Almost 200 students from more than 30 different countries have applied to live in Ireland’s first ‘rainbow housing’ initiative, student accommodation specifically for the LGBTQ+ community.
Launched at the University of Limerick (UL), students can now apply to live in accommodation specifically for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and allied community.
The first university here to offer this initiative, and the second in the UK and Ireland, UL students signing up for rainbow housing are expected to create a living space affirming to all sexual and gender identities.
Campus Life Services, who provide on-campus accommodation at UL, hopes the initiative will help to “create a conversation”, according to Carol-Jane Shanley, Campus Life Services village manager.
"We are not naïve enough to assume that rainbow housing will solve the problems of every LGBTQ+ student in UL,” Ms Shanley said.
"There are still a large amount of issues that need to be tackled within the university. However, it can create a conversation in which people can learn from one another.
The best way to fight homophobia and transphobia is to educate and that is what we hope to do with rainbow housing.
The presence of rainbow housing encourages LGBT students and allies to be active contributors to on-campus life, according to co-director of the UL hate and hostility research group Dr Amanda Haynes.
“Rainbow housing is not about self-segregation,” Dr Haynes said.
“It's about giving LGBT students access to a supportive base in which to launch themselves confidently, proudly, and assertively into campus life."
"It provides visibility for the community on campus which, for students in many cases coming from schools where they may have felt culturally invisible, can be very impactful.”
"In addition, the university's introduction of rainbow housing sends out a clear message to all students, whatever their identity, that this campus intends to be a safe and inclusive space for LGBT people."
Organisations that have pledged to support rainbow housing at the university include Limerick Pride and GOSHH (Gender, Orientation, Sexual Health, HIV) Limerick.