Safe spaces and gender-neutral restrooms: Pitt students reflect on LGBTQ resources after top ranking


Alyssa Carnevali | Staff Photographer

Laura Stravach, president of the Pitt Rainbow Alliance.

By Khushi Rai, Staff Writer

For Austin Kellar, a junior Japanese and English literature major, Pitt is an LGBTQ friendly school. But he believes that Pitt can work toward creating an even more inclusive environment. 

“I’ve had queer professors and some professors have gone out of the way to be more inclusive, but I feel like it is individual support rather than University-wide inclusivity,” Kellar said. “While I’ve had a great experience at Pitt as a queer man, I don’t think Pitt has systems in place to support its queer students. Or if they exist, I wasn’t told about them.”

 Best Colleges, in partnership with Campus Pride, named Pitt number 20 in its ranking of best colleges for LGBTQ+ students in 2022, namely for its gender-inclusive housing options and the Division of Student Affairs’ LGBTQIA+ resources. While students are aware of the steps Pitt has taken to become more inclusive, many feel that there’s room for improvement.

Laura Stravach, president of Rainbow Alliance and a senior film, cinema and video studies major, said Pitt only has one designated safe space for queer students, whereas many other universities have larger and more spaces for LGBTQ students. 

“One thing I can think about specifically is that there are a lot of schools in the U.S., including religious universities, that have LGBTQIA+ centers, and it is something that Rainbow Alliance and a lot of LGBTQIA+ people on campus have wanted and pushed for,” Stravach said. “Because currently, the Rainbow Alliance office is the only designated safe space on campus.”

Pitt’s Rainbow Alliance shares its office with a dozen other clubs, including the Black Action Society and the Asian Student Alliance. While Stravach said most universities also started with small spaces dedicated to LGBTQ students, their offices were able to grow from there. Stravach said they’re still hopeful that Pitt will expand its resources as well.

“Our adviser has been talking to other schools on how they got started, and a lot of them got started with just a closet, which is a small corner in some far away building,” Stravach said. “And then they were able to say, ‘let’s just get a space, and then we’ll go from there.’ I think a good amount of them that have bigger centers started from somewhere small, and that is what we are starting with.”

Following Pitt’s announcement that it’s building a new recreation and wellness center, SGB president Danielle Floyd said she is pushing for more inclusive spaces in the center, such as gender-neutral restrooms. 

“I think we continue to push for the LGBTQIA+ issues here on campus by asking questions such as ‘will the new rec center have gender-inclusive bathrooms and changing rooms,’” Floyd said. “We want to continue to push for the creation of this urban LGBTQIA+ center here on campus because so many of our students identify as part of that community. It is something I deeply care about and something we want to continue to support going into this year.”

Stravach also acknowledged that Pitt has improved in creating inclusive restrooms for trans students on campus. While certain dorms, the Cathedral of Learning and other buildings have gender-neutral bathrooms, they are not everywhere on campus.

“I would also say that I think the University is doing a better job at considering inclusive restrooms and making sure that trans students on campus have access to those inclusive restrooms,” Stravach said. “When renovations are happening, they’re starting to create those restrooms, even though gender-neutral bathrooms are not everywhere on campus. There are still too few of them.”

Floyd also highlighted some of SGB’s initiatives geared toward inclusivity. Alongside staff and faculty members, SGB created a new resource page and a LGBTQIA+ task force, which works on establishing a designated LGBTQ center on campus. 

Floyd said SGB is in the process of revamping the task force to better unite advocacy efforts and push for the creation of a new center. 

“The task force has met with senior administrators in the division of Student Affairs and the office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion,” Floyd said. “As of right now a dedicated space has not been identified, but in the interim I hope the task force can be a launching pad for advancing LGBTQIA+ students on our campus.”

Keller said overall the community at Pitt is inclusive and accepting. 

“I’ve had great experiences here,” Kellar said. “I have a lot of queer friends and my sexuality has not impacted me. There’s a lot of community here and everyone here has been incredibly accepting.”