After Quinnipiac University implemented gender-neutral and LGBTQ-friendly housing this fall, members of the LGBTQ community said they appreciate having a safe space on campus.
“The idea of gender-neutral housing is giving the ability to students to live with whoever they want, without any issue,” said Athena Cuttle, a senior psychology major and former Gender Sexuality Alliance president. “Some people just use it to live with their friends, the LGBTQ community especially use it to live with people if they’re trans or non-binary since it makes everything easier.”
The main outcome of these changes came in the form of a first-year Living Learning Community for students who want to participate in and celebrate the LGBTQ population, called the Unity Floor, starting in the fall 2021 semester. LLCs are sections or floors of certain residential buildings that are meant to bring together people who share similar interests or backgrounds.
“Getting to know other people in the queer community at Quinnipiac really would have made me feel a lot more welcome,” said Caris Disharoon, a senior nursing major and GSA public relations officer. “Knowing that all the kids who are coming in now have that opportunity is super cool, and I’m super happy for them.”
The university administration’s efforts to work on promoting inclusivity for its LGBTQ community has been recognized and appreciated by students, especially considering recent incidents regarding potential bigotry at Quinnipiac, such as the placement of stickers promoting white extremist groups across the three campuses.
“From what I heard, I think that it’s a great idea, because it does help and keep LGBTQ people feeling more safe in the community,” said Nawal Choudhry, a first-year health science studies major who is not a resident of the LLC. “I do think it does help bring some sort of security for LGBTQ+ people.”
Despite the new program’s positive impact, the entirety of the barriers surrounding LGBTQ acceptance have not been broken down yet.
“First day when we were getting to know each other, they had all the LLCs come together and talk,” said Colby Ainley, a first-year game design and development major who lives in the Unity LLC. “Some people asked us if we were part of their LLC. When we said we were part of Unity, they just went, ‘oh.’”
Despite full acceptance not being immediate, residents have said the Unity Floor LLC has also been a positive learning experience by teaching them to be more mindful and inclusive among themselves.
“I feel like I can open up more about ideas and certain things,” Ainley said. “It’s a new experience too, because I’m still getting used to saying they/them pronouns because I have a hard time remembering such.”
Students in the community, however, said they have appreciated the work that has gone into making their lives easier.
“Our biggest obstacle was that a lot of people felt that there wasn’t a big enough need for it,” Cuttle said. “In my opinion, even if there isn’t a big need for this, there’s still someone out there who would love that opportunity, and I’ve had people, especially when I was GSA president, come to me and said they were really appreciative because it made the situation a lot easier for them and it wasn’t uncomfortable … I feel that it made a pretty big impact.”
The push for gender-neutral housing came in October 2020 after a slew of homophobic incidents across campus sparked a conversation for urgent change for how the university handles protecting its LGBTQ students and promoting inclusive practices.
“It’s not the worst, but it’s definitely not perfect,” Disharoon said. “We had to fight to get enough recognition for somebody who had several acts of malicious intent against them. That’s not right.”
The GSA said that there is still work to do and that the administration should initiate change instead of depending on the GSA to guide it along.
Students who are not affected by the LLC, said they support its implementation in the community.
“I understand how scary it can be and how hard it is to put yourself out there especially with something as touchy as this can be,” said Mackenzie Orlov, a first-year physical therapy major who is not a member of the LLC. “I would say just more ways to interact with that community if it’s possible and more ways just to kind of break that barrier.”
The GSA has held two events so far this semester, with its third event, a movie night via Zoom, scheduled for Nov. 14, at 9 p.m.
“There’s still steps we can take to make the university more accepting and a more comfortable place for LGBTQ students,” Cuttle said. “I definitely feel that we’ve made some pretty good strides so far.”