Q: Hi, I’m 18 years old and I’m FTM transgender. I’m going to be starting at the University of Guelph this Fall (2015) and I was wondering what you would recommend as the best/safest option for me in terms of campus residence. I want to make sure that I’m safe and won’t be given a homophobic/transphobic roommate, but at the same time I don’t want to be too isolated from regular school social life. Thanks!
First off, welcome to the University of Guelph! I’m excited you’ll be joining us in the Fall, and am so glad you’re already accessing on-campus supports and resources. This is a great first step in advocating for your rights and safety, though I sincerely hope that won’t be an issue here on our campus.
To get to your question (finally – sorry about the delayed response!), I’m going to use a previous response from former OUTline Facilitator Liz when she answered a similar question.
“It sounds like you want to have a safe and supportive place to live during your first year of studies, and who doesn’t!?
ResLife Staff work hard to promote equality and inclusive environments in all residence halls at UoG. Furthermore, all residents are bound by the same Community Living Standards, which set 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. You 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 you 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 you. If you have a supportive friend that is also attending UoG and will be living in Res, you can request to be roomed together. Alternatively, you can fill out a Special Consideration Form to express specific needs or desires.” This is due, along with your residence application, by June 1st, 2015.
If you don’t want to fill out the Form (which requires the signature of a ‘professional’ who can attest to your request), you can also email Student Housing Services at email@example.com to let them know about any concerns or questions you may have. That email can only be accessed by four staff members, who will confidentially flag any requests you have about living in residence. After calling them myself, they let me know some specifics about each of the residences:
South: these residences alternate male-female floors, with each floor having their own bathrooms that aren’t gender-designated.
Watson Hall: this is the only residence restricted to females only.
East townhouses: some suites are one gender only.
North: these residences tend to have multi-gender floors, with females on one side and males on another, with gender-designated washrooms (though from personal experience, I know Arts House’s bathrooms aren’t, but its floors may be).
“No matter what residence you decide to live in, you will have resources at your disposal if you experience any discriminatory or offensive behaviour. ResLife Staff are always available to support students in residence, and there is a chain of command in place should a student have an issue with a Resident Assistant (RA) themselves.
If you find yourself in a pickle, whether it’s with a roommate or a ResLife Staff, there are resources available to support you. In fact, there are tons!
If you have trouble with a roommate, an RA might be a good first point of contact in a residence setting – but you may wish to talk it out in a safe space first. If it has to do with your identity, you can always give us a shout during the school year! If it’s about personal space or the dishes, you may want to use the Student Support Network (SSN) drop-in and talk to their volunteers. In either case, the volunteer will relate to you on a peer-to-peer level and help you brainstorm ways you can tackle the situation.
If you have trouble with an RA, you 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!”
If you have any more questions or concerns you don’t feel comfortable directing to Student Housing Services, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will be glad to advocate on your behalf. I can’t wait to welcome you to Guelph this Fall!
UPDATE: There’s a new monthly social meet-up for trans and non-binary folks. Gender Intersect meets the 3rd Monday of every month at the Red Brick Café, 8 Douglas St., at 7 pm.