sexual identity at university. Often that means strained relations buffered by a six-hour cross-state drive. Sometimes, though, it's meant that U of I students who come out to their parents—or who are outed—find themselves cut off financially in the middle of earning a degree.

To help make sure that students in such a situation can continue their studies, the LGBTQA Office is starting an emergency scholarship fund. It'll be enough, hopefully, to provide for basic needs, help such students achieve financial independence, and give them breathing space to change their status with the IRS so they can apply for financial aid directly, to replace what they used to have through their parents. The current goal is to raise $5,000 as a first step toward building a self-sustaining fund.

So I thought I'd ask you, Dear Readers: can you help?

This is still all so new that there isn't yet a web page devoted to the project, or a means to donate online. (A page is in the works, and I'll alert/pester you again when it's online.) So if you want to help, make out a check to the UI Women's Center, with "LGBTQ Emergency Fund" in the memo line, and mail it to

LGBTQA Office at Women's Center
PO Box 441064
Moscow, ID 83844
USA

You can also e-mail Rebecca Rod, the LGBTQA Coordinator, with questions about the fund.

Thanks in advance.

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