The LGBTQ student high school-college experience
Jackson, James Kenneth
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Professional School Counselors and counselor educators are instruments for social justice in schools; nevertheless, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students often encounter oppressive high school and college environments and a lack of counselor support. This study asked how LGBTQ college students described their experiences and how ecological and internal forces interacted in their experiences. This qualitative study consisted of multiple interviews with college students from a southeastern state flagship university who reflected on their high school and college experiences, the interaction of the forces, and their recommendations for self-empowerment. The goal of the phenomenological and advocacy approach was to determine what would have made those high school and college experiences more self-empowering. Findings supported that LGBTQ students in high school and college have unique experiences involving a variety of ecological and internal forces that included sexual identity; hostile or supportive educational environments and people; family; religion; self-confidence, social confidence and friends; college/career choice; and a sense of purpose and direction. Findings also involved the organic relationship of these forces, the effects of positive and negative interventions, and the central nature of sexual identity. Implications for high schools and colleges are suggested with specific attention to the practice of school counselors and the need for comprehensive counseling programs with advocacy; internal and external school counselor role clarification; and LGBTQ awareness, training, and program integration. Suggestions for counselor educators included professional implementation of gatekeeping/development responsibilities, as well as teaching pre-service counselors comprehensive counseling programs, social justice implementation training, and LGBTQ competencies.