A ‘safe space’ for five years, townhouse for LGBT students will be reassigned

Tucked between the Catholic student center and a fraternity house, the townhouse at 2208 F St. has been a safe haven for transgender students for more than five years.

But the “Escaping Gender” townhouse, which also houses gay, lesbian and bisexual students and was the first to offer gender-neutral housing, will be assigned to another student cohort this fall.

The four students who live there now said they will seek other options after the University announced it would reassign the basement space to a Center for Student Engagement staff member.

The price to live in the townhouse will drop to $10,830 from $11,500 next academic year, but the group’s treasurer, Yasmine Zinbi, said members still don’t want to pay that much for tighter space.

“We did not have time to find two people willing to live in a tiny room with bunked beds,” Zinbi said.

David Gonzales, a junior who now lives in the basement of the townhouse, called it a “safe space,” which he doesn’t think he would have found in a traditional residence hall.

“If I weren’t living there, I would have been housed with three random male students,” said Gonzales, who identifies as genderqueer. “That’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with.”

Gonzales said the “pressure” of living in the same space as a stranger can present a quandary for transgender students.

“There is a certain discomfort about strangers, you know, people who you don’t know if you’re going to be comfortable with,” he said.

The townhouse has also welcomed LGBT individuals visiting the city. When a South African youth theater group came to campus to perform a play in the Marvin Center, an openly gay member stayed at 2208 F St.

The group of students became a springboard for the University to adopt a campus-wide gender-neutral housing policy in 2010.

“If it had to be moved to the dorms, I’m not sure it would function the same way,” Gonzalez said.

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