College Campuses Offer LGBT Housing

March 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Carol Rood, Family, Same Sex Parent

By: Carol Rood

I am an avid National Public Radio listener.  I LOVE LOVE to listen to NPR.  I always feel more informed and smarter after a day of listening and feel like I know so much more than I did when I woke up in the morning.  I am also one of those geeks who calls in to the radio shows and gives my opinions or asks a question.  Yes, I am THAT nerd person.

Today while I was driving to work I happened to tune in to the Cathy Lewis show called “Hearsay” on our local NPR station WHRO.  Today the show was about LGBTQ housing at local universities in the Hampton Roads area.  In light of the Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi being found guilty of a hate crime last week after using a web cam to spy on his roommate Tyler Clementi.  Subsequently the kiss that Tyler shared with another man was viewed by Ravi and was talked about on a Twitter account.  Sadly Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge.

Unfortunately this is not the first or only incident of college students being bullied due to their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.  I am afraid it won’t be the last.  However, a young man founded an organization to help change this and is trying to do something to help college students be able to live in a safe, friendly environment where they don’t have to worry so much about bullying or being singled out in their dormitories.

Meet David Norton, Founder of The National Student Genderblind Campaign.  This shares a little about why he created this website.

“In 2006, the National Student Genderblind Campaign arose as a grassroots network of student activists working to pioneer a movement for broader gender equality. We envision a fully inclusive and free society in which labels matter less—a world in which our social institutions and policies reflect the fact that social identities are not experienced in static, bounded, and homogeneous ways. By joining together to advocate for gender-neutral policy, we can move towards this vision for true equality.”

I applaud the efforts of this young man to help encourage students to work with the administrations at their colleges and universities to establish housing that is gender neutral.  Housing that is not segregated by sex but that is “gender blind” and takes into account what works best for students and not what has been a tradition.

“As college and universities increasingly strive to lead the way towards a new era of gender equality, gay rights, and transgender inclusion, students across the country are now calling into question the fundamental assumptions behind conventional dormitory policies. Why do we require men to live with men and women with women? Why can’t students simply room with whomever they feel most comfortable? Suddenly, with these questions posed, the injustice of it all begins to come clear; we start to recognize that traditional policies are premised upon outdated beliefs and stereotypes about gender and sexuality.”

Today I heard David say that over 125 colleges and universities have adopted gender neutral housing and that is amazing!  His website has talking points that can help students begin the dialogue with their administration as well as helpful tips to ease the dialogue and help students present it in a clear and concise fashion. Bravo David Norton!!

University of Vermont gay housing (picture courtesy of Viewimages)

I will be graduating from Tidewater Community College in December of 2012, and have been waffling about what 4 year university to transfer to in order to finish up my undergraduate degree. I live in an area with many fine offerings:  Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University, Christopher Newport University, Hampton University, Virginia Wesleyan, and a few others.  However, what I heard today on Cathy’s show made my decision for me.  I listened with amazement as Dana Heller, Chair of the English Department and Old Dominion University and Ellen Neufeldt, Vice President for Student Engagement and Enrollment Services at Old Dominion University talked about the opening of a new floor in a dorm for LGBT students.  The housing will be called Lavender House and will open for students to live in the Fall of 2012.   

ODU will join other Virginia Universities that already offer LGBT housing (George Mason University and the University of Richmond).  Elsewhere in the area, only Duke University offers housing specifically for LGBT students.  This decision has led me to decide to finish my degree at ODU in the Spring of 2013.  I will not be living on campus, and will not need to utilize the Lavender House for my housing (Lovely Bluebell would not like that).  However, I want to go to school and get my degree from a university that is supportive of LGBT students, and ODU is leading the way here in Southeastern Virginia!! I am going to be an Old Dominion Monarch!

Please check out the websites for the GenderBlind campaign and give them your support.  This is an amazing program that needs more attention on the local and national level. Hopefully I have brought this issue to some people who, like me, had not previously heard about it.  By raising awareness we can help others!!

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