A Change of Scenery

Jay Perez, 20, a Sixth College third year describes her experience living in LGBT campus versus her experience living in non-LGBT preference housing. She tells me that she had been here from her freshman year, offering me, a transfer student, insight as to how  her experience has been since the beginning of her college career.

I had never lived in non-LGBT preference housing so I wouldn’t know the first thing about how it would feel to move into a completely new environment and having to come out to my roommates and possibly have my girlfriend come over. I wanted to know what she thought of her housing life in the beginning. “People that I used to live with, in my second year, they weren’t very nice or polite. I kind of just dealt with it by not being in the apartment as much and I did that a lot my first year too, so I just took myself out of the equation.” I only have a vague feeling of what this is like with my own experiences with roommates and not being able to come home and relax can really take a toll on a person.

 

Perez had dealt with some roommate conflicts and was not keen on doing it again and she opted into the LGBT preference housing in Sixth College.  “In the past, I had really bad experiences in regards to dealing with other people that I didn’t know. I also wanted to expand my circle, just connect with other people.”.

Now that she lives in LGBT friendly housing, Perez told me that she felt better in that kind of living situation. “There’s not awkwardness in regards with my girlfriends coming over and hanging out with me. They are pretty open minded in regards to just everything.”

The Village

Comparing Sixth college’s programs with the programs offered here in the Village was quite surprising to find out. I know that there is a lot of advertisement in the Village toward the LGBT community, in fact many of the staff are LGBT identified which is a huge influence on what goes on in the neighborhood. I had asked Jay what she thought of the staff and programs offered in her college, and she told me that there were actually none offered to the LGBT community in Sixth college. “RA’s aren’t really in tune to any of that…but the campus as a whole, with the LGBT RC and having that it definitely helps the whole university…”.  She had known about a few events that were quite large, such as the non-sexist dance and the Gay Day in May. The way that LGBT preference residents know about a Gay Day in May is through e-mail. I had listed off a few other events and she didn’t really know what  I was talking about which I think could have possibly hindered her experience here at UCSD as a whole.

The non-sexist dance is one of the largest events here on campus and it is thrown by the LGBT RC and their student organizations. Perez spoke about how this particular event was supposed to be not only a fun dance that students could attend but also could have a safe place to be regardless of their sexual orientation. Perez says, “It’s aimed for that, but regardless, people that are very homophobic show up and they start stuff. Regardless of the situation you’re always gonna find some conflict.”

My interview with Perez made me open my eyes to another side of this campus, literally the other side, and some problems that are present there but not present where I live. It is clear that even LGBT preference housing is not always as active as it should be. The Resident Advisers and Resident Deans campus wide should be able to provide resources for all of their residents, not just a majority. It is the job of the university to make this school not only a place of achievement but also a place that you can call home.

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A Leader in LGBT Housing

Nelson Lin talks about his experience here as a Resident Adviser for the LGBT preference housing at the Village. Being a transfer student himself he wanted to become more involved in the campus life and becoming an RA has allowed him to be behind the scenes of on campus living. The residents in the Village look to their RAs for leadership and guidance especially because it is a completely new environment for them similar to incoming freshmen. They transfer from community colleges, state colleges and other universities as well. Coming to UCSD as a transfer can be a little unnerving and the Resident Advisers are there to help. I live in the LGBT housing in the Village and Nelson is my own RA. I wanted to see what he thought about taking on this position and his own perspective of LGBT housing at UCSD.

Lin didn’t originally choose to be an RA for the LGBT housing in the Village but he willingly accepted the challenge. He states that, “We are the biggest community compared to other dorm complexes for LGBT housing.”  Choosing the LGBT preference housing is available for everyone, it offers a safe place for the LGBT identified community and its allies. There are of course other LGBT members all over the village because it is something one can opt into or out of.

Anti-LGBT bullying has sadly been in the news quite often as of late and I had asked Nelson if he had to deal with any conflicts concerning his residents or even non-residents being involved in LGBT harrassment or bullying. Lin, being an RA, has a certain kind of authority at the village and many people know who he is. He had discussed that his residents didn’t have any bullying problems within their own rooms but instead dealt with typical problems that occur in dorm living. However, one of his friends who lived in non-LGBT preference housing had come to him with some problems concerning his roommates. The situation was that this friend of Nelson’s was struggling with his sexuality and one of his friends had found out. In turn, another friend found out and started to bully him. Nelson tells me that, “…it became a pretty big deal…but it happened over winter break so it was kind of out of everyone’s reach even the supervisors. I tried to contact him but I guess it just ended.” I had thought that it was very noble for Nelson to step up and help his friend out in his time of need even during the winter break in between winter and spring quarter. As an RA, Nelson is more than just a guy that stops by and checks on you because it is his job, he is a person that people look to for help. He tells me that in his experience,  “A lot of times, even though our generation is becoming better and better about it…even if its just to listen to someone complain about it, not to really bring it to the higher up level of authority is still better than not helping out at all.”.

I came to this university as a transfer student from the bay area, so coming down to La Jolla to attend UCSD was a major change for me. I was faced with a lot of questions and anxieties about what my experience was going to be like here. I had decided that I was going to live on campus in the transfer housing and opted for the LGBT preference housing because I thought that it would help me adjust to this brand new life so far from home. I waited anxiously as I moved into my new apartment to meet my new roommates. Knowing that the people I was going to be living with were at the very least okay with my sexual orientation was a huge comfort. Nelson had helped me and I’m sure many other students adjust to this new life. I know as a resident under his advisory that I can always go to him and he will put his best effort into solving my problems.

Being a Resident Adviser is a tough job indeed. Nelson Lin offers a look into the experience as to what it means to be a leader in the LGBT community, even if it is only for the housing because in fact this position requires so much more. Lin gives perspective as to how he has used his own judgement and skills to keep the peace in the village whether its within the building he oversees or otherwise.

Harvey Milk in San Diego

Harvey Milk is a symbol of equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. He made a world of difference for the community especially in the bay area of California. His death is a reminder that even though changes are possible there will always be challenges. May 22, 2012 his impact was commemorated in Hillcrest by naming a street after him. The end of this street
is right in front of the San Diego LGBT community center.

This simple renaming of a street will have an impact on the Hillcrest community. People will walk by this sign and along this street and may not even notice anything different but that street holds a great significance for the LGBT community. It is only a few blocks long but it is on a street that is also culturally significant to the LGBT theme.  It is a representation of forward thinking towards tolerance and full equality. It will be one of the next few additions to the community, among them a park and of course the soon to be 65 foot flag pole full clad with a rainbow flag all year round.

Naming a street after Harvey Milk was something that put Hillcrest and San Diego in a promising direction. Hillcrest has been a symbol of this strength and sense of community within the LGBT neighborhood.

Out and Proud Week

Here at UCSD there is a week set aside for the LGBT community to celebrate their identities and solidarity. Each day during the week of April 23rd through the 27th from  10 to 3 the booth was out there focusing on a different community component. Being a member of the LGBT community this week resonated with me especially.

I was vaguely aware of this week-long event on library walk simply because I am a part of the e-mailing list my RA sends out with information. It wasn’t until I was able to make my way down to library walk itself that I became aware of it. Immediately visible is a giant rainbow arch across the walkway that serves as a beacon for the Out and Proud Week booth. I was expecting all of the student organizations involved with the LGBT community on campus to be out there to show their visibility.

I walked up to the lonesome booth to be happily surprised. It was a very relaxing booth to be at as opposed to the aggressive flyers that are usually shoved at students faces whenever we dare to walk down to library walk. I was greeted by a man named Shaun Travers who is the director of the LGBT Resource Center on campus. As I was sifting through all the pamphlets and flyers I asked if I could get an interview with him about what this week means to the resource center. His interview enlightened me as to what Out and Proud week was really about. Travers told me about how their booth receives many people asking questions or to just talk.

Out and Proud week at UCSD was a little and small event at first glance. Once one has the ability to actually walk up to these booths and become educated it is truly an eye-opening experience. One of the best things about this week is that it is not necessarily about identifying as a member of the LGBT community but your connections with it as Shaun Travers stated in his interview. The volunteers manning the booth were very open and knowledgeable about any information that anyone had.

Day of Silence

This year on April 20, 2012 it was the Day of Silence. I live at the LGBT preference housing on campus and one of my suite-mates is co-chair of the student organization AS Alliance. This club in particular had been dormant and basically nonexistent until recently. The Day of Silence was their first event and being that I live with one of the co-chairs and next to the other I got a little inside look as to what this student organization is doing on campus for students.

The Day of Silence is a day in which participants choose to take a vow of silence in a protest against violence, harassment and bullying towards the LGBT community. During the week prior to the Day of Silence AS Alliance went to the center of all campus “flyering” and “tabling” and set up their own table. Free Day of Silence merchandise, flyers and candy was available for anyone who stopped by the booth. I helped volunteer to help out at the table during the week and I found it very different from the other “flyering” experiences I’ve had. When I was sitting at the booth for no more than two and a half hours I didn’t really have to get up and ask people to take flyers or try and coax them my way to tell them about something they may not actually care about at all. I was happily surprised to see how many people actually approached us. They would often walk by glance at us, then take a second look and come back and ask us what the booth was about. According to the co-chairs, Laura Ross and Jaime Lopez, they signed up over 250 people who were interested in getting more information about what AS Alliance does. Throughout the week we ran out of free shirts to give out but were still out there giving people information and handing out speaking cards and free bracelets. This was a very refreshing experience for me and I am excited to see how AS Alliance will grow as a student organization.

Introductions

I have been assigned this blog to do whatever I want with as a “citizen journalism”. I get to choose my “beat”. The class that I am enrolled in is Digital Journalism and I am taking it at UCSD. I have found my beat which is the presence of LGBT on campus here at UCSD. I chose this beat because I have been a part of the LGBT Preference housing on campus in The Village all year and I haven’t really seen much of the LGBT presence on campus as much as I would like. When I first started living here I found out that in the whole building, a five story building with three suites on each floor, only a few rooms actually housed people who identified with the LGBT community.

Coming to college I had expected a little more than what I was seeing. Once, the year started I tried to get involved and see what the campus had to offer with a little digging. My suitemates and I had decided to sign up for this program called Q Camp. It was essentially a tour of the LGBT Resource Center and we got to meet people and those who ran different student organizations that were linked to the resource center. I met a few people but nothing really struck me as something I would want to be a part of.

With this in mind, I decided that this project would be perfect for further exploring what this campus has to offer me not only as a student but as a person as well.