In the midst of mourning for a fellow student and offering support for survivors through chalk art and volunteer efforts, I stumbled upon a message on the sidewalk that blindsided me. Someone had chosen to write the following: “If minorities want to be treated as equal, then they should stop asking for special treatment.”
This anonymous opinion is not uncommon, and this insensitivity creeps up in other aspects of life at Georgia Tech. Thankfully, I have never heard another student or a professor overtly express revulsion or hatred toward LGBTQIA+ people on campus, but the unresolved marginalization of queer students speaks loudly enough.
The lack of gender inclusive housing on campus poses a challenge for genderqueer students, and it puts us at a disadvantage. It is difficult to find roommates who are willing to live with a genderqueer person, and it can be even more difficult to be paired up with them by the housing department. It would be easier if Tech offered at least one dormitory where applicants would not be assigned to gendered floors but could live freely among other genderqueer students.
The Georgia Tech campus also lacks gender neutral restrooms in most buildings. I personally feel uncomfortable when entering a women’s restroom because I feel like I am violating their space, and sometimes I experience body dysphoria because I do not look or feel like a female. Those of us who feel this way would greatly benefit from neutral spaces because it is frustrating to have to walk across campus to find a restroom where we feel safe.
Every day, I walk past athletic fields, disability services, the women’s resource center and nursing rooms for new mothers, and I wonder why my needs are any less important than anyone else’s. I appreciate that GT has provided for all of these groups, and I would never want to take away their resources for my own benefit; however, I don’t understand why Tech hasn’t worked just as tirelessly to accommodate LGBTQIA+ students in similar ways. I am disheartened at the sight of the single tiny office where we currently must go to access housing and documentation resources, and I feel insignificant when I compare it to the massive recreational spaces that I pass on the way there.
I hope that Georgia Tech will continue to grow its LGBTQIA+ center so that students can receive the support we need. I would love to see an office space where we could submit gender change forms and apply for inclusive housing at the same time; additionally, more available staff members would help us address our concerns so that we could spend more time being students and less time struggling to fit in. It would also be incredibly helpful if campus services converted at least one restroom per classroom building into a gender neutral space, and I hope to see inclusive bathrooms in dormitories and the campus recreational center as well.
I know that the GT community can grow and become more supportive of its students and that we can be better than the chalk writer who broke my heart with their callousness. I hope that LGBTQIA+ students will receive the care and respect that we deserve and that people like that anonymous writer will no longer deny us the privileges that they take for granted. I hope that when we speak up for ourselves, we will be heard and answered and not met with uncaring stares.
Jessica (Jade) Samuel is a queer, non-binary second year Materials Science and Engineering student at Georgia Institute of Technology.