This past Thursday, members of Gender Odyssey at FSU, an RSO that advocates for the university’s transgender and gender non-conforming students, hosted a virtual press conference. The conference discussed the organization’s Transgender-Inclusive Housing Initiative and Coalition, an activist effort to ensure safe campus housing for FSU’s transgender and gender-nonconforming students and provide protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community facing harassment.
Members expressed their disappointment with the way the university has handled the issue of housing in their opening statements.
“Florida State leadership has known for years and years that there are serious safety concerns for transgender, gender non-conforming and LGBTQ+ students in FSU housing,” said Gender Odyssey president Jay Galante. “Only after Gender Odyssey at FSU launched the Transgender-Inclusive Housing Initiative and Coalition in 2019 has FSU has even begun to pay attention to our community’s safety.”
Finley Talley, a third-year student and member of Gender Odyssey, said FSU Housing has failed to live up to its promise of inclusion.
“Part of the core values of the mission statement on the housing website says that they will promote an active environment of care that embodies a supportive, diverse, and safe community for all students,” they said. “And yet they have failed to promote safe housing conditions for one of the most targeted and harassed groups in this country.”
Other members pointed out the mental health impact that a lack of safe housing presents for students of any gender. In the midst of a pandemic and economic insecurity, young adults’ mental health is an increasingly dire issue. Sadie Carlson, a transgender woman who is a third-year student at Florida State, described the trauma she endured when FSU Housing allegedly did not offer protections from a hostile roommate, and later, a visit from an abusive relative:
“They basically told me that my options were to either move or deal with it,” Carlson said. “There was no discussion with the other roommate, there was not even a slap on the wrist. It feels like I am being punished for being victimized.”
When Carlson was visited by a relative who she described as “virulently transphobic,” she messaged her RA, “as a cry for help,” saying the visitor posed harm — but did not receive any assistance.
“I did not even get a response. I had no one to turn to, save a few friends. All I did was lock all my doors, close my blinds, and hide in my dorm the whole weekend,” she said. “FSU did nothing to protect me.”
As the conference drew to a close, Galante provided examples of schools that have adopted transgender-inclusive housing policies, including the University of Central Florida, University of North Florida and West Virginia University. When asked whether the group had data to support their concerns, Galante said the sensitivity of the topic makes research a challenge.
“It’s very difficult to get students to share even anonymous stories about experiences because it causes them to relive their trauma. Unfortunately, we just do not have the time, means or resources to do that research ourselves.”
The Coalition has started transatfloridastate, an Instagram account that shares the anonymous testimonies submitted by trans and gender-nonconforming students alleging their adverse experiences at the university.