This feature was collaboratively written by Paige Wirta, opinion editor, and Ashley L. Clark, online editor.
It is common knowledge that the state of Idaho is no friend to the LGBTQIA+ community. Idaho was ranked #7 in a nationwide rating of the worst states for queer people to live, in a 2020 special report by 24/7 Wall St.
A large part of this ranking is tied to Idaho’s laws and policies regarding LGBTQIA+ issues. According to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) LGBT Equality Profile, Idaho has a poor policy rating of 3.75 out of 42.5. This means that Idaho only has 3.75 policies in place to support the LGBTQIA+ community.
Idaho is sorely lacking in nondiscrimination laws, and the state’s constitution still defines marriage as “a civil contract between a man and a woman.”
Additionally, Idaho has been fighting to keep a state law that bans transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. Idaho also “explicitly excludes transition-related healthcare in their state employee health benefits.”
On campus, students have often voiced their concerns with Boise State’s support of the LGBTQIA+ community. While the university is home to a diverse population of students, the queer community is often underrepresented. However, Boise State and the surrounding communities do have a variety of resources to offer queer students.
Gender Equity Center (GEC)
“The Gender Equity Center is a friendly, supportive environment for people of all gender identities to explore, celebrate and educate the campus community about gender equity,” according to the GEC website.
Boise State’s Gender Equity Center offers a range of intersectional support and services to all students and campus community members, including the LGBTQIA+ community and others that need support on the basis of race, class and/or gender.
The center’s mission is broken down into three parts: community, interactive programs and confidential support, said GEC Director Adriane Bang.
“We try to be a safe place where folks can come and meet people who have identities similar to theirs and also different [identities],” Bang said.
The GEC provides no-cost, confidential support services to campus community members that have been affected by: identity-related harassment; sexual harassment and sexual assault; stalking; unhealthy relationships and relationship violence; life transitions and crises; academic and financial roadblocks; and other life experiences related to gender, sexual orientation and allyship.
“We see folks for all kinds of other different questions or needs, too,” Bang said. “So someone might come here as a first stop to say, you know, ‘I think I might need an accommodation. I think I might have depression or anxiety and I need to talk to someone about it. How do I do that? I’m not sure where to go.’”
Bang stressed that, no matter the issue, the GEC is there to provide support to the Boise State community. At the very least, the GEC can refer students to other sources of support on and off campus, including mental health resources, financial assistance, abuse reporting and more.
“Our best choices are informed choices,” Bang said. “If folks are just not sure about what choices are available to them … we’ll share with them about their rights, resources and options related to whatever issue they may bring forward.”
Because the center is currently short-staffed and is working to return to pre-pandemic standards, the GEC’s educational outreach and event programs are currently on hold. However, the center still consults with other campus departments and organizations that are looking to facilitate community-building.
Dean of Students
The Dean of Students Office offers various support services for LGBTQIA+ students. The Steven Nelson Memorial Fund exists to financially support students who are going through hardships related to their identity and coming out.
The fund was created in honor of Steven Nelson, a former Boise State faculty member who was violently hate crimed and later died in the hospital as a result. Nelson had been very open about his experiences as a gay man and did his best to support LGBTQIA+ students.
Much too often, coming out can lead to LGBTQIA+ people being fired, harassed, disowned or evicted. Students struggling with these things are encouraged to apply for the fund. For eligible students, the fund can provide up to $1500 over two semesters.
Students facing food insecurity or instability can also utilize the Dean of Students’ Campus Food Pantry. Located within the Campus School building, the pantry offers canned and boxed foods, snacks, shelf-stable produce, refrigerated items and personal hygiene products.
LGBT+ Support Group
Health and Counseling Services at Boise State offer a number of free counseling groups to students including the LGBTQIA+ Support Group. The group sessions are led by two licensed clinicians aiming to facilitate discussions and sharing between group members in a safe space.
There is a range of topics students are able to discuss such as sexual and romantic orientation, gender identity and dysphoria, coming out and mental health.
Students who participate in the LGBTQIA+ group can expect to come away from sessions with a sense of community, a better understanding of themselves and the opportunity to support and learn from others.
Those interested in joining the LGBTQIA+ support group can fill out a form on the University Health Services webpage. Currently, the group meets every Tuesday from 10-11:30 a.m. in the second-floor clinic of the Norco Building. The time currently reflected on the Health Services website is incorrect.
For those looking for individual help, Counseling Services has a few staff members who specialize or have interest in LGBTQIA+ issues. This information can be found on the Health Services website under the staff tab.
Transgender students may face struggles revolving around deadnames since most identifications and student materials use legal names. However, students looking to go by a different name have a few options they can utilize.
Students may add a preferred name in their myBoiseState Student Center within the personal information tab. According to the Boise State Registrar’s website, myBoiseState, Canvas, student housing and class rosters will all reflect one’s preferred name.
For students who want their username and email address to use a different name, they can fill out the information update form on the registrar’s website and return it to their office in the administration building, room 110.
Student employees working on campus would need to go to Human Resources and submit a few forms through their department as well for changes in their employee email. Students can go to the Human Resources website through Boise State to find and submit those forms.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a national non-partisan, non-profit organization that works to defend and protect the rights of citizens. The ACLU has a history of supporting and defending the LGBT+ community in Idaho, including rallying against anti-trans bills proposed by Idaho politicians and supporting trans students in fighting those bills.
The ACLU LGBTQ Project can be a resource to queer students. “Know Your Rights” lists protections that students are guaranteed and, should a student feel as if their rights have been invalidated, they are encouraged to reach out for help.
Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS (ALPHA)
ALPHA is a “community-based, not-for-profit sexual health site” that offers several services at little to no cost. The clinic offers STI testing along with linkage to care, helping patients find “affordable care related to any service” that ALPHA provides.
ALPHA works closely with other local health groups like Family Medicine Residency of Idaho to help patients on an all-inclusive path to wellness, including physical, mental and spiritual resources like medical specialists, psychologists, social workers, massage therapists and more.
The clinic also works with the Idaho Foodbank to provide an on-site food pantry designated for community members who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and their households. Their office is located in downtown Boise at 537 W. Bannock St.
Additionally, ALPHA offers free, easily accessible harm reduction products, like condoms, gauze, alcohol pads and more, through its “buffet-style Safety Wall.” The Safety Wall is intended to reduce the risk of harm and death from opioid use. ALPHA is also a Syringe/Needle Exchange Program (SNEP) participant, helping community members properly dispose of sharps and safely acquire new sterile products.
Ada & Canyon County Self Rescue Manual
Currently managed by social workers through the Boise School District, the Self Rescue Manual is a comprehensive collection of local resources for those in need. There are two versions of the manual, one designated for Ada County and the other specific to Canyon County.
The manual provides information on resources related to mental health, medical services, disability services, financial assistance, housing, employment, substance abuse support and more. The document also lists local shelter and food pantry information, as well as support groups and community programs.
Visit selfrescuemanual.com to access the resource guide.
Though Idaho has a history of leaving out and not supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, there are still a number of resources available to queer students. Students who identify within the community often feel underrepresented and isolated, and being connected to these sources of support can make a meaningful difference.