LGBT-only dorms could 'backfire,' prof warns

A University of San Francisco professor recently argued that LGBT segregated dorms could “backfire” for queer students, making them an easier “target of violence.”

In an op-ed for Inside Higher Ed, Richard Greggory Johnson, who teaches social equity at USF, argued that segregated dorms can “heighten the risk of targeted violence or vandalism” against trans and queer people.

Students living in segregated dorms “would be forced to come out in a potentially very public way” every time they enter and exit the dorm, Johnson points out, reasoning that if a transphobic person wanted to hurt a trans person, they would only need to watch the front door of the LGBT dorm on campus to find potential targets.

“Segregation will only lead to more victimization, it will not solve any problems,” Johnson writes, quoting remarks made by Simon Thomson, the director of a student accommodation website, in an interview with The Guardian.

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In an interview with Campus Reform, Johnson, who has been researching LGBT issues for 15 years, cautions that “you never know who’s out there.”

Some people “will take any opportunity to provoke someone,” he noted, saying, "I think anytime you have these self-segregated populations on campus it makes them a target for some people who may not be supportive of that community.”

Parents especially should take great caution against these dorms, he argues, asserting that “if I had an LGBT son or daughter, and they came to me with the idea of an LGBT village, I would have some great pause with that.”

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Jewish students and other students of color should be concerned, as well, he argues; just last year, a Jewish fraternity at UC-Davis was targeted with vandalism. It’s likely this happens more often than we know about, he says, as the news doesn’t cover everything.

While Johnson applauds colleges for supporting minorities, he worries that some administrators aren’t thinking about how efforts could backfire.

“You have administrators are hopping on board with this, but they don't think of the consequences,” he told Campus Reform.

Instead of segregated living spaces, Johnson suggested that creating more events and programming for minorities would be much better, adding that minority students seeking community could also try getting off campus to find the community they crave.

“Students have the entire city at their disposal,” he points out.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen