During the college search process, it was really important to me to find an LGBTQ+ friendly campus. I grew up in a small conservative town in the Brazilian countryside, so homophobia has always been present in my life. Those who know me very well can tell you that it only takes a pop song to awaken the Cher that lives inside me, so I decided to set ‘LGBTQ+ friendly environment’ as a key criteria when building my college list. This meant I could be confident that I would be accepted for who I was at any college that accepted me.
As soon as I arrived on the beautiful Tufts campus in August 2018, I was happily surprised by the STRUT Party, an LGBTQ+ celebration for incoming students. I still remember the drag performances and the contagious pop songs. In fact, I felt as if I were in my favorite Brazilian nightclub: Desmanche, a GLS nightclub located on the popular Augusta Street in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The instant I stepped into the party, I realized I had made the best choice coming to Tufts. The university has one of the few LGBTQ+ Centers in the U.S and has a Rainbow House, the themed dorm for LGBTQ+ students. Moreover, there are several gender-neutral toilets that provide greater comfort for the transgender and non-binary community on-campus. Due to so many inclusive initiatives, Tufts has ranked second amongst the best colleges for LGBTQ + students in the U.S.
Undoubtedly, studying at a place that is so inclusive allows me to focus entirely on my academic performance. In addition to on-campus activism, students also regularly participate in community rallies in the greater Boston area. For instance, I attended rallies in the beginning of 2019 to pressure the Massachusetts government to ban conversion therapy for minors. Our efforts paid off and the governor signed a law banning the practice.
Outside of physical infrastructure, the counseling and mental health support that Tufts offers to its trans and non-binary students are also worth highlighting. There are many LGBTQ+ affinity groups such as the QUERY group, which is a queer group that meets periodically to help closeted people during their coming out process. Coming out is a challenging time, so having support is fundamental for individuals’ mental health during this process. In addition to support groups, the massive campus representation is also important. Many teachers, researchers, and board members are LGBTQ+ and/or allies. I must confess that passing through the Academic Quad and seeing Ballou Hall (the administrative building) flying the LGBTQ+ flag makes me feel very welcome here.
But it’s more than the supportive and enjoyable academic environment on campus, we are also surrounded by two cities that also support the LGBTQ+ community. In Medford and Somerville, even churches display the LGBTQ+ flag on their doors as a sign of support and acceptance. However, it is important to recognize that there is a lot to be improved. Being an LGBTQ+ student on-campus does not represent the reality experienced in communities around the continental U.S. The university is a privileged bubble, so it does not fully represent the reality of LGBTQ+ people of color and those who live in low-income communities.
Fortunately, my experience here has been amazing, and I will strive to see all members of this community living without fear and/or shame of being their authentic selves.