Rooming While Queer: How I Went About Finding my College Roommate

by Alyssa Sileo

One of the things I am the most stoked about when it comes to my upcoming college experience is meeting lifelong friends. I’ve learned from my buddies who have gone through their post-secondary education journey or are currently in it that learning alongside their fellow students is their favorite college memory.

Since I’ll be staying in a dorm, I had to start thinking seriously about what queer-living on campus would be like. I had the choice of picking a roommate or “going random” with my assignment.

I decided before I even committed to a school that I was going to do my best to pick a roommate and be out to them well before stepping on campus. The route of going random and coming out in person with my future roommate was an entirely valid option. In the worst possible scenario, communicating with the university and switching roommates was something I could go through with if I ended up with a queerphobic person.

I’ll be attending, from what I understand, an extremely queer-friendly university. That assuaged my fears of finding a roommate immensely, but I still felt it was necessary to take action to know I was rooming with someone who was entirely cool with my queerness. I’m certainly a Nervous Nelly, but I didn’t expect to have a problem. I just wanted to prepare as though one was possible.

My queerness did not have to be the basis of my relationship with my roommate — in fact, it didn’t even have to matter too much. But I certainly wanted my queerness to be a known fact about myself. There’s the fact of most my advocacy being queer-related, and then also the young-adult part of perhaps wanting to tell them about a person I was dating, or share exciting news about the LGBTQ+ community (like new episodes of POSE on FX, a new Hayley Kiyoko album, important stuff like that), or complain about #QueerProblems, like this administration stripping rights away from us (just regular venting…).

On the myriad college tours I went on throughout the application process, I would pass by the dorms and see rainbow flags in the corners of windows. It was my dream to make that my reality when I became a college student, and find someone who would, if they weren’t queer themselves, be able to celebrate my queerness with me.

After I committed to my school it was time to start chatting with fellow students on the Facebook page and get a feel for who they were. They all were so friendly and excited to get to school. I started talking with some of them regularly, and once they followed my Instagram or Facebook, they got the idea that I was an advocate and from that they would also catch the drift that I’m queer. Oftentimes stories of my queer activism got into the conversation (and a quick “because I’m gay” fit neatly into any of my explanation paragraphs…I was shocked how un-awkward it was.) It wasn’t a problem with anybody at all, and I did meet a lot of fellow queer people.

By putting myself out there as queer, I did do some risk-taking, but I preferred coming out online to someone and establishing if that friendship was going anywhere or nowhere before I got to campus.

I knew I wanted to room with a person from outside my major. There were two people I really considered being roommates with — but when I posed the question, I learned they had already found roommates. It was totally cool, I would remain buddies with them of course. But I started getting nervous that I would have to opt to room with someone within my major, since I knew all of them were going to be okay with me being queer.

I started talking to this one student outside my major who was super sweet. I had the most awkward coming out to her because I had a feeling she could be a potential roomie. (It involved sticking into the conversation that I was watching Queer Eye and that it was important to me because I was gay. I am usually much stealthier than that…) Her reaction was positive (in fact, we just had a super normal continuance of the conversation). I was still nervous about things because my coming out was SO random, so I waited a day to ask the big question.

I finally messaged her to ask if she had a roommate — and her response was “I was actually going to ask if you had one as well!” I almost cried because I was so happy to find a roommate who was not only totally cool about my queerness but also kind, funny, and the perfect fit for me.

While progress is real, marginalized people still feel apprehension on even the most positive of campuses. I was sure of what my university stood for, but there’s no telling what belief systems their incoming students had. I was cognizant of the fact that if even ONE queerphobic student was coming to my school, they would end up being the roommate I got if I went random. That’s why I opted to lay everything on the table before move-in day.

Incoming queer college students: you certainly don’t have to be out to your roommate or any group of people on your campus if you don’t choose to be. If you would like to be, though, I encourage you to think about what steps you want to take to make sure moving in is as smooth as possible. I promise you will find awesome people who are ready to jam out to Tegan and Sara with you and march alongside you during campus queer pride marches if having an out college life is what you choose.

I may not be putting a rainbow flag in our window since my and my roomie’s mini-cacti plants do need sunlight, but I’ve already ordered two new ones that are ready to hang near my desk, and knowing that my roomie will support me in doing so is already one of my favorite college memories.

About the Author:

Alyssa Sileo’s Thespian identity comes first and foremost in anything she carries out. As a member of the Drew University Class of 2022, she studies theatre arts, women’s and gender studies, and Spanish. She’s a proud NJ Thespian Alumni and member of their state chapter board. She is the leader of the international performances network The Laramie Project Project, which unites worldwide productions and readings of the acclaimed Tectonic Theater Project play and encourages community-based LGBTQ+ advocacy. Alyssa is humbled to serve as the 2017 Spirit of Matthew Award winner and as a Youth Ambassador for Matthew Shepard Foundation. She believes there is an advocacy platform tucked into every piece of the theatre catalogue and intends to write outreach into the cannon.