While I realize that almost every freshman has some anxiety about their move to their new home, I know that some of you have worries beyond not finding friends, spending REX alone, or flunking out after the first semester (which I’ll have you know is impossible thanks to pass/no record). Some of you also have to worry about revealing an aspect of your identity that you might not even be comfortable with yourself. You freshmen who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender have the added burden of finding a living group and a circle of friends who accept your deviation from traditional norms.
Well, deviants, I have good news! Our school is a wonderfully accepting place. One need only take a stroll down any corridor to see rainbow-colored “You Are Welcome Here” placards displayed in the windows of the many supportive faculty members. As it happens, we have some hard data on the topic as well. Last spring, LGBT@MIT surveyed student attitudes about queer kids in their living groups. (Anyone can access the results at livingpink.mit.edu). With a 30 percent response rate, we have a pretty good idea of how welcoming most dorms, sororities, fraternities, and independent living groups are. Respondents were asked to rate on a 7-point scale various metrics such as their level of comfort with members of the LGBT community, or their perception of their living group’s general attitude toward LGBT individuals. They were also invited to elaborate by submitting comments, which number in the hundreds and can also be read on the website. Living group acceptance ranged from 6.8 out of 7 at Senior House to one fraternity’s refusal to take part in the survey. While the survey does on some level suffer from response bias (14 percent of respondents identified as LGBTQ themselves, a proportion higher than in the general population) it does seem to match up with many queer upperclassmen’s experiences.
On the whole, though, despite pockets of intolerance, the vast majority of campus seems to at the very least find sexual orientation and gender identity of little consequence for anyone but one’s self. (Perhaps this is a result of our peculiar obsession with academic achievement as the final arbiter of merit.) Regardless, any LGBT or ally freshman should check out the Living Pink guide — free copies can be picked up in the Rainbow Lounge. Whether you’re a gay dude trying out for the lacrosse team who just wants some friends to play CoD with or a blue-haired trans chick with a penchant for radical queer activism, the guide can be a valuable asset in your search for the right home.