My proposed research project will explore how positioning LGBTQIA+ exclusive campus spaces in universities could potentially further isolate and marginalize LGBTQIA+ identifying students from the ‘mainstream’ society. It is well known that there is stigma attached to gender identity and sexual orientation. Thus LGBTQIA+ identifying individuals may experience multiple additional forms of marginalisation along with homophobia and/or transphobia such as sexism or racism (Subhrajit, 2014). In order to combat this added marginalisation, universities are opting for implementing LGBTQIA+ exclusive safer spaces that functions as both a social outlet and support system for said students. The vast benefits of providing LGBTQIA+ exclusive spaces in differing communities have been well explored, however very few researchers look into where they position the space and how that may affect a student’s feeling of isolation (Subhrajit, 2014). My question is could LGBTQIA+ students feel that they are further isolated from a socially rich university experience if placed centrally on campus or more on the outskirts of the campus?
Richard Greggory Johnson III stated when talking about LGBT+ exclusive living spaces, that in most American universities attempt to ensure the safety of their LGBTQIA+ student population and by doing this, further segregating these students from their cis/heterosexual student counterparts creating more divide and friction. However, they also argue that having a visible and more centralised LGBTQIA+ exclusive space could heighten the risk of targeted violence or vandalism as well as everyone who enters and exits the doors to that LGBT+ space would be forced to come out to anyone who happens to be in the near vicinity (Johnson III, 2017).
The AllSorts Queer Collective is the University of Wollongong’s on campus collective for LGBTQIA+ identifying students residing in an autonomous space in Building 19, Room G039. My project will focus on the people involved with the collective and how they feel the LGBTQIA+ exclusive space they use on a regular basis has affected their feeling of marginalization or fear of isolation within the university environment. The queer space was previously on a less centralized portion of the campus and so I would be able to gain a comparative outlook on the effects that both have on the student’s wellbeing.
This project is timely as with each passing year, there is more and more interest in queer holistic wellbeing and experiences, as more acceptance shining through more people are embracing queer lifestyles as a norm, there are still prominent feelings of isolation and marginalisation within ‘mainstream’ society. This year, a record number of students signed up and wished to be a part of the collective and researching how the size and location of a LGBTQIA+ exclusive space could affect a student’s university experience as a queer member of society.
This project will also be relevant as I am an active member of the AllSorts Queer Collective and have a deep interest in the queer community and how we function within society. I find this topic interesting and I am excited to delve into how seemingly insignificant factors of how an LGBTQIA+ exclusive space functions can impact a student’s university experience.