For first year undergraduates, who identify as somewhere on the LGBT+ spectrum, the University of Birmingham has provided the option of “LGBT+ only” accommodation. Many more universities across the UK are now campaigning for the same, including York and Central Lancashire.
These appeals come just before The National Union of Students’ LGBT+ Campaign releases their findings from surveys conducted in the US, where this type of accommodation is already commonplace in universities.
The basic idea behind the campaign is clear and something I can sympathise with to some degree. When you choose your halls for first year, you immediately enter yourself into something of a ‘flatmate lottery’ and for some students, the end result is amazing.
The basic idea behind the campaign is clear and something I can sympathise with to some degree
But for others, it can make their first year at university a living hell. Unfortunately, members of the LGBT+ community are some of the most likely people to be discriminated against by bigoted, close-minded people who really ought to have no place at university.
However, it seems like the answer of “LGBT+ only” accommodation is a thoughtless one. To encourage students to place themselves with other students, who are exclusively LGBT+ is to ask them to segregate themselves; blaming the student for being bullied, rather than the bully.
Members of the LGBT+ community are some of the more likely people to be discriminated against by bigoted, close-minded people
Of course, it is their own personal choice to be put in this accommodation, presumably having to self-identify somewhere along the way. Yet if someone had suggested to me when I applied for my accommodation that I only live with other people on the LGBT+ spectrum, I would have been offended and distinctly horrified. Was I some sort of danger to the average self-proclaimed heterosexual 18 year old?
We are constantly asking for the same treatment as non-LGBT+ identifying students, and it might be naïve of me to think this, but I truly believe that we are making progress. Same-sex marriage was legalised in the UK in 2014 and America legalised it last year. Pressure is being put on countries like Australia to do the same. So I can’t help but think of this as a step backwards.
It might be naïve of me to think this, but I truly believe that we are making progress
I have friends who openly admit that they had never met an open and ‘out’ LGBT+ person before they came to Warwick. This seems pertinent to add, since by majority, the first people you meet at university, are your flatmates. So perhaps the self-proclaimed heterosexual friends I’ve made here would never have met any open LGBT+ in their first couple of weeks at least, if this accommodation became the norm.
I fear that LBGT+ students would become pressured into choosing this accommodation, believing that if they didn’t, they would definitely face bullying and discrimination because of their sexual and/or gender identity.
My identifying heterosexual friends would never have met any open LGBT+ in their first couple of weeks
This could then extend into their whole university life, where students become afraid that they can only truly be themselves around other LGBT+ identifying students. A thought pattern which erases years in progress, as the presence of LGBT+ students would be exclusively limited to within the community at the university.
University as a concept is supposed to be a place of exploration and self-expression, learning about who you are and about the world at large. Students cannot be expected to do this if they are only ever confined to living and interacting with people, who are by and large, the same as them.
University as a concept is supposed to be a place of exploration and self-expression
What about the people who come to university, unsure of their sexuality? Would they then have to choose then and there how they define? And if this becomes the norm, what then? Every group of people who has ever been discriminated against, whether by ethnicity, religion or race is supposed to have their own segregated halls? I am almost laughing at the absurdity of the idea.
If this is implemented, as some universities feel it should be, it could lead to further victimisation of LGBT+ youth. People feed off stereotypes by nature and if they are never shown the reality, their ideas can never be truly challenged.