Gay College Student in the South?
April 11, 2010 4:51 PM   Subscribe

Am I being dumb in not researching colleges in the south because I'm gay?

While researching schools I've kind of decided I don't want to go to schools in the south because I have a preconception that schools, students, and the surrounding communities in that region will be less accepting of gay people. But there are many great schools there and I don't want to limit myself needlessly.

I'm currently closeted, which makes this kind of tricky to talk about with guidance counselors, parents, etc.

So, AskMe, are my preconceptions incorrect? Or will I likely have a better time going to a more liberal school elsewhere?

(Note: I'm not trying to bash the south, I just want to make the most informed decision about college that I can, so please correct me if I'm wrong)
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (53 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, you are being dumb by not investigating schools in the south. Why should you expect people to be open minded about your sexuality if you refuse to be open minded about their hometown?
posted by banannafish at 4:53 PM on April 11, 2010 [24 favorites]

If your limitations have crossed UT-Austin off your list, then your limitations are decidedly overbroad.

Also the gays love Atlanta. It's often called Hotlanta. Not sure if there are any schools you are looking at there.

But in general, there are gays everywhere. And many of us have been out and proud in the South without incident for years.

FWIW: The only time I have been publicly harassed was in the North, when I moved to Philadelphia for law school.
posted by greekphilosophy at 4:55 PM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

The majority of these schools will have gay student organizations. It might be helpful to contact them, let them know about your concerns, and ask them what their experience at the school has been.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:55 PM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

I found this - might be useful to you. Don't know how reliable it is, though.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:56 PM on April 11, 2010

Your preconceptions are not necessarily true. I went to school in the south, and I had a fun ol' flaming time. Atlanta and Houston have huge gay scenes, too. And, there are indeed homophobes in the north and midwest and west.

Gay-friendliness determination is more a school-to-school basis, than on a north vs south basis.
posted by NikitaNikita at 4:58 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you consider DC part of the south but it is super gay friendly.
posted by kat518 at 5:02 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

You didn't say what kind of schools you're considering, but Warren Wilson College is one of the most liberal colleges in the US. And Asheville is a very liberal city and very gay-friendly.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:02 PM on April 11, 2010

What's "the South"?

As greekphilosophy pointed out, some people would think of Texas as "the South," and crossing off Austin from your list based on a desire to live in a liberal, open-minded town wouldn't make a whole lot of sense. Also, parts of Illinois and Florida can be considered "the South" (though I have no idea if those parts have schools you'd otherwise be interested in). And kat mentioned DC. There isn't some official borderline.

And yeah, you would be fighting stereotyping with stereotyping. However, "stereotyping" isn't inherently bad. Different cultures are different, and it's not necessarily "dumb" to take this into account.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:05 PM on April 11, 2010

Purely anectdotally and from personal experience, I do think gay people (and particularly gay guys) have a bit of a tendency to flock to cities, and I think you're more likely to find strong gay communities in urban schools than in rural ones. Big schools also have an advantage, since 5% (or whatever) of 20,000 just happens to be a lot bigger than 5% of 1,000. Gay kids I know who went to small schools sometimes had problems finding a group of gay friends with which to bond... so it's probably more of a school-size thing than a geography thing, and obviously, schools affiliated with anti-gay institutions (the military, religions, etc.) have the potential to cause problems. But yes, I think southern schools *are* probably worth investigating, and their LGBT student organizations will likely be happy to answer your questions.
posted by andrewpendleton at 5:06 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Choose schools in larger cities or more liberal college towns (aka most of them) and you'll be fine. Do your research based on the school, don't just cross the entire region off of your list. Not that there aren't schools that are less gay-friendly in the South- but there are some in the North as well, I'm sure. You might avoid Baptist schools (Baylor, for instance), but even then, at a sufficiently large school there will be a gay population.
posted by MadamM at 5:07 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I should add: the people at school student organizations are totally accustomed to dealing with students who aren't out to their parents. You don't have to visit them when you do your college visits; they probably have websites and email addresses, and will be happy to talk to you that way, keep your confidence, etc.
posted by andrewpendleton at 5:08 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it's more of a city/rural thing than a north/south thing.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:08 PM on April 11, 2010 [10 favorites]

Yes. I went to graduate school at the University of Florida in Gainesville and there was an active gay scene. Gay, single peers said it was small--a bit hard to find dates--but I don't know anyone here who faced outright prejudice.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:09 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Most of the bigger schools and well-ranked private schools have vibrant LGBT centers. You should probably check those out and maybe even contact them before you just cross them off your list.

And please don't consider "the South" some kind of monolithic, narrow-minded block, no matter what people on Metafilter like to say about it. Like people said above, there are quite a few liberal areas, and even in some more conservative areas there are gay communities.
posted by pecknpah at 5:13 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just graduated from Winthrop, in South Carolina right across the state line from Charlotte. It has the highest concentration of gays that I've ever knowingly been in. And you know what? That didn't bother this life-long straight southerner one bit.

Maybe stay away from the church based schools, but other than that you should be fine. Just remember that no matter what you're going to find a concentration of people that hate you because you're [insert pretty much anything here because sadly, it will always exist no matter what you put in].

And like pecknapah said, don't stereotype. You're being just as bad as the people you think you're going to avoid. Besides, the only really true stereotype about the south is that people give you food when you come to visit.
posted by theichibun at 5:15 PM on April 11, 2010

Savannah, GA welcomes gay peeps, both in society and colleges. A
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:15 PM on April 11, 2010

No, you are not being dumb by being concerned about this. There are very, very vocal homophobes in the south. They stage fake high school proms, they scream epithets at congressmen. Worry is very reasonable. But, if you are from a small southern town, or even a small southern city, than any campus is going to be much more tolerant than what you are used to.

UT-Austin and UVa are nice places to be gay, and I'm sure there are other nice ones, but both have some total assholes too. And so does Cal-Berkley. On most campuses the jerks are quieter because they don't get the reinforcement.

If there is a school that looks great in all other respects, look into things closely, contact the campus GLBT alliance, they will know how to be discreet, but don't go somewhere where you will be scared. Even if the fears are unfounded, it isn't necessary, and being a new student is scary enough.

Good Luck
posted by Some1 at 5:21 PM on April 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

North-South makes no sense here. Houston and Austin trump Philadelphia any day. Central New Jersey is likewise woefully close-minded and bereft of community.
posted by vincele at 5:22 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I went to school in the South and it was less than ideal for my straight-but-not-narrow self. The school was a mix of moneyed good old boys, rural hicks, Clintonian beltway kids, boarding school brats, and the occasional confused liberal who grew up in Ohio and thought, "Surely a Virginian city 2 hours away from our nation's capitol can't be that bad." Our class president, a straight black female, was attacked outside the library and called a nigger. She was in crutches for two months. Overall there was a prevailing sense in that school that if you did not follow codes of the status quo, your life would be significantly harder.
posted by zoomorphic at 5:42 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm the camp that you are silly to write off a quarter of the country by treating it as if it uniformly conformed to some stereotype that you have. There are morons and idiots everywhere. As someone above mentioned, research the gay communities officially or unoffically associated with the school to get a flavor of what to expect. Treat this just like you would any other decision (big/medium/small school), (rural, suburban, urban), etc.
posted by mmascolino at 5:43 PM on April 11, 2010

It's not at all dumb to avoid schools with a bad gay scene or prejudiced student body, but doing it based on geographical location is pretty misguided. Especially at private liberal arts schools, you'll have students from all across the country.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:46 PM on April 11, 2010

UT-Austin and UVa are nice places to be gay....
posted by Some1 at 8:21 PM on April 11 [+] [!]

UT maybe (I've heard excellent things about and have met excellent people from there) but UVA is my alma mater.

To wit, "our" school anthem includes the line "where all is bright and gay." When this is sung at football games, a huge number of people scream "NOT GAY" after the lyric. Stay the fuck away from that school.
posted by zoomorphic at 5:49 PM on April 11, 2010 [6 favorites]

New Orleans is in the South. Research schools on a case-by-case basis.
posted by umbĂș at 5:56 PM on April 11, 2010

Austin, TX is a wonderful place to be gay. UT-Austin is a great school too.
posted by jchaw at 6:02 PM on April 11, 2010

Nthing that to make this a north/south issue is a little odd. Small towns in California and New England are going to be a whole lot more conservative than metropolitan areas in the South. And of course, there are homophobic people in big cities, even San Francisco and NYC.
posted by desuetude at 6:03 PM on April 11, 2010

"Surely a Virginian city 2 hours away from our nation's capitol can't be that bad."

I go to a public university in Virginia a couple hours from our nation's capitol. I'm not gay, but I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who are. Harassment and bigotry aren't non-existent, of course, but I'd say they are as small a problem on this campus as anywhere else. It is not a particularly threatening place to any minority group, including gay people. If you came here, I think you would feel perfectly safe.

Then again, my school is infinitely better than UVA in every possible way, so perhaps this isn't surprising.
posted by Commander Rachek at 6:06 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I attended both Tulane and LSU, and while I am not gay and cannot speak to that experience specifically, I recall a fairly active gay community on both campuses. New Orleans is very liberal , while Baton Rouge is much more conservative, but I have never found Baton Rouge to be gay-unfriendly.

Basically, "the South" really can't be generalized, as others have said above. While some areas (rural Mississippi comes to mind) may be less open-minded, there are certainly areas in this part of the country in which I think you would be very happy.
posted by tryniti at 6:08 PM on April 11, 2010

If big southern college towns didn't exist, southern gays would probably invent them. I think you're right, though, to consider "surrounding communities": for a smallish, not-quite-college town like Asheville it gets "country" pretty fast after the city limits and especially the county line, and if you end up living in a shared private rental, you may want to take that into consideration.
posted by holgate at 6:09 PM on April 11, 2010

I've actually never heard that about UVa.

I went to William & Mary, and would say that the community there were incredibly tolerant -- moreso than some colleges I knew of in the North. Beyond whatever personal apprehensions you might have about coming out, it's basically a non-issue there.

There's also a fairly large LGBT population at Mary Washington (something common to a lot of formerly-all-female schools). I can't speak for ODU, VCU, or Tech, although I've never heard anything overwhelmingly bad about any of those places. Despite Virginia's record for being a heavily conservative state, the public university system is reasonably liberal.

You'll also find fairly tolerant communities in any of the cities on the Eastern seaboard. Although you're prudent to be researching this issue, I wouldn't rule out anything in Delaware, Maryland, or DC for this reason. (DC in particular has a better record on LGBT issues than most cities and states)

Elsewhere, you're likely to find things a mixed bag. Don't assume tolerance simply because a school's located in the north, and don't automatically associate hostility with the South.
posted by schmod at 6:13 PM on April 11, 2010

This is really a city-by-city and school-by-school thing. As an alum, I love seeing everybody talking up UT Austin here, and I certainly agree (from my impressions as a straight guy) that it's a very gay-friendly school, and Austin an equally gay-friendly city. On the other hand, you look at the other flagship public school in Texas, Texas A&M - somehow I never got the impression they were very open-minded about gay people, or much else, there.

To take another example in this thread, Virginia - VCU and William & Mary are both extremely liberal and tolerant schools, UVA is sort of buttoned-down (or popped-collar now, I suppose) Southern old money by reputation, and Virginia Tech started out as a military academy and still sort of has that it in its institutional DNA.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:33 PM on April 11, 2010

Nashville has a thriving gay scene. There's lots of schools in the region, most notably Vanderbilt. I had many gay friends even at my mediocre alum, MTSU. Nthing everyone who pointed out the rural/urban issue.
posted by kimdog at 6:37 PM on April 11, 2010

I'm currently closeted, which makes this kind of tricky to talk about with guidance counselors, parents, etc.

If you want some advice, I'd recommend college confidential. (Normally I wouldn't, it's like a cesspool of irrationality, so don't use it for other things.). But you can post a general question about the gay atmosphere at schools, or go to specific schools you're curious about.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:04 PM on April 11, 2010

There's also a fairly large LGBT population at Mary Washington

There is nothing to do around Mary Washington though, or not all that much, for college age people. Hell, for anyone. Fredericksburg can be a very boring place to live, or live near.
posted by SuzySmith at 7:22 PM on April 11, 2010

You're basically overthinking this.

You can pretty well bet that any (non-Bible, non-military) college that (nontrivially) draws students nationally will be tolerant. I might not bet that UT-Permian Basin in sunny exciting Midland-Odessa does more than pay lip service to gay tolerance, but UT-PB doesn't have students from across the country beating down its doors, ya dig?

You're right to think about surrounding areas, but this also isn't likely to affect your day to day life. While UF and Gainesville are reasonably gay-friendly, if you're going to the beach and stop in Palatka, you'd probably find it a bit chilly. It's something to think about, but not something to stress about.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:12 PM on April 11, 2010

The South is as gay as Truman Streckfus Persons.
posted by ovvl at 8:12 PM on April 11, 2010

I can't speak for ODU, VCU, or Tech

As a (straight, male) Virginia Tech alum, I'd actually say that Blacksburg is way better than you'd expect a small town in rural Southwest Virginia to be, in the sense that it's actually fairly liberal. From this interactive map, you can see that one little blue blob in SW Virginia -- that's Montgomery County, where pretty much the only towns worth talking about are Blacksburg and Christiansburg. (Admittedly, it's only just barely blue, but students don't necessarily vote where they go to school.) A lot of the population in Blacksburg is there just for Virginia Tech, and I think there was some sort of hippie exodus from DC in the 60s and 70s that brought a lot of liberally-minded people to that area.

I knew a lot of gay students there, and I don't think that they every really felt like they were put in any uneasy situations because of their sexuality -- though to be honest it's something I never directly asked any of them anything about. But there was a fairly significant LGBT community and for the most part people didn't seem to care at all. I'd say that the only problems in terms of intolerance are not from the people that have lived in the area their whole lives, but from people who come from really conservative areas elsewhere in the state and came to go to business school there.

Would I recommend for a gay person to go to Tech? Well, it might not be the most gay-friendly school in Virginia, but I don't think I'd actively recommend against it, you know? It all depends on what you want to do, and not letting stupid bigoted assholes try to decide what you want for you.

Also, since I'm currently a grad student at the University of Texas at Austin (whose home county, Travis County, is the blue blob in the middle of Texas on that same map), I can tell you for a fact that this place is really, really gay friendly.

Long story short: yes, you're really limiting yourself by imposing constraints that don't necessarily make sense. "The South" is far from a uniform, homogeneous region, and most of the larger cities (especially Atlanta and Houston) are probably more gay-friendly than a lot of Northeastern cities.
posted by malthas at 8:20 PM on April 11, 2010

If you want some advice, I'd recommend college confidential.

If you value your sanity, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, please do not use CC for anything else.

I'm sorry, but I cannot possibly add enough emphasis to that comment. Applying to colleges is a confusing and horribly stressful situation, and the folks on the CC message boards tend to lose sight of what's important.

You want a college where:
* You can learn new skills, broaden your intellectual horizons, and hopefully form the foundations of a future career.
* You can form new relationships with people that you can relate to. With any luck, you'll form a few friends for life.
* You can figure out who you are, and once you do, be able to express that.

The people at CC tend to lose sight of this. The "selectivity" of the college you choose to attend will ultimately have very little impact on your life. I'm sorry to derail this thread somewhat, but it's vitally important to choose a college where you'll feel comfortable and accepted -- far moreso than the prestige, selectivity, or ranking of that college.

So far, you're on the right track -- this was by no means a ridiculous question to ask.

Also, consider what sort of college student would post to CC. You're not getting an accurate picture.
posted by schmod at 8:21 PM on April 11, 2010 has been conducting surveys of schools for a while now and they have some stuff at that you should check out.

I don't know anything about the South, but I know gay, and I think your gay life will be 1000x better if you live in a big city.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:36 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Geographically, Washington State University is about as "north" as you can get. But it's in eastern Washington.

Politically, that side of the Cascades may as well be South Carolina's long-lost, buck-toothed, deer-huntin', evangelical cousin.

Blue-state, liberal-loving, latte-sippin' Washington is really only King County and parts of Olympia.

What I'm saying is ... don't automatically rule out parts of the South. And keep in mind that you may over-react and make a mistake in the opposite direction.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:56 PM on April 11, 2010

One caveat I can think of regarding LGBT organizations on campuses is that they may encourage you to come to their school just to broaden the gay population a bit more. That said, I really doubt that they would be dishonest with you about the community.

I lived in South Carolina for awhile. I'm straight, and white, and I would NOT want to live there as a minority. However, the law allows for private clubs there (originally so the whites could keep out the blacks after '64, as I understand), but it works the other way, too. Every gay club requires membership to get in, which keeps out the riff raff who might harass. But I don't think there are any large enough cities in SC, personally, so I'd stick to those anyway, if I were you.

The only other advice I have (and which you didn't ask about, so please forgive my forwardness): the truth shall set you free.
posted by wwartorff at 9:11 PM on April 11, 2010

UNC is also very gay friendly. Conservatives are an embattled minority here.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:14 PM on April 11, 2010

I'm straight, but I did attended two Virginia colleges, VA Tech and Mary Washington, in the 90's. Tech was much less welcoming to gay kids than Mary Washington, by a country mile. When I was there, groups of kids from the Corps of Cadets (VT is one of only two schools in the nation with both uniformed cadets and civilian undergrad students) heckled a campus pride parade, in uniform, and faced no repercussions.

Mary Washington, by contrast, went above and beyond to maintain an egalitarian atmosphere for all students, to the point of banning any campus presence or recognition for greek organizations due to their discriminatory practices.

One of my Mary Wash roommates was gay and my long-time girlfriend at school had mostly gay friends, so for an outsider I had decent visibility into the gay community at the school. My roomie described it as a very welcoming environment, though not great for dating, but he did have several extended relationships during the time I knew him there.

As for the snark about the broader social scene at MW, well, coming from Blacksburg it was great. The school is 45 minutes to an hour from DC, which is very gay-friendly, and in fact one of the gay students tended bar in DC on weekends for very good money (especially when he worked in drag).

Fredericksburg has a lot of Civil War history, but even then that aspect of the town was being swamped by the encroachment of the educated and modern-minded people culturally anchored in DC and more northern Virginia, a trend that accelerated with the establishment of commuter rail service between Fredericksburg and DC.

It depends on the school, and Mary Washington is very welcoming.
posted by NortonDC at 10:18 PM on April 11, 2010

I'm just here to put in another good word for UT-Austin. I'm a bisexual female and never had any problems there, and to my knowledge the handful of gay guys I hung out with had a good time there as well. There were a ton of gay people on my social periphery as well, and I never stepped foot in any social setting arranged around being gay (i.e. never went to gay clubs, never went to meetings for gay organizations, etc) -- you just run into them routinely. There's a lot of that stuff there, though, if you're interested in it.

The nice thing about Austin, though, is precisely that you don't have to make a point of seeking out other gay people to feel safe or accepted. A complaint I hear a lot in places with smaller gay communities is that you have to be gay foremost and then try to find someone interested in the same things as you, but in Austin you can pretty much go do whatever you're into and chances are there'll be other openly gay people there.

I agree with Jacqueline and others that making this a north/south dichotomy is the problem, and that it's more of a rural v. urban thing, if anything. It's not a big deal to be gay in any of the major Texas cities, to my knowledge. Houston is fairly gay-friendly, too -- not so much as Austin but there are huge enclaves of gay people in places like Montrose or the Heights.

Also, even though UT-Austin has a reputation for being a party school, you will get a great education there. I had some amazing professors and the coursework was challenging. I also never went to a single party and had a blast regardless. It's a great school in a great city with lots of opportunities.
posted by Nattie at 10:24 PM on April 11, 2010

One more thing to add about being gay at UT-Austin: the orientation advisors (the people who walk the new students through the couple days of orientation activities) are students. A TON of them are gay, or at least they were the year my husband was an orientation advisor. Several of the activities new students must go through are meant to enforce tolerance of others' race, gender, sexual orientation, etc, and it's very much hammered into people at orientation that the prevalent attitude at UT toward gay people is a positive one. I don't mean that homophobes are cured by this by any stretch of the imagination -- a few days of activities isn't going to cure anyone -- but it does make them feel really uncomfortable expressing anything homophobic once they realize most people around them don't think the same way. You're unlikely to get openly hassled by anyone. And happily, after a while of being shamed into silence and being socially unable to refuse hanging out with gay people that their friends want to hang out with, some of them actually change their mind once they realize hey, these gay people are alright.
posted by Nattie at 10:35 PM on April 11, 2010

I just wanted to come put in a word for my soon-to-be alma mater, Texas Woman's University in Denton, TX. We have an on-campus LGBT organization that seems reasonably active based on what I've seen on campus.

Whether you come to TWU or not, please know that not everyone in the south, or in Texas specifically, is a bigoted, homophobic jerk.
posted by fireoyster at 1:13 AM on April 12, 2010

I went to one of those large flagship state in large town that was the local liberal enclave, and there was a thriving gay scene. However, once you got more than 20 minutes outside of the town, people were less welcome. I did know of at least once case of physical violence, and a few cases of verbal harassment. This was about fifteen years ago.

Does this type of harassment also happen in small towns in "northern" states? Of course. More or less? I don't know. But gay friends did tell me that they felt a little uncomfortable outside of the university's sphere of influence.

Campus and the students themselves were very supportive. Obviously you have to make your own decision, but I think it would definitely be worth looking into schools in the south, particularly the large flagship state schools. The campuses are usually very supportive of LGBT issues, education's awesome, and the price is right. However, there could be situations traveling in the cities and towns outside of campus where you'd get a chilly reception. I hate to say it, but that was the experience of the people I know. Hopefully a lot has changed in fifteen years.
posted by lillygog at 5:08 AM on April 12, 2010

Another vote for Atlanta. I went to Emory 15-20 years ago and even then there were many out gay students & a robust GLBT organization. I also have many guy friends who were gay & out at GA Tech and while it was less perhaps a bit less welcoming on campus, Tech is adjacent to Midtown & many gay bars, the gay bookstore, etc. Of course at Tech,many won't care who you're banging if you can help them pass differential equations ;)
posted by pointystick at 6:38 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

another vote for new orleans & tulane university. i've heard the founder, paul tulane, was gay, but have no evidence of that claim. i do know they have a ms. paul tulane/mr. sophie newcomb drag contest every year. sophie newcomb was the daughter of the founder of newcomb college, the women's coordinate college for tulane.
posted by msconduct at 7:21 AM on April 12, 2010

I've never heard anything but amazing things about UT-Austin. Seems to be a Southern Mecca for the kinds of open-minded people who are gay or gay-friendly.
posted by callmejay at 8:09 AM on April 12, 2010

I went to UVA during that incident mentioned upthread, and there was a lot of public outcry against the perpetrator, who was one person. Think the one troll who ruins metafilter for everybody else, then the incident gets dragged into Metatalk where it's discussed to improve the community.

UVA was a great place to be an out gay 10 years ago, and it's gotten better since. If it fits the rest of your personality, I think being gay there wouldn't be a problem. Many people get upset about it not being super-liberal, which it's just...not. But being gay there isn't really a problem, and Charlottesville is an amazing place that sits outside of the normal Virginia conservativism.

And I live in Charleston now, where there's the College of Charleston, which may be one of the gayest schools I'd never expect to find in the deep south.
posted by This Guy at 9:02 AM on April 12, 2010

I just noticed the Emory student newspaper today; the winner of the McMullan award (for a graduating senior of "uncommon stature in the eyes of the Emory community") went to a guy who was co-president of Emory Pride.

OTOH, I worked and did grad school at UGA, and would not recommend Athens unless you also had a car and planned to spend weekends in Atlanta.
posted by catlet at 9:05 AM on April 12, 2010

I went to school at VCU in Richmond VA and now live in Charlottesville, where UVA, zoomorphic's alma mater, is located. VCU has a fairly large gay community, as does the city. I'd think it would be fine. On the other hand I wouldn't really recommend UVA. It's is an old school that loves it's traditions, some of which are kind of neat, others, not so great. Charlottesville is a smallish college town, with a small, pretty low-key gay community. The town is really insular in a lot ways.

If you're interested in a Southern school's academic programs, investigate them. Schools in urban areas are probably better than ones in little college towns. Even if college-town school itself is really tolerant, there may not be much of a gay community outside of school, and especially if they're little you'll really want to know what their culture's like. The advice to contact the schools' LGBT organizations is probably sound. But don't write off places like UNC and UT-Austin just because they're Southern - find out out more.
posted by nangar at 9:45 AM on April 12, 2010

Yes yes yes to Atlanta, Austin, and UNC. Atlanta has been fantastic (I go to Agnes Scott - I definitely recommend it if you're a lady, but I couldn't tell from your post), and I have friends who grew up in Austin and Chapel Hill and have nothing but nice things to say about it. That being said, of places in Atlanta, I wouldn't recommend Georgia Tech. I've had experience partying with and befriending members of both the fraternity and hipster crowds and neither are very welcoming. They don't indulge in outright discrimination, but they are complicit in the sort of snide talk about people when they leave the room. (This, again, differs depending on your gender - since I've come out I've still felt very welcome, but I've never noticed a positive reaction to a gay male there).
I grew up in Florida, and I wouldn't really recommend much of it. FSU has a decent gay community, but Tallahassee as a city is pretty boring, and I would really recommend a big city if you're not currently out - more opportunities!
posted by SputnikSweetheart at 3:14 PM on April 12, 2010

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