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Living on Campus as an LGBTQ Student
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If you're moving into a dorm for the first time, it's natural to be apprehensive. Many LGBTQ students worry about whether their new roommates will be accepting and open–minded.
Living on campus as an LGBTQ student may present some extra challenges, but it also makes it easier for you to meet people and participate in on–campus activities. And you may discover that the roommates you were unsure about are actually more than tolerable.
Here are some tips to make your transition to the dorms as stress-free as possible:
Explore your housing options before choosing a school.
Call the dean's office or department of residential life at your prospective schools and ask how they accommodate LGBTQ students. Some colleges offer themed housing specifically for those interested in having LGBTQ roommates and neighbors.
Check to see if there is a code of conduct that prohibits discrimination or harassment, and ask how this policy is enforced. If you're having trouble getting this information, LGBTQ student clubs or resource centers on campus can help.
Keep it real.
The summer before your first year, the housing office will send you a questionnaire about your living and studying habits in order to help match you with compatible roommates. Fill these out honestly!
You may want to disclose your sexuality on the questionnaire, as doing so can help you avoid being paired with someone who will not be accepting. On the other hand, many LGBTQ students never come out on the residence hall floor, although they might be highly visible members of the LGBTQ community elsewhere on campus. Whatever you decide to do is okay, as long as you are comfortable.
The residence advisor (or "RA") is there to guide and support you. You should feel safe talking with him or her about any concerns you have regarding your housing situation. Some schools have gone the extra mile to train their RAs on effective ways to support LGBTQ students living in the dorms. LGBTQ students can also ask RAs to identify the names of individuals within residence life who are knowledgeable about queer concerns and can provide support.
If you find that your RA is turning a deaf ear, go talk to his or her boss–the dean of resident life.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
If you choose to come out to your roommate, it's best to do so frankly and as soon as possible. And make sure you bring up potential issues or points of conflict. For example, you should discuss whether it's okay to bring a date or a hook-up back to the room. Some roommates may be perfectly fine with the "idea" of your queerness, until the day you begin entertaining a guest and things heat up on the common room couch. Open up an honest dialogue, set up some parameters and let your roommate know ahead of time if you're expecting company.
Finally, whether you like your roommate or not, treat him or her with the consideration that you'd like to be treated with. And remember that people change and grow in college. Learn from each other and let go of the little hurts.
Don't tolerate homophobia.
You have the right to be yourself. If your roommate is harassing you, take it to the RA and discuss a plan of action to get yourself into a safe situation.
If you are experiencing immediate harassment, the first priority is to get to a safe place. Call campus security or someone you trust to let them know what happened and reach out for support. While a high percentage of students who experience bias–related behavior do not report these incidents to campus authorities, reporting homophobic behavior ensures that others are held responsible for their actions, and leads to the creation of a safer campus climate. Some campuses allow you to report bias–related incidents anonymously. Contact the dean of students' office or search your college's website to find out how to report such incidents.