What people don’t understand is that choosing a college or university as an LGBT individual has an additional layer of challenges. These students have to think more carefully about their safety, how they will fit in, and where they will live than their straight peers.
One of the universities that is making things a little easier on their LGBT population is Ohio University (OH). It is prioritizing the needs of this group of students by instituting gender-neutral housing and an LGBT living experience.
OH put their gender-neutral housing program in place in 2011, where students can live in the same room with any other student regardless of sex, biological gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.
Brendan Downing, resident director of Atkinson Complex and director of the Gender-Neutral Housing program, said: “The transgender community is victim to a higher rate of violence … sexual violence…at the forefront of our minds is the safety of the community.”
“We’re unique among campuses that have a gender-neutral program,” he adds. “A lot of universities don’t allow romantic couples to live together, so that is kind of something that sets us apart. That’s not our focus and our goal. Our focus is to create a safe environment free of gender constrictions.”
Starting this Fall, OU’s Housing and Residence Life will also launch the LGBT Living Experience Community, a housing program specifically for its LGBT students.
OU’s LGBT Center Director, Delfin Bautista, suggested the idea so that students who are interested in specifically an LGBT experience, can have that option.
Bautista said: “A lot of folks ended up in gender-neutral housing, but that’s not really LGBT housing.” So now there will be more options for everyone to choose from.
Smith Hall, where the gender-neutral housing is currently, will also be the home of the LGBT experience. One hallway will be for one program and another hallway will house the other program. And for “an additional layer of protection,” students will have to go through an additional locked door for safety reasons.
Each of the school’s two alternative housing programs will be able to host 15 students.