The Ivy Coach Daily

April 23, 2024

LGBTQ+ Life at Dartmouth College: Past, Present, and Beyond

A view of The Green at Dartmouth College on a fall day.

Many students at Dartmouth College adore their spirited community deep within the forests of New Hampshire. But what is life like for LGBTQ+ students on campus? Between a ubiquitous Greek life scene, small undergraduate population housing fewer than 5,000 students, and long-fought history of queer acceptance, many may believe that Dartmouth is no place for a member of the community. But the Dartmouth of today is not the same school that it once was. While it is understandable that some may still harbor reservations about LGBTQ+ life at Dartmouth, the College on the Hill’s queer and trans scene is more dynamic, lively, and well-resourced than ever before.

The Evolution of Dartmouth’s LGBTQ+ Presence Over Time

Dartmouth’s first queer student group, the Gay Students Association (GSA), was founded in 1977 as the Gay Student Support Group. The group distributed a weekly newsletter, brought speakers to campus, and sponsored social events. In 1984, right wing activist Laura Ingraham, an undergraduate at the time, sent an undercover reporter to a meeting of the association to secretly record the proceedings. She then created a transcript of the meeting and published the names of the attendees. This event garnered Dartmouth a reputation for intolerance and overshadowed a major GSA victory that same year: the Dartmouth Board of Trustees adding “sexual orientation” to the College’s Equal Opportunity Statement for students.

LGBTQ+ acceptance made incremental progress in the following decades, with the 2003 ESPN-covered coming out of lacrosse player (and friend of Ivy Coach!) Andrew Goldstein marking a major turning point for gay visibility at Dartmouth. Another turning point was reached in 2014, when Triangle House opened in a residential building formerly occupied by staff and graduate students. Triangle House is the only explicitly LGBTQ+ residential community on campus, housing around 25 students in a given year. It serves as a hub for queer and trans life even for those who do not live there.

LGBTQ+ Resources at Dartmouth Today

Today, the Office of Pluralism and Leadership and the Dartmouth LGBTQIA+ Alum Association (DGALA) are the institutional arms of the queer and trans presence at Dartmouth. The Office of Pluralism and Leadership maintains a list of resources for queer and trans students that includes student-run organizations and housing communities. These include Within, an LGBTQ+ activist group, the House of Lewan, a drag club, oSTEM, for queer and trans students in STEM, the Rainbow Room queer library, and the queer-friendly residential/Greek communities Tabard, Phi Tau, Alpha Theta, Amarna, Sigma Delta, and Epsilon Kappa Theta.

Queer Residential Communities at Dartmouth

Shared spaces to live, party, and love in are hard to come by for queer and trans college students anywhere, and most universities, including many of Dartmouth’s Ivy League counterparts, can not lay claim to as extensive an array of gender-inclusive, queer-friendly residential communities as Dartmouth. The College on the Hill has a reputation for forming incredibly tight-knit connections among its students, and this is largely through a residential philosophy that brings intellectually curious students together. Students will find a safe queer cultural community in these spaces that provides for total self-determination.

How Queer and Trans Students Make a Home at Dartmouth in 2024

Even with such extensive resources and opportunities supporting LGBTQ+ life on campus, many might still have concerns that are not totally unfounded. Dartmouth is in a very rural area that lacks the amenities and off campus community spaces that queer and trans people find in big cities. On top of that, Dartmouth’s small size means that even under the best of circumstances, the LGBTQ+ community on campus will always be tinier than what can be found at larger universities.

Greek life draws about 60% of the student body, and while the queer-friendly houses we listed above welcome all students, some houses have reputations for heteronormativity at best, and homophobia at worst. This is no different than the Greek life scene at any other university, which calls upon each student to listen to their peers and trust their gut when choosing which community to join during their undergraduate years. There are definitely corners of Dartmouth that perpetuate a somewhat toxic culture that can seem to speak for campus at large to those looking in from the outside. But LGBTQ+ students considering Dartmouth should not be scared away by an ignorant minority of campus that sits on the wrong side of history.

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