Gay Halls In University Dorms: Good Idea Or Target For Hate Crimes?

The University of Iowa already offers dorm halls focused around fields of study like business, engineering, Hispanic languages and culture. But now the school’s GLBT Allied Union Executive Board wants to give incoming students the option to live in an LGBT dorm hall specifically for queer students and allies. But will this offer LGBT students solidarity among like-minded individuals or will it isolate them from the larger campus and make them sitting ducks for harassment, vandalism, or even hate crimes?

As for isolation, a dorm hall welcoming of LGBT students could actually serve as a way for queer-identified students to become more active in campus life and politics rather than less active, since living with other openly queer students might teach them the importance of open involvement and queer campus politics. Also, the dorm would serve as a great place for closeted, curious, and questioning students to visit and meet with other LGBTs without feeling like they have to self-identify by going to a bar or an LGBT organizational meeting.

As for violence, Quentin Hill of the GLBT Allied Union Executive Board, dismisses fears about the hall becoming a target saying, “People seem to be open and affirming here, and accepting even though they might not agree with it. I think that’s a unique thing about Iowa City.”

According to campus police statistics, the campus had 47 reported incidents of harassment and 65 reported incidents of assault in 2010, just five and ten more incidents respectively than were reported the year before. So while an LGBT floor could increase their occurence, it’s also likely that the school would take greater care to monitor the floor and swiftly respond to any such cases, both to avoid bad press and to show their care for current and prospective LGBT students in particular.

Image via Phil Roeder

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  • Damon

    They tried this sort of thing with black people. It didn’t work out so well if I remember correctly.

  • GreatGatsby2011

    I lived in a gay dorm when I went to college. We didn’t have any hate crimes committed while I lived there. And it was really great to come into a very welcoming and supportive environment seeing as it was my first time away from home.

  • J

    UM, no. Sure it’d be nice for the gays to have a place to call their own, but isnt that what lgbtq/diversity centers are for? I mean, college homos tend to, lets say flourish sexually, and well if they’re all living together its just not going to make for very happy times, i think. and yeah even if it the gays could live with each other, I really doubt that “open minded/curious” people would flock to it… more like stay away form the dorm like it was the plague. gay dorms=/=gay bars.

  • Little Kiwi

    i’m always a little bit puzzled by those who are opposed to gay dorms or the Harvey Milk Schools.

    um…how many of you who are “opposed” were fully totally 100% OUT to everyone when you were in school? Just curious.

    I was, since highschool. i survived the bad stuff and enjoyed the good. but had there been an option for a queer dorm? yeah. i’d have taken it. sometimes you just want to be around people who speak the same shorthand as you after years and years of being surrounded in a heterosexual world and cultural environment.

  • Cam

    You can’t use bigotry as an excuse to avoid something.

    “Oh gee, lets not let black people into school because they might become targets of racists.”

  • the crustybastard


    No, state-mandated racial segregation is NOT comparable to the right of a individuals to choose to organize and associate for their convenience and security.

  • Haightmale

    Right before I went to Rutgers College I received my housing assignment, and was placed in a dorm called Demarest Hall. Demarest Hall didn’t mean anything to me – and at a time when there was a housing shortage at Rutgers, I was grateful to be able to live on College Avenue. When I moved in on that first day – within minutes I learned that Demarest was known as the “gay dorm.” Rutgers had a dorm that was for students known as a “special interest” dorm. Whether you were interested in the arts or chemistry, the Civil War or Italian Art songs, you could live in a dorm where you felt safe and secure.

    One of the saddest realities of Tyler Clementi’s suicide last year, was the fact that this safe place existed right there on campus, and chances are the events that unfolded never would have happened had he known about this dorm.

    For any dorm like this to be successful, it can’t be segregated. It has to have straight and LGBT students living side by side, as it was at Demarest Hall. I was very lucky to live there for my freshman and sophomore years. The dorm was attacked figuratively and literally every day. People would walk by and scream hateful words, the building was decorated by toilet paper regularly, and there were other incidents. But everyone who lived there together formed a strong community, and provided a safe place to study and live.

    Every college or university should have a space like Demarest Hall.

  • JayKay

    An entire dorm full of genderqueer wymynyst neo-liberals holding candlelight hug-ins and screaming about the privileged white heteronormative cisgender patriarchy oppressing them because they didn’t get the parking spot closest to the door?

    I think you’ve just redefined my definition of Hell.

  • Little Kiwi

    next you’ll all be complaining that, like, we don’t need LGBT Community Centres, cuz, like, we can just like, have, like, Community Centres.


  • Steveo

    @JayKay: That’s hilarious; thanks for the laugh. I agree.

  • verybookish

    The people who are afraid to self-identify by going to an informational meeting are going to be comfortable going to a dorm to talk to other queers? I don’t think so. If they’re that afraid of being labeled queer, it would be easier to pretend to be researching a paper or something in an “informational meeting” than in someone’s dorm room.

    And separating queer students from other students? Have you heard of separate and NOT EQUAL?

    MAYBE the police would show up faster in responding to incidents… if they were concerned with responding. But just because all the queer kids live together isn’t going to make the police actually more interested in preventing or responding to harassment.

  • newcityspot

    @Damon: First thought that came to mind was…um isn’t this segregation and you were the first comment and it echoed my thoughts!

  • robert

    @Damon: I think there are plenty of well established credible black universities that allows minorities to bond, share in experiences and give outlets for creativity and community that you couldn’t get from a regular university.

    I think the important thing is that it would be an option, not a mandatory dorm. As a senior in college I would of loved the idea of a LGBTQ friendly dorm where you could go and meet others.

  • Little Kiwi

    @robert, EXACTLY> it’s not like “segregation” as it’s not mandatory. look i may not have chosen the all-queer, or queer-inclusive dorm, but the reality is this: i came out in high school. fully. and you know what? sometimes you just wanna be around “family” – we’re “integrated” every day of our lives in school, in work, in family, in public.

    day in and day out being The Gays in a Straight (white) Man’s World. sometimes you just wanna kick back with people who speak the same language.

  • CBRad

    @JayKay: THAT could be a danger, knowing how colleges and universities can certainly espouse such dingbattery. I’m not sure if I support this dorm or not, though. Maybe, yes, at least so people have a choice. (But thanks for the laugh).

  • timncguy

    @Little Kiwi: @Little Kiwi: please tell me that as a senior in college, you are aware that the proper phrase is “I would have loved the idea” not ” I would of loved the idea”.

    Would’ve is the contraction of “would have”….. not “would of”

  • DB

    This is horrific. The idea of segregating people based on sexual orientation is a horrible idea. One of the most important aspects of college is living with and experiencing a variety of people, not separating yourself from those who are different. Gay dorms are an extremely bad idea. After freshman year I lived in a fraternity section so I was living only with a self-selected group of guys, but other than sex we were quite diverse. Apartheid is not a good policy.

  • Little Kiwi

    @TimNCguy, uh…where did i ever write that? i didn’t. you’re confusing me with someone else. i’m no a senior in college…

    i guess i’m just genuinely curious…. all of you who are against this idea, were you FULLY Out in college? as in to Everyone?

    i don’t think having the option is that bad. it doesn’t mean all LGBT-identifying students will be forced to dorm there.

  • timncguy

    @Little Kiwi: @Little Kiwi: oops…. my bad. It’s Robert’s post right above yours with the error in it.

  • Robert

    @timncguy: Sorry, I’m just checking my comments for an online article for spelling generally and not grammar, similar to not capitalizing the first letter of each sentence (cough). On to an article related response,

    I wish we would all simply drop the segregation argument against this. Because its already been established this has absolutely nothing to do with segregation as we usually associate that with mandatory. I think specifically LGBTQ friendly dorms like this should exist just like I think LGBTQ community centers or Gay Softball Leagues, or Gay Bars exist. Because until there is equal representation of ALL aspects of the community on a college campus or anywhere, it is up to the community to create areas in which to develop themselves. I kind of liken this argument to why BET exists…


  • Roger

    I lived in an all male, all art majors’ dorm with homophobes in Texas.

  • hunter52

    they have gay housing…it’s called, ‘frats’….at least it use to be that way.

  • B

    In No 7, Haightmale wrote, “One of the saddest realities of Tyler Clementi’s suicide last year, was the fact that this safe place existed right there on campus, and chances are the events that unfolded never would have happened had he known about this dorm.”

    According to
    he was on the Piscataway campus, not the New Brunswick campus, so knowing about that dormitory wouldn’t have helped. Is there a similar one in Piscataway?

  • Shannon1981

    Had I had the option of a gay dorm in college round one it is quite possible I would not have dropped out. I think its a grande idea. Like it or not, we are nowhere near not needing our own spaces. And obviously everyone here agrees with that, or you wouldn’t, you know, frequent gay websites.

  • Dan Avery

    But aren’t dorm rooms usually same-sex to keep roommates from sleeping with each other? If gay guys are allowed to room with other gay guys, what’s to keep them from hooking up? Which wouldn’t be fair to the straight students.

    Also, study after study shows that straight people are more pro-gay when they KNOW actual gay people. If we go running off to our private dorm, we’re not going to have a chance to make connections with straight friends and allies.

    And any college that has a gay dorm is going to be fairly liberal and gay-friendly to begin with, isn’t it?

  • IAmBethGibbons

    My experience living in a GLBT dorm was horrible: I realized how vicious queer-on-queer hate can be. The transgendered female living next to me felt pretty marginalized by the rampant transphobia from the gay men living there. I moved out because I could not tolerate the hate.

  • Red Meat

    I know for a fact my college roommates walked in their underwear so that I could see them. I know this because one of them admitted it to me when he was a little drunk, saying he likes the attention. I never mentioned it or said anything so it wouldn’t stop…Why would anyone want to miss out on that?

  • doublestandard


  • slurp

    sleeping accomodations exclusively for gays? that’s called a bath house

  • Reason

    @DB: I agree with you, if they had an all Jewish dorm I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet a lot of my friends. Coming from Texas I had zero Jewish friends before going to college. Think of how many people out there have never really had any interaction with a gay person, is segregation going to give them the opportunity to meet one and realize that they are awesome people. intermixing changes perceptions and allows people to bond and become comfortable with each other. An important aspect of coming out is so people will realize that they are already friends or family with gays oftentimes changing negative perceptions that they have; If they didn’t have any sort of relationship with that person, do you think perceptions would change? As for the other side, if one can’t survive in a heterosexual environment in college how are they going to survive in the business world. GBLT only corporations are not awaiting anyone when they are done with school, do yourself a favor and figure out how to live and work comfortably with heterosexuals. Just about all of my college friends were heterosexual, and when I came out I didn’t lose one friend. I did change perceptions though, and I bet when they become bosses in the future they wouldn’t hesitate to hire a gay person. If I had isolated myself in a gay dorm associating with mainly gay people, my friends may have instead become practitioners of implicit homophobia.

  • Lefty

    @Haightmale: That sounds great.
    I think it sounds like a good idea.

  • Steve

    Roommate-pairing and dorm-assignments are hard problems that colleges are constantly working on. Dormitory facilities are often used to simulate society at large, in controlled experiments, and can be an important research resource for sociology and psychology research.

    The sociology department faculty and grad students design roommate-pairing experiments and ways to measure the results. They often don’t tell the subjects (aka, students) how the assignment decisions are made, or what is being observed or measured. They _do_ submit all experiment designs involving human subjects to the university Institutional-Review Board, as a check on ethics and to prevent harm to the subjects.

    They often try to put pairs together based on established or experiment criteria, to set up specific kinds of differences or similarities. The grouping of pairs into halls is, of course, also subject to experimentation and observation or measurement.

    Some schools have been asking about sexual orientation on the dorm-assignment questions, for several decades. You can reasonably infer that they must have used that information for something. And, they have been asking about sexual activity and social interaction in on-campus polling, for several decades.

    When I search Google Scholar for “gay dormitory”, it finds 13,900 articles. Experiments involving gay populations in dormitories have clearly been done before, and results published. I expect there will be at least one new journal article resulting from this ‘gay dorm’.

  • iDavid

    Great idea. Options are life’s buffet. Weigh the pros and cons of shrimp vs steak and go for it. I’m pro choice on any idea that serves individuals and humanity as a whole. The more things labeled “gay” the more humanity evolves into acceptance albeit bumps along the way.

  • Mark

    My first response to this is, it’s not a good idea. College is the place where we are removed from our comfort zones and exposed to the larger society. Yes, we may face increased harrassment, but we deal with those situations on a case by case basis and we build relationships with all different types of people. I had a straight roommate in college, and one night a drunk frat boy painted the word “faggot” on our dorm room door. My room mate saw the guy and told him to remove it or he would report the guy to the RA. I was away on a canoe trip and my room mate didn’t tell me about it for months. Should he have? Yes. Why didn’t he? He thought he was protecting me. My point in that story, I forged a strong friendship with a straight room mate who had never been around gay guys before. We need to intgegrate into the world. After college, it is very doubtful you will be living in a gay apartment building, etc.

  • mike128

    I think it’s a great idea. It’s not imposed and it gives LGBT people the chance to live together during a time when they are really developing their sense of self. This is already done at other universities, and, like a fraternity, people choose to participate if they feel they can benefit from this kind of support. It is not segregation – and people who sleep on the same floor don’t necessarily all have sex together as some of this comment thread have suggested (boys, do you all suffer from internalized homophobia, or what? some of the arguments here would sound conservative if i wasn’t aware that this is a queer blog).

  • jason

    This is voluntary segregation. While it may offer a comforting environment, it also propels stereotypes and a “them and us” mentality. I’m not comfortable with it.

    It’s as if we are re-creating closets. We claim that we wish to break them down but here we go creating new ones. There’s something distinctly wrong with our psychology.

    It’s also a form of cowardice if you ask me. If I were a student on this campus, I would be out and proud within the general community and not hiding away in some musty room off some musty hall.

  • Mike in Asheville

    @Dan Avery: Co-sign.

  • Shannon1981

    I think the thing the people against this are missing is this: we already segregate ourselves, gay bars, Pride, our own dating site, and yes, blogs like this. Think about say, the way we all feel when straight people invade this site. Many of us get offended, especially when they derail the conversation. In a perfect, ideal world, we’d be able to be all inclusive. We all know that simply is not happening at the moment. We are making great strides, yes, but still have a long way to go. I also sort of feel like no matter how included we are, no matter how far we go, straight people will never understand. NGL, I am personally at a point where I am looking to work and live among other queers. I am just not comfortable with that many straight people, even gay friendly ones, because at the end of the day, they simply will never be qualified to tell the truth of a people to which they do not belong.

    Think about it: The civil rights movement for blacks was how long ago, and there is still a need for culturally African American spaces. We are nowhere near that far along. If we(I am black) still need that, then we as queer people certainly do. Why not give this option, so that, at the end of a long, hard day where a gay student has had to endure misunderstanding, what is so bad about going home to people who actually understand? I don’t get why people do not want to give that option. We don’t segregate ourselves because we hate the straights or anything of the sort. We segregate ourselves our of necessity.

  • Mr. Enemabag Jones


    I think you’ve just redefined my definition of Hell.

    What was it before, a public toilet without any glory holes?

  • Robert

    @Mark: I feel like this post simplifies a lot of the anti-gay-dorm sentiment expressed. “College is the place where we are removed from our comfort zones and exposed to the larger society.” Maybe for some people? But for a lot of homosexuals, they have been outside their comfort zone their entire lives. College, for me, was the place I finally was able to come out of the closet, and finally find a close knit group of gay friends.

    I also don’t really get the point of your story. We’re a minority, and i don’t know about you guys but I spend most of my time in classes, at school, at events, and generally interacting with straight people most of the day. There is plenty of time to interact with the straight community, or, “build tolerance,” or “integrate with the world,” during the day. My sophomore year I lived with my now best friends, a lesbian and a gay guy, and its so nice to come home and talk to people who know exactly what you’re going through.

    My point in that story, I forged a strong friendship with a straight room mate who had never been around gay guys before. We need to intgegrate into the world. After college, it is very doubtful you will be living in a gay apartment building, etc.

  • Katt

    This is a great idea. First of all I resent all the comments on gays living together leading to promiscuous behavior. When I was in college with straight roomates, they had girls climbing in and out the windows (3rd floor) nightly. There were other gays on my floor and we just said hello in passing. So I reject the notion that just because gays live together they will lose all moral confines. Secondly, I think its great that the gays have their own space as most campuses are very hetero-oriented. All we had was a stupid table behind the theater. Its not segregation, because we can CHOOSE to live/go there. Since when is having a choice a bad thing?

  • David Venter

    Target of Hate Crimes? Oh please, more like: Target for amateur porn and orgies.. :D

  • Evan

    I lived last year in a gay dorm. I loved it, I know the whole community, and I am involved in campus politics. I had just come out right before I moved it. It really helped me find my true identity. I have never been more comfortable with my sexuality.

  • Mr. Enemabag Jones


    I moved out because I could not tolerate the hate.

    Could you elaborate on this? What happened while you lived there?

  • John

    Absolutely! I’m over 60 years old and still “living” in a heterosexual world because there is no gay “community” where I live. I am still in hiding. It’s an awful way to live. Moving is not an option.

  • Shannon1981

    @IAmBethGibbons: I would like to know what kind of hate you experienced? I realize that we can be catty, and that yes there is discrimination…but I simply cannot imagine this being the horrible place/idea people are making it out to be. I love my queer spaces. To live somewhere like that in college would have been a dream come true.

  • Bryan

    To the people who say it limits socializing. Er, how much time do you spend in your room anyways? There’s the classroom, college events, library etc to socialize outside the gay dorm circle except you’re one of those people who’s pretty much always in his/her room, in which case you won’t be socializing or meet people much(gay or straight) to begin with. I’m not saying I agree with the idea, I just don’t think lack of interaction with other people outside the gay circle is a valid reason to be against it.

    The idea might limit homophobic attacks, but I don’t it’ll do much to limit bullying. Gay people can be real assholes to other gay people and that will hurt even more.

  • Little Kiwi

    there are the exact same “complaints” about the Harvey Milk Schools, usually from the same idiots who weren’t fully Out in high school.

    some of us have been Out since adolescence, and you know what? after days and years of being vanguards sometimes we wanna just kick back and relax with people who speak the same language, with people who already “get it”, so we’re not spending yet another hour of our day being The Mind-Expanding Gay Person to more heterosexuals.

    we can still interact and be “changing hearts and minds” in the classroom and every other social setting. i’d know. i did it.

    i’m just puzzled as to the incredibly negative reactions to this. don’t wanna dorm in a queer-centric dorm? don’t dorm there. the end. i don’t know why you’re opposed to the option being there for those who want it.

  • Chitown kev

    My first thought about this story was that all these queens would get on my damn nerves with the quickness in a dorm like that.

    I’d have to hang out with the lesbians.

  • PilateError

    As a Freshman, I was randomly put on the Theater Arts floor and it was known as the “gay floor.” As a business major, I felt isolated because I shared limited interest with the other people on my floor, but there were plenty of outwardly gay and accepting straight people on my floor that made it easy to come out; however, since being gay wasn’t my main focus for being at the University, I hung out more outside my dorm and eventually moved into another one with a straight friend.

    I would encourage Universities to reserve safety areas, but not a whole dorm for GLBT students who have difficulty, but encourage them strongly to seek out interest outside their sexuality/gender; it will make life go a lot easier and it may surprise them to find they have allies in places they wouldn’t expect.

  • jason


    I totally agree with you.

  • xander

    I’m glad this option exists for people who want a LGBT-friendly dorm, but I probably wouldn’t have picked it for myself. If I’d waited until College to come out, it may have been a good place to do so, but by then I was looking more for people with other interests in common: music, and academics.

    @Chitown kev: You got that right! I shared a room at Uni. with a hetero guy I also roomed with the 2 last years of highschool: no drama, no unknowns there. We alternated who got the room for sleepovers each weekend,

  • Haightmale

    @B: Yes – it would have helped him a lot, had he known about it, and requested to live in one of the special interest sections. He lived on the Livingston Campus because they put most of the frosh there who don’t know any better.

    Rutgers reorganized in 2006 so that you could be a student in any college and live on any campus. Tyler was a music major at Mason Gross – which is located on the Douglas campus. He could have lived anywhere he chose to.

    I don’t want to over generalize, or infer that he wouldn’t have made the choice he did if he lived at Demarest Hall, because we will never know for sure. That said – I do think that the odds of him making the choice that he did, would have been greatly reduced, if he was living in a supportive environment.

    Tyler’s death affected me deeply. I had a hard time when I was first coming out, and I was a student at Rutgers. That’s why I’m blogging, fighting hate speech, and the extremist organizations who defame our community every day. The one year anniversary of his death is next Thursday. Please visit my blog that day.


    Tie-dyed Jive in the (415)

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