Yes to LGBT-only student accommodation

Wednesday 18 May 2016 / articles

This is a quick response to the article No straight people allowed: students share views on LGBT-only halls.

I agree with having the option of LGBT-only university accommodation in halls of residence in the same way that I agree with having the option of women-only or international-only (for instance) accommodation and for the same reason people still appreciate dedicated LGBT recreational spaces (like pubs): safety. Why should safety only be when drinking, and not at home? It's not ghettoisation - students still need to engage with non-LGBT folk in the classroom, about campus and in the wider community, but why should your home not be a safe space? For some LGBT people - particularly trans and non-binary people, myself included - there's absolutely no guarantee of safety in expressing your identity in non-normative ways amongst strangers. Having a space to do that, and having that space be your home, can be massively validating and a big step towards feeling more comfortable and confident in being yourself outside.

Yes, integration is most definitely the goal, but that's a matter of ideology. The reality is it isn't safe for all people and won't be for some time (read: decades), and whilst educating those who harbour and project prejudice and discrimination is paramount to progress on the social justice front, we must recognise that education is a very long process and that we need to give due consideration to the welfare of the marginalised in the meantime. Safe spaces are vital for specific individuals in our real-world context and when implemented properly can play an important role in advancing people's lives.

Yes, there would be problems in the practical implementation, but with some work these could be well addressed.

Yes, we should throw discrimination into a volcano, but that ideology and attempts to move it into the realm of reality don't eliminate immediate threats, which should be mitigated where doing so does not infringe on the rights of others.

Also, if individuals are saying they need a provision in order to be safe, those who are safe (whether LGBT or not) shouldn't fight against them.

Also also, don't use "straight" as an antonym of "LGBT". It's not.

I particularly agree with these statements from a couple of the contributors:

"Ghettoisation wouldn’t happen because most LGBT people wouldn’t want to live in separate accommodation, but for those who do it’s a lifeline."
Anna Lee
"For LGBT students, particularly those on the margins of that community, LGBT-specific housing gives them an accessible way to attend university, meet other queer students, and feel like they are in a safe environment."
Travis Alabanza
"University halls can be extremely anxiety-provoking due to lad culture, and issues around transphobia and gendered language. An LGBT-specific space gives students an important place to breathe and be around other queer folk."