My daughter is gay and would like to attend Guelph University in the Fall. How do I find housing that is safe and LGBT friendly? Appreciate any advice.
🙂 Best regards
Thank you for asking this question! It’s amazing to receive a question from a supportive parent.
It sounds like you want your daughter to have a safe and supportive place to live during her first year of studies, and who doesn’t!
The first thing I would ask is whether she will be living in residence, or if she is looking for accommodations off-campus. I’m going to talk a little bit about both options, and provide some resources that may be helpful if your daughter needs support.
Residence at U of G
ResLife staff work hard to promote equality and inclusive enviornments in all residence halls at U of G. Furthermore, all residents are bound by the same Community Living Standards, which sets a standard for respectful behaviour. There are sanctions against discrimination and harassment and LGBTQ+ identities are specifically protected against discrimination.
Excerpts from the Residence Community Living Standards:
Any conduct that results in adverse treatment of an individual or group based on race, gender, origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, ability or other human right protected grounds is strictly prohibited.
Any attention or conduct (oral, written, virtual, or physical) by an individual/group who knows or ought to reasonably know that such attention or conduct is unwelcome, unwanted, offensive or intimidating is not permitted. This includes but is not limited to, sexual harassment, bullying, hazing, sexual abuse or racial slurs.
That said, it is true that no space is 100% safe. Your daughter might feel more comfortable in a smaller residence like one of the Living Learning Centres (Arts House is particularly known to be an open and accepting space), or perhaps she would like to have a single room in a large residence. There are other options too that might help to create a safer space for your daughter. If she has a supportive friend that is also attending U of G and will be living in Res, they can request to be roomed together. Alternatively, she can fill out a special consideration form to express specific needs or desires.
No matter what residence she decides to live in, your daughter will have resources at her disposal if she experiences any discriminatory or offensive behaviour. ResLife staff members are always available to support students in residence, and there is a chain of command in place should a student have an issue with an RA themselves.
Living Off-Campus in Guelph
It can difficult to find queer and trans* friendly housing off-campus. There are a few strategies that may help to alleviate some of the worry.
Depending on how visible or “out” your daughter is, she may wish to be up front with potential landlords right off the bat – “I’m gay, will that be an issue?”. Though this can certainly feel vulnerable, it gives you an opportunity to weed out homophobic roommates and landlords before you get stuck with them. If she would prefer not to come out, that’s also okay – she may wish to meet the landlord before signing a lease and get to know them. With current events these days, it’s easy to probe for anti-gay bias without coming out. “What do you think about the Sochi Olympics?” could be the conversation-starter.
Other strategies may revolve around where in Guelph to live – see this post for more information.
No matter what, if your daughter aims to rent, she must know her rights as a tenant. Consider Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act to be required reading!
If your daughter finds herself in a pickle, whether it’s with a roommate, a landlord, or a ResLife staff member, there are resources available to support her. In fact, there are tonnes!
If she has trouble with a landlord, it might be helpful to talk to the folks at the Student Help and Advocacy Centre, which specializes in academic, financial, housing/tenancy, human rights, legal, university processes, and other issues affecting students.
If she has trouble with a roommate, an RA might be a good first point of contact in a residence setting – but she may wish to talk it out in a safe space first. If it has to do with her identity, she can always give us a shout! We’re online and on the lines on Mondays, 3:30-6pm, Wednesdays from 1-3pm and 6-9pm, and Fridays, from 1-3pm. If it’s about personal space or the dishes, she may want to use the Student Support Network drop-in and talk to their volunteers. In either case, the volunteer will relate to her on a peer-to-peer level and help her brainstorm ways she can tackle the situation.
If she has trouble with an RA, she may wish to speak to another RA, who can then bring it up the chain to to a Senior Residence Assistant, Community Assistant, or Community Standards Assistant.
I hope that’s a helpful starting point, all the best to you and your daughter!