The idea of a living space where LGBTQ students can be with one another is an inciting concept; however, in a world where these students still face major challenges creating such a space needs to be done with the utmost care.
Such a living space is exactly what USF Housing and Residential Life is trying to make with the introduction of the Stonewall Suites learning living community. The plan is for it to take up 40 beds on the sixth floor of the Beacon dorm and be a home to LGBTQ students along with allies.
However, there were 1,255 sexual-orientation inspired hate crimes and 131 victims of gender-identity hate crimes last year according to FBI statistics. As such the idea of putting that many potential victims in one place is kind of scary.
Don’t get me wrong, as a trans student who lived in traditional housing when I started my transition, the idea of being able to live somewhere like the Stonewall Suites was appealing. Not so much for myself, but out of concern about roommate issues. I remember asking whether that was an option, and at the time it wasn’t. It should be an option. But it needs to be a safe option.
With the Pulse shooting still prominent in our minds, attempts to keep transgender citizens from joining the military which was thankfully overturned, more states looking to instate bathroom bills and the push for religious freedom acts that really only serve to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, the need to be wary is as prevalent as ever.
The concern of people being able to walk into the dorm is a starkly real possibility. Sure, when we first move in, we’re told not to hold the door open for people we don’t know, but people do. With the knowledge of where these students are living, a determined person could find a way to get to them and cause real damage both to the LGBTQ community and to the USF community.
However, external threats are not the only thing to be concerned about.
As much as we may try to deny it to the outside world, infighting continues to occur. People who identify as bisexual continually tell stories about not feeling welcomed or somebody not being open to dating them because they’ve been with somebody of the opposite sex.
While we do usually come together when there’s an outside attack, not everything is bright and shiny behind closed doors. This concern is something that an RA needs to be prepared to handle, while it also being something that cannot really be prepared for.
In all, the idea of somewhere for the LGBTQ community to live without their letter contributing to roommate disputes or other issues that arise during college is a highly appealing one and could do a lot of good.
However, it is an optimistic view that this will happen. We should strive for it, but the issue needs to be handled with care and attention while given adequate time in order to it to be a positive thing.
Miki Shine is a senior majoring in mass communications.