Gay students find it easier to get college scholarships
BERKELEY, Calif. – Aspiring civil rights lawyer Alyn Libman has something a lot of college students would covet: a $15,000-a-year scholarship to attend the University of California, Berkeley.
In the eyes of the private foundation paying his way, he was uniquely qualified, with a resume that showed not only athletic achievement and academic potential, but years of ridicule, getting attacked at knifepoint and Libman’s own precocious decision to become a boy in 11th grade.
“It felt amazing to actually be embraced by someone who didn’t just dismiss me for being different,” said Libman, 19, the first transsexual to win a scholarship from The Point Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that has awarded more than $1 million to college-bound gays and lesbians since 2002.
Coming out of the closet can bring anxiety or even danger to teenagers, who can be left in uncertain financial situations if their families reject them.
Now, for those seeking money to attend college, it no longer hurts to be gay, lesbian or transgender. An increasing number of charities, professional groups and university campuses offer scholarships specifically for students whose sexuality doesn’t fit the coed mold.
More than 50 such scholarships are available nationwide – from the $1,000 scholarships that Zami, an advocacy group in Atlanta, is giving to 21 black lesbians and gays this year, the $2,000 awards the United Church of Christ distributed to gay seminarians, and the $3,000 fellowships George Washington University administers so gays and lesbians can spend a semester studying politics in the nation’s capital. Some groups, such as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, also make financial aid available to children of gay parents or straight students who have worked to reduce homophobia in their communities.
Sexual orientation alone usually is not enough to get this kind of money. Success against the odds, scholastic aptitude, extracurricular involvement and demonstrated leadership also are needed to qualify – the same qualities philanthropists have always sought to celebrate by endowing college scholarships.
But the essays these students write in their applications are something different – they tend to include tales of confusion and rejection.