When searching for roommates last spring, Jaclyn Kuzma feared she wouldn’t get along with her future roommate. She didn’t know whether they’d share her interests and beliefs or if her roommate’s online profile would reflect who they were.
But Kuzma, a bisexual woman and a freshman undeclared major, was also tasked with determining whether her potential roommate would be accepting of her LGBTQ identity.
For students at Temple University, finding a good roommate is an important step in creating a positive college experience. LGBTQ students have an additional layer to the process as they try to find roommates who will accept their identity.
LGBTQ people of color face more discrimination than their white LGBTQ counterparts and are more likely to experience housing discrimination or have an unstable housing situation, according to the Williams Institute, an LGBTQ-focused research center.
One-fifth of transgender people have faced discrimination while looking for housing and more than one in 10 have been evicted because of their gender identity, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Kuzma considers Temple to be an LGBTQ-friendly place, but several of her LGBTQ friends have had problems finding roommates, she said.
One of Kuzma’s friends, who is gay, attends Northeastern University and lives with a homophobic roommate, Kuzma said.
“That’s just kind of an unsettling environment to live in, and it’s toxic and you’re scared, and the person obviously doesn’t have a high opinion of you and like, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” she added.
Jackson Burke, who is transmasculine nonbinary and president of Students for Trans Awareness and Rights, applied for Gender-Inclusive Housing and lived with other transgender people in 1940 Residence Hall last year. Burke currently lives off campus, also with transgender roommates.
“I am really, really thankful that I had access to queer organizations on campus because that’s where I found the roommates that I have this year, and without those safe spaces, I have no idea who I would be living with now,” wrote Burke, a sophomore fine arts major, in an email to the Temple News.
Gender-Inclusive Housing allows students to share a living space regardless of gender and is not strictly for LGBTQ students, according to the Office of University Housing and Residential Life.
Androu Luzader, a gay man, has struggled in the roommate searching process.
After his roommates’ friends directed homophobic slurs toward Luzader because of his sexual orientation, he transferred from Temple at the end of his first semester, he said.
“There’s just a lot of stigma on Temple’s campus,” said Luzader, a freshman public health major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “I didn’t like the atmosphere that Temple provided, so I switched to a school that was more accepting in my opinion.”
Crystal Wolfe, an incoming freshman finance major who is bisexual, is dealing with bias related to heteronormativity and gender sterotypes as she searches for a roommate for the Fall 2021 semester. She plans on living in the Honors Living-Learning Community in 1300 Residence Hall.
“It kind of bothers me that everyone just assumes that the standard is straight,” Wolfe said. “No one really asks.”
Because LGBTQ people weren’t as widely accepted in her hometown of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Wolfe feared she’d be judged because of her sexual orientation by potential roommates, she said.
“I don’t know how other people are gonna react to that or perceive that if I mention it,” Wolfe said.
Like Wolfe, Amaya Adams, a freshman neuroscience major who is bisexual, has had people assume she is straight because of her gender identity. As a person of color, Adams faces additional stigma, she wrote in an email to the Temple News.
“Being a POC is something people can already know when they meet me,” Adams wrote. “In other words, it’s not something I have to share and wait to see how someone will react.”
Adams found people labeling themselves as “LGBTQ-friendly” online to be a positive sign that these individuals would not try to “save” her from her bisexuality, a frequent occurrence in her Catholic high school, she said.
Ensuring that a potential roommate will be accepting of their LGBTQ identity is an important step in choosing a roommate as an LGBTQ person, but it is not the sole focus, Kuzma said.
“You just want to find people who are going to respect you and your space and your property and who you are,” she said.