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This column contains discussion around homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, mental illness.
The Women’s Group have had a safe space since before half of us were even born. But for some reason, queer students at Vic haven’t had the same privilege to a space where they know they’ll be free from persecution and bigotry.
The Women’s Room is awesome. Like, really lovely tbh. There are couches and cozy blankets; cute posters on the walls. There’s even a kettle and some teabags. The space is designed to be separate from the rest of uni, tucked away behind the Hunter Lounge, so women and non-binary students can have a safe haven from the shitty gender-based discrimination we so often face around campus. We try our best to make sure everyone who visits the Women’s Room is super friendly, so we can all benefit from a community that will support and listen to us. You know when you really need a cry but you have class in an hour and it feels like the only place to go is a bathroom? The Women’s Room is really great for that.
In the same vain as the day-to-day misogyny that women students face, queer students are constantly dealing with being discriminated against. They face day-to-day micro-aggressions, as well as more institutionalised forms of oppression. Despite campaigning by Uni-Q, the University still keeps trans students’ dead names (the names they were given as babies, which usually don’t match their gender identity) on their academic records and official documents, preventing them from fully living as the gender they identify as. There are a limited number of gender neutral bathrooms for non-binary students, which forces them to conform to a gender that isn’t theirs. Queer students also are far more likely to suffer from mental illness than straight/cisgendered students. A safe space, which would be overseen by Uni-Q, would ultimately improve the university experience of queer students by offering an escape from the bigotry and oppression they face on campus, as well as creating a supportive environment that helps queer students feel included and valid. In this space we could freely be our fabulous queer selves.
Despite Victoria’s liberal image, Otago and Auckland universities are already ahead of us and have queer spaces. It’s about time we get one too.