In what is being hailed as a welcome move by members of the queer community, the University of Limerick has announced the launch of new student accommodation focused on LGBT+ students and allies.
The on-site accommodation will provide the college’s LGBT community with the opportunity to meet like-minded people and offer support through networking and friendships.
For many young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and intersex people getting ready to start University, this initiative will drastically reduce any fears about homophobic bullying or harassment should they be assigned accommodation in a house with people who may not accept them.
Despite having made huge steps toward equality in recent years, homophobia is still an issue in Ireland and beyond, and the fears young queer people may have are not unfounded.
Some have been quick to attack the initiative, claiming it is backward segregation, but an LGBT student can apply for the Rainbow Housing only if they choose to—there are six other college residences near the University campus all up for grabs.
The Rainbow Housing is also open for heterosexual friends and allies. When viewed in this way, it is apparent that this initiative simply provides extra support for a community who are often victimised.
Dr Amanda Hayned, co-director of UL’s hate and hostility research group, agrees with this sentiment. Speaking to the Limerick Leader, she said it was not about “self-segregation”, and instead was concerned with “giving LGBT students access to a supportive base in which to launch themselves comfortably, proudly and assertively in campus life”.
U.L. will be the first college in Ireland to implement such a scheme, joining the University of Sheffield in the UK as pioneers in the initiative.
Despite the plan only being announced very recently it is already proving popular, with over 200 people from more than 30 different countries having already submitted applications for September. Unfortunately, there is no installment option available—so any Rainbow Housing hopefuls will have to scrape together a lump sum of €3000 by next Friday.
In 2015, after decades of protests and activism by the LGBT+ community, Ireland voted overwhelmingly to legalise same-sex marriage in the country.