What Having a Roommate That’s a Different Gender Has Taught Me in College

        The way I met my current roommate is probably similar to how you found yours: through a first-year Gen-Ed class. We immediately connected from the day we met and became fast friends, navigating the challenges university brought in the only way two first-years can. At the time if you had told me I’d be rooming with a guy, that I was not dating, who had frosted tips and a propensity for snappy remarks…well, I’d be pretty excited, albeit confused. This past semester has easily been one of the most interesting to date, partially because of my roommate, Bruce. My roommate is both a POC and part of the LGBTQ+ community, and while I’ve always prided myself on being accepting and outgoing, there are a few things I never would have considered. One of which, is coming face to face with microaggressions directed towards him regularly- be it from other men on dating apps, or my potential dating prospects. The sheer amount of men that presume because I am rooming with another man that I am in some way romantically involved with him is shocking. Of course, they are fully aware that I do not exactly fall under Bruce’s “type”, but almost adamantly insist that there is some sort of ulterior motive. The blatant scrutiny people in the LGBTQ+ community face on a day to day basis is disheartening, especially on a college campus filled with people I consider to be my peers heading into the workforce. From a different perspective, though, this has allowed me to avoid, or educate depending on the day, people who still have some learning to do.

 

In addition to unforeseen microaggressions, there have been plenty of accepting, intrigued people who question me as to how we make it work, how it is allowed by our university, and if it’s particularly different rooming with a guy. Don’t worry, I have answers aplenty. Firstly, making it work with any roommate is work in itself. There will be days when one or both of you do not feel like talking or the vibe seems a bit off, this is just human nature. My best tip for handling this is to find someone you are naturally compatible with, that you feel you can best communicate your feelings to when those days occur. To address the second question, it was incredibly easy! In my experience at West Chester, there are typically no hang-ups regarding your preferences for a roommate, all you have to do is go onto your housing portal when it comes time for roommate selection and changes the preset settings to gender-neutral/any. We were both a bit concerned with this particular aspect of rooming together because we did not know our university’s preexisting policies with regards to co-ed dorming; luckily for us, West Chester has proven itself to be incredibly open and accepting of all accommodations towards its students.

And finally, how difficult is it rooming with someone who identifies as a different gender than yourself? Being more than 2/3rds through the first semester, I can say with the utmost confidence that rooming with Bruce has been one of the easiest things about being a student. In my opinion, it comes down to communication and personality types much more than it does gender. If you can effectively communicate and read the other's mood on any given day, you are in great shape. Even more so, it is important to consider sleeping schedules and personal hygiene rituals (I have since learned that Bruce's skincare routine is approximately 14 steps longer than my own, needless to say, he gets sink first.) So, if you are considering an unorthodox rooming situation, try not to be concerned with the thoughts and feelings of others. After all, they are not your roommate, you have no reason to force yourself to endure judgemental behaviors from those who do not care enough to see past their own biases. Plus, who doesn’t love breaking down societal barriers!

 

   *Author has received express permission given to use any and all names from said individuals in this article

 

 Photo credit: Cover, 1, 2