LGBTQ students looking to live on campus will soon have access to UF’s first gender-neutral housing in a new Living Learning Community.
The Marsha P. Johnson LLC could come by Fall 2021, said former Student Government Senator Ryan Wilder who was on the task force lobbying for the LLC. Living Learning Communities are groups in UF’s dorms that students can join to participate in activities and have access to course offerings and resources related to their LLC theme.
“I think it would be a concentrated area, a one stop shop of resources for LGBT students,” he said. “They can go into their college experience and not have to worry about, ‘Oh no, what if my randomly assigned roommate isn't an ally.”
Some of the 16 LLC’s on campus are the Arts LLC in Reid Hall, the Black Cultural LLC in Graham Hall and the Engineering LLC in East Hall.
UF Housing and Resident Education gives LLCs between $500 and $1,000 each academic year for their activities and resources, according to a call for LLC proposal from UF Housing and Residence Education. Wilder hopes 100 students will be a part of the LLC when it begins.
This new Marsha P. Johnson LLC will be the first gender neutral housing at UF, Wilder said.
“We don't have the issue of gender neutral housing settled right now,” Wilder said.
“Currently floors are still assigned same sex and that might not match your gender identity.”
UF Housing and Residence Education approved the LLC Oct. 5 and is now in the stages of designing the programs and learning objectives for the LLC. A six-person taskforce of UF Student Government senators and students, including Wilder, Monica Lea, SG Graduate Senator, and Alex Hernandez, UF Pride Student Union President, proposed the LLC
The task force and housing hope to have the community in Springs Complex because of the suite structure of the rooms.
The LLC will also have resources like LGBT-trained Counseling and Wellness Center mental health professionals and community-building events like LGBT movie nights for its residents.
Wilder said that the normal stresses of moving into college life can be compounded for LGBT students who also have to worry about roomates or RAs being homophobic or transphobic, losing accepting support networks from home, coming out and figuring out their own gender and sexual idenitity.
“You go through those things easier when you have resources like resident assistance and counselors who are competent and aware of those things and how to get through them,” he said.
Dayanna Peek, an 18-year-old UF international studies freshman, served on the taskforce in August, speaking with UF’s housing department. Peek is also the co-director of social justice for InterResidence Housing Association.
“I hope we can create a community for those who don’t have a home and should have a home,” she said.
Peek came out to her family as gay after being questioned in the car after buzz cutting her hair. Peek’s father questioned her about her sexuality until she was forced to come out, she said.
“It was difficult for him to accept me at first, but it seems like he’s come around to it, but I can tell he still misses his girl,” she said.
Peek said having the LLC would make it easier for others to find community at UF. Peek’s RA was accepting and she wants to ensure other students will have the same experience, she said.
Peek hopes to be an RA at the Marsha P. Johnson LLC when it is designated.
“We just hope the LLC is a space for humans,” she said. “You don’t have to worry about your gender identity or your sexual preferences. It's just a place for you to exist.”
Update: This article has been updated to include Monica Lea and Alex Hernandez as members of the taskforce that proposed the LLC.
Lianna Hubbard is a reporter for The Alligator’s Investigative Team. The UF women’s study major began as a freelance reporter three years ago. She founded her community college’s award-winning newspaper before beginning at The Independent Florida Alligator. See an issue in your community or a story at UF? Send tips to her Twitter.