University of Iowa is First Public Institution to Ask Applicants About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The University of Iowa has added an optional question to its application asking potential students about their sexual orientation and gender identity, becoming the first public institution to do so, Inside Higher Ed reports:

IowaTo date, only Elmhurst College has such questions (although some colleges include gay/straight alliances among the list of student groups in which a prospective applicant may express interest). But Iowa will be the first public institution to add the question to its application about student identity, not interest. While colleges routinely ask about applicants' racial and ethnic background, among other topics, they have until now shied away from asking about sexual orientation, even as some gay rights advocates have pushed them to do so.

Advocates see Iowa's move as significant, given that it is a flagship university. "This is a huge deal in that it shows any campus that it can do the same thing," said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, which promotes the interests of gay and lesbian students in the college admissions process and once enrolled.

Two changes have been made:

Under the gender question, a dropdown menu now includes transgender along with male and female. And in a series of optional questions about parents' educational background, interest in fraternities and sororities, interest in Reserve Officers Training Corps and other matters, Iowa now asks: "Do you identify with the LGBTQ community?”


  1. Erik says

    Don’t fully see the point. I guess it’s useful for increasing services to LGBTQ students, but many Midwestern kids aren’t going to identify when applying in their senior year of high school.

    The school’s website features several articles on it and diversity, though, so I’m not complaining.

  2. KT says

    I love how Iowa, queit, unassuming Iowa, manages to be to the forefront of LGBT rights once again. I know the state is somewhat divided on the issues but it still amazes me that Iowa had same sex marriage before such liberal states as Vermont, New York, and Washington (not to mention the states still waiting such as Hawaii and NJ).

  3. G.I. Joe says

    “transgender” next to female / male. As if transgender people were neither or in between or I don’t know what.

    My ex boyfriend was a man, a male, who was also transgender. It’s not either or.

  4. Cyclone says

    @Erik: you would evidently be surprised at the openness of high school LGBT youth in the Midwest. I was in high school in Iowa in the 1990s and was open about my sexuality, and things have only progressed further and more quickly since that time. Most of my friends on the East Coast weren’t as open in high school as I was. That’s not to say that LGBT youth don’t face challenges, but the Midwest is further along on these issues than many might think, especially among youth. Iowa has one of the most dense networks of middle and high school gay-straight alliances in the country.

  5. Kyle says

    The question should be asked, “What is your sexual orientation?” not “Do you identify with the LGBTQ community?” That’s not a very elegant question, at least for what it’s purported to be.

  6. iowan says

    @Kyle – actually, the question they ask gives people the option not to specifically identify how they fit in the ‘box’ of LGBTQA (alphabet soup as you like it). Even though I have worked with the program here at Iowa in the past, I am always surprised at how students not only here, but across the country, like to embrace a concept of variety and openness on sexuality. Simply checking one of 3 or 4 boxes feels constraining.

    So their particular question could be seen as an eloquent solution for addressing how one sees, feels and expresses the range of sexuality not only as an individual, but as a group.

  7. Kyle says

    @Iowan “LGBTQ” encompasses sexual *and* gender minorities. Trans straight people and other queer heterosexuals would answer “yes” and so might straight allies. And gay people who would identify themselves as gay might answer “no” to the question as worded because it’s not clear what “LGBTQ community” is or what identifying with it means. Take Justin, above, for example.

  8. DB says

    There is no such thing as an ‘LGBTQ community’ and never will be. I am gay and I certainly do NOT identify with the offensive and inaccurate acronym ‘LGBTQ’.

  9. iowan says

    @KYLE How are you so definite that your opinion on this is the only right one? In working with the target population I have had a lot of exposure to discussion on this topic; not just locally, but regionally and nationally. And while you see things in one light (for better or worse), others may not. Common usage may trump any strict definition.

    I can definitely say Transgender people will not necessarily answer yes, nor will Allies. There will always be some that do or do not answer any particular question based on wording.

    I still stand firm in that the question, as presented, speaks directly to the 16-22yo population as they currently understand and use the alphabet acronym (or not). And simply staying with LGBTQ does NOT adequately address gender identity.

  10. Marissa says

    I don’t think this can be very accurate. People can lie about their identity. And then there’re people like me: I’m bi, but I don’t consider myself a part of the “LGBT community”. You could aslo be straight and say that you are a part of the LGBT community.