At the University of Mary Washington one of our core tenants is Inclusive Excellence, the I in ASPIRE. This belief means we strive for all members of the community to have equitable access to opportunities for participation and the resources necessary for success.
As an alumna of Mary Washington and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I want to share some ways we create a positive inclusive community on campus, and specific resources you can utilize. You are attending Mary Washington to get an excellent education, but before you can focus on academics you need to know you will be safe to simply be. Here are ways we support and advocate for our LGBTQ+ students at Mary Washington.
1. Madison Hall
Madison Hall serves as our gender neutral LGBTQ+ living learning community. This residence hall houses 41 students and is located in the heart of campus near Ball Circle. Madison is known for its small community-oriented atmosphere. There is a large lounge and study area on the basement floor where residents often gather for movies, Community Council programs and study sessions. This is a great option for nervous students to ensure their living space is an accepting and safe place, especially for transgender students. Even if you don’t live in Madison, we do allow students to request roommates with a different gender as long as you are not living in an all-female hall (Custis or Ball Hall).
Our student body is generally a friendly and accepting sort, so even if you don’t live in Madison you will still have supportive people around. However, to easily meet other queer folk you can always join PRISM.
PRISM is under the umbrella of our James Farmer Multicultural Center and stands for People for the Rights of Individuals of Sexual Minorities (https://students.umw.edu/multicultural/student-outreach/student-organizations/people-for-the-rights-of-individuals-of-sexual-minorities-prism/). PRISM describes itself as a “come-as-you-are club.” Their club page says, “It doesn’t matter what gender or sexuality you identify with, you are welcome here! PRISM is an education-based club focusing on issues and information that pertains to gender and sexual minorities. We are going to hang out and have a good time in a safe and welcoming environment, and if you learn something new along the way — that’s great!”
From hosting GSMA Week (Gender and Sexual Minorities and Allies Celebration), viewing parties of LGBTQ+ movies, to group discussions, to coordinating rides to Richmond Pride, to sponsoring Drag Shows, this club gets into a lot! Membership is confidential, so you don’t need to be worried about being outed, if that is not safe for you. Sign up for emails at Club Carnival to join and potentially meet life-long friends!
3. Safe Zone Training
Outside of the support you will receive from your peers, you can recognize faculty and staff who have taken specific Safe Zone Training by this handy sign. The Safe Zone program offers workshops for faculty, staff, and even students designed to help them become more informed and supportive allies for the LGBTQ community. If you ever feel unsafe or need an ally to turn to, keep an eye out for this magnificent rainbow eagle.
4. Queering the Classroom
Want to learn more about queer history, literature, activism, or just general queer studies? There are a number of classes offered at UMW where you can do so. From an introductory freshman seminar: FSEM 100P8 | Queer Space: Geographies of Sexualities, Dr. Haffey’s Queer Literature Class, to a Religion Course titled Queering the Bible, these are just a few of the courses offered that are available to you as a UMW student.
5. Name and Housing Policies
For students whose preferred name differs from their legal name, you have the option to indicate your preferred name on your initial application to Mary Washington. There is also a space on the Common App to provide additional info on your gender, if you would like to. Note that whatever name you apply with, our communication will be addressed to. If you are a prospective student and would like to use pronouns or a preferred name privately but do not want that to be shared, please reach out to me at email@example.com for assistance or contact your specific admissions counselor.
Outside of Madison we have a policy of Flexible Housing at UMW. This means any students regardless of gender, may opt to share the same room, suite, or apartment. Students are not placed randomly with other students in Flexible Housing. No student will be assigned to a gender-neutral living situation without their express consent, and all living in your suite must approve of each other as roommates.
For further details and policies regarding legal name changes and housing consult this handy guide https://students.umw.edu/multicultural/safe-zone-program/safe-zone-resources/.
6. Gender Neutral Bathrooms
Here is a compiled list of all our gender neutral bathrooms across campus https://www.umw.edu/diversity/
campus-resources/inclusive-restrooms/. We have many located throughout campus, so you don’t have to hunt or hike 15 minutes just to use the restroom. It’s as simple as that.
7. Counseling and Support Groups
LGBT+ students face challenges others may not. Looking after your mental health is especially important. If you are struggling, the Talley Center for Counseling Services on campus provides both individual and group therapy (covered by tuition for all full-time students), including a LGBTQ+ therapy group.
There are also additional support groups, check the Talley Center’s website for a full list. If you need more frequent individual counseling the Talley Center can also recommend external providers who can meet your more specific needs.
I hope this list provides you some tangible resources for support at Mary Washington as an LGBTQ+ student. We are committed to creating a community that is diverse, inclusive and affirming to all individuals. We welcome all and hope to welcome you.
Olivia Lehman, 19’