By Baylee Easterday
Being an incoming student is intimidating for everybody. Regardless of who you are or where you come from, starting at a new school necessarily involves meeting new people, learning the geography of a new campus, having to adjust to a new living space, and often being away from home for the first significant amount of time. College is also inherently a time for self-exploration and discovery, even for transfer students, the fresh start that William & Mary represents can serve as the perfect time to experiment with new identities and ideas.
All of these things are exponentially more true for LGBTQ+ students.
If you are an incoming queer student, you may be hoping your time at William & Mary will be a time to try out new names and pronouns or to connect with other queer students. Perhaps your home situation means this is the first time you have the opportunity to live as your most authentic self, or to present in a way you are most comfortable with. You are not alone. In the past decades, William & Mary has become an increasingly accepting place for LGBTQ+ students, however, that does not mean that students from this community do not still face unique challenges and difficulties. The purpose of this blog post is to point you in the direction of resources that can help you navigate your experiences as an LGBTQ+ W&M student, as well as connect with others who might share your experiences. Whether you are experimenting with new labels and methods of self-expression or you have been out and proud for years, this list can help you to get comfortable in your new community! Below are tips and resources for 8 different scenarios that apply to LGBTQ+ students on campus.
- If you are in the process of legally changing your name or plan to legally change your name in the future…
- Students who have had their legal name or legal gender marker changed may fill out the Registrar’s Change Request Form to have their name changed in the Banner self-service system. This process requires legal documentation, either a social security card or passport. See the Registrar’s page on Name, Gender Identity, Pronouns for more information on changing your name and pronouns in Banner Self-Service.
- Once you have gone through the process of having your name legally changed, you can also request a new Tribe Card (your William & Mary ID card)! If you have previously been issued a Tribe Card, the new card will cost $23. You can also utilize this process to get a Tribe Card with a new picture on it. If you are in the process of having your legal name changed, you can contact Tribe Card Services (by email) to obtain an “emergency card” which will have your student ID number but will not include your deadname. This will serve as an intermediary until you can get a Tribe Card with the correct information on it. You can also contact Tribe Card Services prior to move-in, so when other incoming students receive their Tribe Cards, you will receive your emergency card at the same time!
- If you use a different name and/or pronouns than are indicated in your records (but have not legally changed your name)…
You have a few options!
- It is possible to list your preferred name and pronouns in the Personal Information Questionnaire (PIQ) through Banner Self-Service on my.wm.edu. You can fill in your gender identity as well as whichever set(s) of pronouns you feel comfortable using. Staff members can see this information.
- Unfortunately, preferred name and pronouns are not currently available on a class roster, which means that professors need to be contacted directly to ensure they use the correct name and pronouns. You can send these emails prior to the first day of class, to avoid being misgendered or dead named. You can find a professor’s email address by looking up their name in the William & Mary faculty directory for their department. Additionally, you can often find a professor’s page merely by googling their first and last name with William & Mary!
- Your Zoom name and email signature can also be great places to list your pronouns! These are very common places to list pronouns even among non-LGBTQ students, so you are not necessarily outing yourself by adding your pronouns to your Zoom name or email signature 🙂
- If you want to start presenting in a different way or expressing yourself differently…
The Trans Locker at the Center for Student Diversity offers an excellent resource for obtaining gender affirming clothing! You can try on and browse clothing, and get items that help you feel the most like yourself. The trans locker is located in the basement of Campus Center. Donations are accepted year round!
- If you do not feel comfortable using the bathroom associated with the gender you were assigned at birth…
At William & Mary everyone is free to use whichever restroom matches most closely with their gender identity. The university also offers single occupancy ALL gender restrooms and shower facilities around campus if this option feels better for you! This page from the Compliance and Equity Office contains a list of all gender neutral bathroom facilities as well as a campus map where you can find these facilities. This same page contains more information on your rights as an LGBTQ+ student at W&M.
- If you are feeling apprehensive about your housing assignment…
- First off, if for whatever reason you do not feel comfortable in your current housing assignment or with your current roommates, you do have options! For example, you can request a room change at any point in the semester. It is also possible to do what is called a person for person roommate switch if for some reason you or your assigned roommate is not comfortable with the room situation. More information on these options can be found on the Residence Life website.
- There are a few alternative housing options that would mean you do not have to live in a strictly gender separated hall, or live in a hall that is composed of a majority of people who do not share your gender identity:
- Adaptive housing: Residence Life provides accommodations for students with “documented needs” which can include religious reasons or gender identity. Requests are considered on a case-by-case basis and you may be required to provide supporting documents. Even if you are not in adaptive housing for Fall 2021, you can request it in future semesters or request it during this semester! Residence Life will do the best to work with you at any point and accommodate your specific needs. Check out the Residence Life page on Adaptive Housing for more information. If you have questions or concerns about your housing situation, do not hesitate to reach out to Residence Life to try to obtain Adaptive Housing! In some situations where students require a single or a private bathroom, they might end up in more expensive housing. If this is a financial burden, it is possible to obtain a doctor’s note indicating that your need for adaptive housing is a medical necessity.
- Flexible housing: Flexible housing allows for groups of two, three, four, or six students to elect to share space regardless of their legal gender markers or their gender identities. Check out the Residence Life page on Flexible Housing for more details. Flexible housing means you get to pick from a select list of housing locations, however it does not give you priority housing, it is on a first come, first serve basis out of the options available. Flexible housing is also available in Living Learning Communities such as the Mosaic house, the Africana House, and Language Houses.
- If you are looking to connect with other queer students on campus…
There are two primary LGBTQ+ student groups:
- LAMBDA Alliance works to create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students to connect on campus, and host events for members of the community. You can find more information by visiting their Tribelink Page.
- The Rainbow Coalition is another organization on campus dedicated to LGBTQ students. They host educational events and campaigns, including queer sex ed opportunities and promote activism opportunities. More information can be found on their Tribelink page.
- If you are struggling and looking for resources…
The William & Mary counseling center is designed to serve all populations at William & Mary, including LGBTQ+ students. In fact, roughly 13% of the students who utilize the counseling center resources identify as LGBTQ+.
- There are staff members who specifically have experience working with queer students who can help you to explore and address the ways that your identity and mental health intersect. See the Counseling Center’s About Us page for more information on the Counseling Center and information on how to make an appointment.
- The Counseling Center also offers rotating group therapy options, including groups designed specifically for LGBTQ+ students so that you can connect with other students who may be having similar experiences. Currently, the Counseling Center offers a Trans Support Outreach Group for trans, non-binary, and GNC students to get together and share experiences. Information on groups and contacts for more information can be found on this page.
- The Counseling Center also offers educational opportunities in conjunction with Rainbow Coalition such as queer sex ed workshops hosted by counseling center staff members and LGBT+ Mental Health Panels. These are advertised on the Rainbow Coalition Facebook page and can be found on the Counseling Center webpage under the “Workshops and Resources” tab.
- LGBTQ+ individuals also deal with relationship struggles, sexual trauma, and relationship violence. William & Mary campus resources for survivors of sexual assault and harassment such as the Haven (which is a confidential peer counseling resource) welcome LGBTQ+ students. These resources are available to you regardless of your gender or sexual orientation.
- If you are searching for coursework related to LGBTQ+ people and identities…
A variety of William & Mary departments offer these types of courses! Check out the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies department, the History department, the English department, and the Sociology department for LGBTQ+ related course offerings for this upcoming semester.
If there is one thing you take away from this blog post, it should be this: don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. There are resources here on campus designed to help you navigate the unique experiences that LGBTQ+ students go through, don’t be afraid to take advantage of them! College is a time for learning, growing, adapting, and changing. Take this opportunity to be the version of yourself that you most want to be, and know that you will find people here on campus who will support you along the way!
Baylee (she/her/hers) is a Junior from Pasco, Washington. She has spent the Fall semester at home working and raising some succulents, so she is very excited to be returning to campus in the Spring! Baylee is a double major in Government and Hispanic Studies who takes classes on Shakespeare whenever she can. After graduation, Baylee is hoping to move to a Spanish-speaking country to teach English before continuing on to study international law.
On campus, Baylee is involved with research and advocacy related to American Sign Language, and research on sociolinguistics and diplomacy. She is also involved with the Moot Court team and the rock climbing club. Baylee loves science fiction, waffles, and Taylor Swift (her favorite albums are Reputation and Folklore). Her favorite spot on campus is the bench across from Washington Hall, in spite of the fact that she once got pooped on by a bird there.
Baylee has been looking forward to being an OAD since her own orientation. She’s previously worn the neon three times: as a member of LRHunTAL & Co, Botetourt, and the Spring transfers and exchange staff. She’s incredibly excited to plan next Fall’s orientation, and to help a new incoming class of William & Mary students feel comfortable and welcomed, just like she did as a freshman!