Across the country, students are calling for LGBT-only housing, already implemented at Birmingham University and many campuses across America. Should students at Southampton be campaigning for the same?
As the campaign has been covered by major news outlets and students have aired their views, we need to question if this is something all LGBT+ students need, ours included. These students may be coming from intolerant households and may have grown up in fear of being outed, and for many, university is a fresh start.
Under these circumstances, including the very real threat of hate that many LGBT+ students face, it’s understandable that they might want to move into a safe, LGBT+-only halls of residence, where they won’t deal with potential abuse from the people they are living with. However, LGBT+-only halls cannot guarantee this.
For one, there are major intra-community issues that would mean that LGBT-only residences are safer for some than others. There are many cisgender (a person whose gender identity is the same as the gender they were assigned at birth) LGB people that are transphobic, and bisexual people often experience erasure within the LGBT community. There are other issues, too; the LGBT+ community is not immune to racism, sexism, or discrimination against other groups. Separate halls for every group that faces discrimination is clearly not a viable solution.
Another important thing to consider is how we define LGBT+. Here at Southampton, the society is LGBT+, designed to include those who are asexual, nonbinary, and many other identities. Who decides who would qualify to live in these ‘safe’ LGBT halls of residences?
It is clear that nobody should have to suffer discrimination, least of all from the people they live with, and going to university is a time when everyone should be free to express themselves. The question is whether the most effective way of preventing discrimination is segregating those who might face it.
Along with the intra-community issues, the application process would have to be incredibly private, in order to prevent LGBT+ applicants from being outed to their parents or peers. Being outed is usually an extremely negative experience for LGBT+ people, and universities should not provide another risk of this taking place. In fact, if there were LGBT-only halls, simply answering the question as to where a person lives (as is common in freshers conversations) could result in being outed, or asked further invasive questions.
No one should have to live in fear of discrimination, especially not from the people they’re living with. However, the best way to tackle that is to tackle discrimination within society as a whole. So long as there is support in place to tackle any issues as they come up, LGBT+ people should not be segregated into separate housing. Instead, investment should be made in education and awareness to prevent discrimination from becoming an issue in the first place. Students won’t only face discrimination in their accommodation, but also on and around the university campus, so the problem as a whole must be dealt with.