Courtesy of Kelsie Raucher

This fall, a quarter-century of LGBTQ+ activism on campus finally came to fruition with the opening of Loving House in Mews Hall.

September 8, 2019

First Cohort of LGBTQ+ Residents Settle Into ‘A Really Special Space’

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Correction appended.

This fall, a quarter-century of LGBTQ+ activism on campus finally came to fruition with the opening of Loving House in Mews Hall.

More than 25 years after the initial proposal for a LGBTQ+ program house was vetoed by the University in 1993, Loving House opened its doors this semester as Cornell’s LGBTQ+ Living Learning Unit.

Located on the first floor east side of Mews Hall on North Campus, the program house accommodates 30 undergraduate residents of all class years and aims to “embrace honest and frank dialogues” about many aspects of LGBTQ+ identities as well as “cross-cultural understanding and the intersections of identity,” according to its Living @ Cornell website.

Though the semester has only recently begun, the residents of Loving House have already formed strong bonds as a community.

“Part of what we did for our move-in process is we actually moved in a week early, so we could do different community events,” said resident Catherine Carter ’22.

Those events ranged from social gatherings with movies and ice cream to presentations on using inclusive language and addressing implicit biases led by different speakers from the LGBT Resource Center and the Women’s Resource Center. There were also educational activities such as learning the difference between “checking in with people and calling them out,” said Carter.

Programming and staffing changes were also made in Mews to support Loving House, according to Residence Hall Director Taylor Bouraad, such as the addition of a Senior Resident Advisor and a “full set of events and programs” that are specifically “geared towards the mission and vision of Loving House,” including Dinners and Dialogues centering around LGBTQ+ issues and movie nights.

One common sentiment shared by many residents is that the program house provides a sense of freedom and safety that other living spaces may not.

Jameson Rivera ’22, who is trans and gay, said that in his freshman dorm last year  he had to “be really careful how [he] dressed and acted because [he] wanted to pass so badly as a cis man.” Now, in Loving House, he said he can openly talk about his experiences as a trans person, such as using chest binders and being on testosterone, “without feeling nervous about it.”

Ian Wallace ’20, a central figure in pushing for the creation of Loving House as the Student Assembly’s LGBTQ+ liaison at-large and now a resident of Loving House, says he “experienced uncomfortable conditions” as a first-year student and “debated whether or not to come out to [his] roommate for a good chunk of time.”

Jack Faasse ’23 said he chose Loving House as his first-year residence because he thought he would “adjust to college faster in an environment” where he did not need to constantly be on guard and “scope out how people would feel about [his] identity.”

“I’m nonbinary and I wanted to be around a group of people who would refer to me using the right pronouns and understand my life experiences,” said first-year student Laura Nawrocki ’23.

“The ability to live with these people you are connecting with lets you interact more consistently and on a much deeper level,” said Cyrus West ’22.

Carter’s strong appreciation for the program house also comes from knowing that it is a “really special space that many people have worked very hard to achieve,” referring to the University’s original veto of the proposal in 1993 and the subsequent creation of the LGBT Resource Center as a compromise with Cornell’s LGBTQ+ community.

The impact of Loving House also reaches beyond the lives of residents on campus.

Carter spoke about meeting Community Fellow Prof. Masha Raskolnikov, English, at a catered Loving House community dinner on Aug. 22 in Mews, where Raskolnikov told the residents that she wanted to be involved with Loving House events because her two young children “definitely feel like they identify as some part of the LGBTQ+ community.”

“She said she wanted us to be like role models for them,” Carter said, “like ‘just be leaders and be proud of who you are in this space.’”

Rivera, who struggled in his freshman dorm, said his mother “really doesn’t support [his] transition at all and [he’s] actually scared of going back to live with her,” emphasizing his appreciation for Loving House as a “comfortable and welcoming” space.

Wallace said he views Loving House as “a space where people can come find love and acceptance” in the journey for “self-actualization among queer students.”

As for all program houses, out-of-house membership is available for the program house fee of $15 per year or $7.50 per semester. Out-of-house members get access to the Loving House space and events even if they reside elsewhere.

The Loving House will host its grand opening event on Saturday Sept. 14, from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Mews Courtyard.

A previous version of this article included incorrect membership fees; it has since been corrected.