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The Benefits of Lavender Housing

Posted By C’era Michelle Banks | She, Her, Hers & Dr. Evita Nicole Oldenburg, Ed.D | She, Her, Hers, Monday, July 23, 2018

The Benefits of Lavender Housing

Author: C’era Michelle Banks | She, Her, Hers | Delaware State University

Co-Author: Dr. Evita Nicole Oldenburg, Ed.D | She, Her, Hers | Delaware State University

 

 “Diversity is being asked to the party, but Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

-Verna Myers-

Imagine finally getting accepted into college after four years of hard work, trying to survive through high school, and all of the things that today’s high schools encompass. My smile was wide, my stride was confident, and my excitement was unstoppable walking onto my college campus for the first time. Becoming adjusted to a new atmosphere is always challenging, and I welcomed every challenge.

However, I did not expect that the first battle I would encounter would be in my new living space. Residence Life is usually the first stop of college life. I received my room assignment, met my Resident Assistant, and my roommate. Everything was going great until my identity as a Lesbian and support of the LGBT community had my roommate “shook.”  I remember walking into my room with my friends during visitation, where I endured long gazes and glares from my roommate and her friends. I am an open book and have always been welcoming to any questions about my identity. When answering these questions, I thought hardly anything of it, since being a Lesbian has always been my life and a part of my identity. In a new environment, you ask questions about people. You might ask where they are from, what their interests are, or other subjects to get a better understanding. However, when it comes to answering questions that they themselves would not even answer, that is when the conversation must take a step back.

Even the programming put on by my Resident Assistant was not relatable to me. Although the Resident Assistant had diverse programs, they had nothing geared towards the LGBT community. I figured the mission of the college talks about diversity and inclusion, but there were not any diverse or inclusive programs for the LGBT community. For me, in the words of Verna Myers, “Diversity is being asked to the party, but Inclusion is being asked to dance.” More and more, I had feelings like I did not belong. Therefore, I decided to take the opportunity to become a Resident Assistant. In that role, I could leverage change and help others who went through similar experiences. I went on to have some of the most notable and engaging programs that became traditions to host on campus.

Thankfully, this college had its own multicultural center— a critical piece to have on a college campus. When most people hear the term “multicultural,” they assume this is a center for race, ethnicity, religion, or country of origin. Although it includes this, multicultural centers embrace all people from all backgrounds and all communities. Therefore, this is a center where everyone can feel a sense of belonging and connectivity. At this college, I was on the Strategic Planning Committee to implement Lavender Housing. Lavender Housing is housing geared towards the LGBT community. On most college campuses, Living Learning Communities have become prominent to put groups together and create inclusive spaces. Lavender Housing allows LGBT students to have a safe space to live where they do not have to alter who they are just to live in housing. It provides an actual atmosphere that allows you to be who you are. Rather than debate, protect, and defend, you are able to educate, uplift, and befriend others like you. Lavender Housing allows for a peak in enrollment and inclusivity by fostering a place to live, learn, and grow. It is a place to help students show who they are.

I soon graduated and became an Assistant Resident Director at a college in the South that was Safe Zone certified and continued to advocate for Lavender Housing. My hope is that Lavender Housing be implemented at all colleges and universities. Being a gay, black woman, I have faced and continue to face an array of obstacles and challenges just for being myself. I seek to encourage comfortable living spaces for students in the LGBT community who already face the pressures of college, the backlash of critics, and the closed-mindedness of some of their peers. I seek to create these spaces so that students can have a place of tranquility to call home while in college. Being a Safe Zone certified professional, I have encountered countless students who are struggling with their identity, who are petrified to be themselves because of the responses they have received or those who feel they will not be well received. There needs to be more conversations centered on preferred names and not just pronouns. If someone prefers to be called Melanie and not Mike, then this should be comprehended. Now, if someone wants to be called Krypto-Chronic Spartan that might be pushing the envelope. Ultimately, there are students who should not be put inside of a box and who are in need of a safe space.

I am now a Resident Director at an HBCU and I was recently recertified in Rochester, New York by the OutAlliance program, which I highly recommend. In the future, I want to be able to implement Lavender Housing to create a safe space for LGBT students. It is my strong recommendation that institutions allow for more professionals to become Safe Zone certified. In addition, it is my hope that Lavender Housing becomes a part of the Housing atmosphere across the country.

 

For more information on Safe Zone: http://www.gayalliance.org/programs/education-safezone/safezone-programs/

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Brian Medina says...
Posted Friday, August 17, 2018
Greetings, C’era Michelle Banks!

I am so thankful that you posted on the MACUHO Diversity Blog. I would love to engage in further dialogue to learn from you and support you as a professional in Residence Life and beyond.

I was curious about what you thought of my summer post about Safe Zones/Spaces and the challenges faced by campuses who espouse being 'Safe Zone certified' but don't embody the values and acceptance that you articulated in your own post. I have every hope that campuses become more inclusive, yet am wary about stickers rather than systematic and persistent action to demonstrate as such.

I have also worked to establish more All Gender Restrooms throughout campuses that I've worked for, and know that it's an uphill struggle for others to accept my genderqueer identity and my daily decisions about bathroom use. It may be another area, beyond living spaces, where general campus-wide facilities may support those of us beyond the false binary.

I invite you to challenge me back, knowing that I am only one queer person of color in a sea of beautiful other identities impacted by the lack of inclusion on our campuses. Thanks again for posting!
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