According to a recent survey conducted by the Brown Daily Herald, the number of LGBTQ+ students at Brown University has doubled since 2010, reflecting a significant shift in the student population. The survey, released in June as part of a Pride Month special issue, revealed that approximately 38% of students identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community, encompassing various sexual orientations such as homosexual, bisexual, queer, asexual, pansexual, questioning, or other. This percentage is over five times higher than the national average for adults who do not identify as heterosexual.
The exact number of students polled in the survey remains undisclosed. However, considering Brown University’s total student enrollment of around 7,222 undergraduates and 3,515 graduate and medical program students as of fall 2022, the sample size is expected to be substantial.
In comparison to a similar poll conducted over a decade ago, which found that 14% of the student body identified as LGBTQ+, the recent increase is remarkable. The Herald’s findings indicated a decline in the number of lesbian and gay students from 46% to 22% since the initial survey. However, there has been a significant rise in other LGBTQ+ groups, with bisexual students increasing by 232% and other categories experiencing a collective growth of 793%.
The most prevalent orientation among LGBTQ+ respondents was bisexual, accounting for 53.7% of the surveyed group. Many students believe that these numbers reflect the positive impact of broadening social norms and increased acceptance of diverse identities. Josephine Kovecses, a member of the class of ’25, expressed excitement about the growing numbers and the ability for queer individuals to openly identify at Brown.
The survey question options offered by the Herald over the years have evolved to align with expanding awareness and inclusivity. The range of choices expanded from heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and other orientations in 2010 to include queer, pansexual, asexual, and questioning in the spring of 2022.
Different theories attempt to explain the surge in LGBTQ+ identification at Brown University. Some suggest that greater tolerance and acceptance have allowed more individuals to come out, while others propose that it may be influenced by the trendiness associated with LGBTQ+ identities among some youth. The data seems to align more with the latter theory, indicating that identity is rising at a faster pace than behavior, as observed by Professor Eric Kauffman of the University of London.
Sharita Gruberg from the Center for American Progress agrees with Kovecses, attributing the increase in LGBTQ+ identification to the environment of greater awareness and reduced stigma surrounding LGBTQ+ identities. Gruberg highlights that as awareness about diverse sexual orientations and gender identities grows, and as societal stigma lessens, more individuals are likely to self-identify as LGBTQ+.
The surge in LGBTQ+ representation at Brown University showcases the evolving landscape of sexual identities on college campuses, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and acceptance in educational environments.