Daily Egyptian

Campus Pride LLC designed for LGBTQ students to be welcomed

By Austin Phelps, Staff Reporter

Campus Pride Living Learning Community is designed for LGBTQ students to live in a gender-inclusive and identity-inclusive space.

“For students who identify as transgender or non-binary or just don’t care which gender they are assigned to live in a room with,” Vernon Cooper, the LGBTQ Resource Center coordinator, said. “That floor is intended to be gender-inclusive.”

The floor is not only for gender non-binary or transgender students and it welcomes all members of the LGBTQ+ community, Sterling Blonigen, a junior studying chemistry living on the floor, said.

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“It’s basically a small community for people in the LGBT communities where they could feel like they belong and they don’t have to worry about people not being able to understand them,” Blonigen said. “We’ve all faced similar struggles so we all understand one another pretty well.”

Living on the floor makes it easier to make connections and find friends who can relate to who are you are, Blonigen said.

“You won’t face any type of discrimination or you won’t feel left out, you won’t feel alone,” Blonigen said. “You already feel like you belong because you know that these people, they’re just like you.”

The floor doesn’t instantly make your friends for you, Liyah Glaser, a freshman studying zoology on the floor, said. It does make it easier, however.

“The connections weren’t instant because I’m a very shy person,” Glaser said. “I don’t go up like ‘hey,’ but it [made it easier] I feel like.”

Blonigen said when making the decision for housing it came down to where she would feel comfortable.

“The thing [is] I’m a black person of color who’s also LGBT,” Blonigen said. “So when I was deciding where I wanted to be on campus I was afraid of either facing racism or facing homophobia.”

Choosing this floor meant she didn’t have to sacrifice any part of herself, Blonigen said.

“I would feel more open here than if I was in the black LLC because I would still have to hide who I am,” Blonigen said. “So there’s less judgment [here than] if I was in another LLC.”

Glaser said the LLC is a safe space where residents can come and use their correct pronouns.

“And I know that people are going to use those pronouns because I’m in the Campus Pride LLC,” Glaser said.

Correct pronouns are taken very seriously in the LLC, Glaser said.

“[Our RA] came down after my family left and was like ‘what are your pronouns I wasn’t sure if I should ask in front of your parents,’” Glaser said. “She knew that sometimes people’s parents still don’t know about pronouns and stuff like that.”

Ethan Stein, a freshman studying biological sciences, said he looks to the floor as a place for everyone to be a part of the community rather than it being used as a shelter.

“I see it more like it’s a way for people who are the same to be more included in society and feel like they’re more of a part of something,” Stein said. “Instead of it being somewhere where they’re kept apart from the rest of the community.”

Cooper said the floor isn’t necessarily designed as a place to hide, more so it’s rather meant as a place to make connections.

“The floor is a place to make those connections that you might be unsure of how to make,” Cooper said. “To have it made easier to make connections with people who share an identity with you.”

Glaser said the floor makes it easier to access LGBTQ+ resources.

“Having [the Saluki Rainbow Network] here that you can go to and then having Vern here too is also amazing,” Glaser said. “Even if I wasn’t [living on the floor] seeing it there is like ‘oh this place is accepting they have a whole place where you can go.’”

The university currently has more than 30 gender-neutral bathrooms and is adding more when the renovation to Woody Hall is complete, Cooper said.

The floor is currently full for this year and that shows how successful the LLC is, Cooper said. One student was turned away this year and put on a waiting list.

“I think that we could fill as much space as they gave us,” Cooper said. “I think that once enrollment starts to climb again my floor will grow right along with it.”

Blonigen said to live in the Campus Pride LLC you can sign up online by yourself and without your parents knowing.

“Your parents don’t have to know that you’re a part of the LLC,” Blonigen said. “You could also tell your friends ‘hey just so you know my family doesn’t know about this’ and we understand because a lot of us are facing the exact same thing.”

Questions asked on the application are for the applicant’s preferred name, preferred pronouns and a short answer question on why the applicant wants to live on the floor.

“If someone can tell me their reason for wanting to live on the floor I’ll approve it,” Cooper said. “I can tell when someone is telling me their story. I’ve never actually denied one yet.”

Anyone interested in joining the Campus Pride LLC can go to the sign-up application here.

Staff reporter Austin Phelps can be reached at aphelps@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @austinphelps96.

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