A new online resource for transgender students facing discrimination and homelessness came from an unlikely source: one USC student’s blog on Tumblr, a popular social media website.
Dylan, a junior majoring in gender studies who asked his last name remain anonymous, said the idea for his website, called the Transgender Housing Network, came from browsing Tumblr.
“I noticed that many of the people I followed on Tumblr who identified as transgender needed a place to stay for a night or more, and I thought that it would be fantastic and convenient to have an aggregate of these listings all in one place,” Dylan said.
Vincent Vigil, director of the LGBT Resource Center, said the blog is not only a good resource for transgender students, but also a way for them to network and socialize without the fear of discrimination.
“The website clearly illustrates how LGBTQ people are being discriminated [against] and kicked out of their families,” Vigil said. “Two people might have trouble finding housing and are able to connect with each other to share their experiences on the site.”
Dylan said he hopes to encourage USC students, regardless of their gender identity, to post on Facebook or THN as long as they are willing to host transgender individuals who need a place to stay.
“Any USC student who is willing to host someone should try to educate themselves about transgender issues and be the best ally possible to whoever they are hosting,” Dylan said. “THN is trying to create safe spaces for transgender individuals, especially if they are struggling with homelessness and similar issues.”
The services of THN are exclusively for those who identify as transgender, although anyone is able to offer housing through the Tumblr page.
Despite the praise the site has received, THN faces some struggles. Currently, Dylan is the only one running THN. And with a part-time job, a spot on the Trojan Marching Band and a full course load scheduled for the fall, it is hard for him to dedicate enough time to running the site.
“These issues could be overcome if I had more people involved in the organization, but this is also difficult because I really, truly want to make sure that everyone directly involved with the network is transgender,” Dylan said.
Mellissa Linton, executive director of the Queer and Ally Student Assembly and a junior majoring in American studies and ethnicity and English, also said the transgender community is more often neglected than other groups in the LGBTQ spectrum.
“Since trans are most often neglected in the queer movement, the website provides a safe place to build a network and community,” Linton said, “They are often subjected to violence on the streets [without a place to stay].”
Another obstacle is that many LGBT organizations are not equipped, prepared or willing to take necessary steps to make transgender students welcome and safe.
“Although the ‘T’ is included in the LGBT acronym, it is unfortunately often forgotten. My hope for THN is to not only build trans allies and help cisgender people [one who is not transgender] become better allies, but to build something within the trans community that really specifically caters to the needs of trans people,” Dylan said.
In the future, Dylan said he hopes to make THN a non-profit organization.
“This [non-profit status] would allow us to accept donations and thus pay for a number of services, like web hosting and web design, as well as a number of other things,” Dylan said.