As Bias Lingers, LGBTQ Students Need Safeguards
Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012
Updated: Saturday, August 18, 2012 10:08
Upon reading “Acceptance Shouldn’t Be Optional, but Expected” (The Hoya, A3, March 27, 2012), we were excited to see campus issues pertinent to the LGBTQ community at Georgetown entering conversations here in a significant way.
While I do not disagree that dialogue is a part of a Georgetown education, and that dialogue specifically on acceptance of LGBTQ members needs to be a deeper part of the Georgetown experience, these conversations cannot happen if incoming students do not feel secure in their new homes here.
Shaker points out that by allowing students to categorize themselves as willing to live with an LGBTQ roommate or not, Georgetown will not become a more tolerant community.
However, experience and the heartbreaking stories of far too many of our fellow students inform us that we cannot assume all incoming first-year students are open to living and interacting with gay roommates. The fact that there are numerous cases every year of harassment, bullying and intimidation by roommates due to students’ actual or perceived sexual orientations tells us otherwise.
Gay students who have had positive and fruitful roommate experiences should consider themselves blessed. But many gay students at Georgetown may not have that experience. For many of us, our first-year roommate situations are memories of discomfort and hostility.
We need to profess a vision of an inclusive Hilltop to each incoming class, and work toward a time when roommate harassment is a thing of the past; but until we reach that point, we have the responsibility to actively develop ways to prevent such instances from happening at all.
Suggesting that discrimination based on sexual orientation does not occur is quite simply a misguided understanding of Georgetown’s actual campus climate. Until we eliminate such intolerance, we need to continually offer resources to those who find themselves victimized.
Finally, I suggest caution and deeper reflection to anyone who attempts to link the struggles of gay students at Georgetown with the unique struggles of female students, students of color, non-Christian students, students with disabilities and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. While we may at times feel unwelcome at Georgetown in similar contexts, it is an injustice to equate our lived experiences with one another.
Further, looking to the way that Georgetown has dealt with discrimination and intolerance of other kinds provides a poor model for addressing bias against LGBTQ students.
It was only after the handful of black students on campus in the early 1970s felt so unwelcome that they petitioned President Healy for a safe space, Black House on Magis Row.
It was only after students, denigrated as human beings by university officials for their non-heterosexual identities, brought a court case against Georgetown in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that GU Pride’s predecessor organization was allowed to form on the Hilltop and at the Law Center.
It was only after The Hoya’s 2009 April Fool’s edition that campus began to address racial disparities and other matters of inequity with a series of diversity working groups the following year. It was only after a student was hospitalized in 2007 after being beaten by a fellow student because he was perceived as gay, and after the university administration subsequently chose not to issue a public safety alert or comment on the incident, that student activists lobbying for an LGBTQ Resource Center began to be taken seriously.
We need an LGBTQ-friendly checkbox for incoming first-year students not to separate them or suggest that LGBTQ-unfriendliness is an option, but to acknowledge that it is in the best interest of all students to prevent cases of roommate harassment, bullying and intimidation.
The initiative will work toward better student safety by ensuring that first-year students do not have to bear the burden of creating acceptance in roommates who are even marginally closed-minded.
Those who find themselves less than fully comfortable around LGBTQ people at Georgetown would be welcome and encouraged to engage with their discomfort, as they already are. But we cannot force someone into that conversation, and we should not impose the start of that conversation on our first-year students.
No one should feel unwelcome here. It is our duty to stand up for all students and make this campus better and more inclusive than it is when we first arrive on the Hilltop
James Saucedo is a junior in the MSB and Zenen Jaimes is a junior in the SFS. James is also the secretary of diversity affairs in the Georgetown University Student Association cabinet.