The complexities of being LGBTQ+ at NYU

The vibrant queer culture at NYU and in Greenwich Village is often a draw for prospective LGBTQ+ students. However, the reality of being queer at NYU remains complex.

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Manasa Gudavalli

Greenwich Village is home to many historic queer bars and restaurants, such as The Stonewall Inn in the West Village. Although the neighborhood’s history draws LGBTQ+ applicants to NYU every year, the university still needs to make improvements for its LGBTQ+ students. (Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)

By Aria Young, Contributing Writer

Located in Greenwich Village, a historic hub of queer culture, NYU portrays its environment as diverse and accepting of LGBTQ+ students. Although the neighborhood’s history draws LGBTQ+ applicants every year, some current students are skeptical of whether NYU lives up to its reputation. 

In the mid-19th century, Greenwich Village was home to gay bars and restaurants like Pfaff’s, one of Walt Whitman’s old haunts. In the 20th century, Audre Lorde frequented Swing Rendezvous, a lesbian bar and jazz club located on MacDougal Street. The Stonewall Uprising — a watershed moment for LGBTQ+ activism — took place in the West Village on June 28, 1969. 

While benefiting from the queer history of the Village, NYU also plays an active role in its gentrification, which has slowly erased the neighborhood’s authenticity and history. Still, LGBTQ+ students like Gallatin sophomore Sofía López Arredondo apply to NYU in part because of its reputation for being progressive and inclusive. 

“It was important to me to go to a school with a big LGBTQ+ community, and there is no place like the Village for that,” López Arredondo said. “It feels very special to be queer in this mecca of queerness, and it is a very privileged position to be able to present queer and live a queer life surrounded by so much queer history and community.”

Other students like Tisch sophomore Kevin Sun also said that the vibrant LGBTQ+ community at NYU influenced his decision to attend the university. 

Tisch sophomore Georgia Evans knew that she would be able to fully embrace her LGBTQ+ identity and meet many queer women at NYU — a privilege she did not have growing up in suburban Pennsylvania.

“It feels nice to be in a place where people can be more open about it, and at a stage in our lives where it doesn’t feel like such a big deal,” she said.

On the other hand, Evans feels pressure to be herself in a largely queer environment. 

“My queer identity is something that is important to me, but also not something I feel I want to define me or outweigh any of my other identifiers,” Evans said. “Sometimes I feel being in a such a ‘queer’ environment can feel all-encompassing and stressful as much as it feels empowering. And that’s my complex truth.” 

Judging by its sheer number of LGBTQ+ events and programs, NYU fosters a flourishing queer culture. Fifty-two years after the uprising at The Stonewall inn, LGBTQ+ New Yorkers and students live alongside each other in the village, carrying on the pride and resilience of this historical landmark.  

As a student ambassador for NYU’s LGBTQ+ Center, Evans appreciates its numerous programs and resources. She specifically praised NYU’s recent initiative allowing students to update their ID photos for free.

“The LGBTQ+ Center is so encompassing in all they do,” she said. “The ability to change your ID to your preferred name and/or gender affirming photo? Huge! I just wish more students knew about the resources and support that the center offers. There’s so much there, and I think there’s just more room for students to utilize it.”

Despite NYU’s change to allow students’ preferred names, gender-affirming photos and personal pronouns in Albert, respect has not yet been afforded to everybody in the LGBTQ+ community. López Arredondo is critical of NYU’s effort to support LGBTQ+ students, arguing that NYU should expect professors and the university community at large to call students by their chosen name and pronouns at all times.

“I know a lot of my friends and I have had issues with professors not respecting our pronouns, or at times not asking for them at all, and I think that for a school that capitalized on their queer community so much in marketing, they should do better in that regard,” Arredondo said.

Along with acknowledging the history surrounding Greenwich Village and various LGBTQ+ businesses in the neighborhood, NYU still needs to continue to make improvements in order to truly provide a space for LGBTQ+ students.

Contact Aria Young at [email protected]