Book By: Ronni L. Sanlo, Ed.
Review By: David Kessler
College of Liberal and Fine Arts Advising Center
University of Texas at San Antonio
As our campuses strive to meet the needs of a student population comprised of numerous cultures and backgrounds, it is necessary to consider how personal experiences and campus policies and environments affect student learning. The recent history of the United States, and campus events during that time, provides the impetus for addressing the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students. Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation: Research, Policy and Personal Perspectives can be a useful resource for the academic advisor regardless of one’s level of knowledge related to LGBT issues. Although it reduces the student experience to a total of a few pages throughout, this monograph presents chapters with a balance between research, policy and perspectives that will help its readers “understand some of the more critical issues of LGBT students and staff” (p. 2).
Aptly, Editor Ronni Sanlo and Beth Zemsky answer the question of the title for Chapter 1 – “Do Policies Matter?” These authors examine the national climate where future employers such as most of the Fortune 500 companies have policies aimed at ensuring equal opportunity for LGBT individuals in their workplace. As campuses tend to represent a microcosm of society, it is evident that when local, state and national governments struggle to offer protection on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the policies that campuses create can improve the success of students. However, research on policies and climates show that “many campuses remain challenging environments for community members” (p. 7).
Various authors provide an introduction to the student experience with information about LGBT identity development and issues. It is important to recognize that while established stage models, which many student affairs professionals may equate with Chickering or others, can explain LGBT identity development, the intersection of multiple identities and social contexts play a role in the coming out process that is common for non-heterosexual persons. Understanding these theories and developmental processes that students go through can benefit conceptual advising methods for LGBT students at any level of study.
Each author alludes to or specifically recognizes that the research related to the higher education environment and LGBT students is lacking. In regards to the community college population, Brian Ivory points out that since 1991, “fewer than six articles have been published” (p. 61) and these campuses must extrapolate from existing data for four-year institutions when considering programming and other initiatives. While referrals to off-campus agencies may be necessary for most community colleges, an LGBT Resource Center may be an option for larger campuses. Readers gain insight into the processes that led to the development of one such center, but should remain aware of the issues that are unique to your own institution.
This monograph can be educational to any reader regardless of institution type and amount of previous knowledge about LGBT issues. Since practical suggestions from a campus-wide perspective are mentioned, academic advisors must realize that this book does not provide direct feedback related to their primary responsibilities. However, the final chapters, and entire book, inspires all levels of staff and administration that student affairs professionals should be educated about working with LGBT students beginning with graduate level preparation, and every individual can be a leader for change that positively affects the LGBT student and community on our campuses.
Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation: Research, Policy and Personal Perspectives.
(2005). Sanlo, Ronni L., Ed. Review By David Kessler. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 103 pp. $27.00. ISBN #0-7879-8328-4