‘Time for a change’: Viral TikTok calls for better LGBTQ education in the dorms

(Artwork by Zoe Schumacher)

Editor’s note: Updated the view count to reflect what it was at the time of publishing the article in the print edition. Additionally, properly attributed Sophie Lenkiewicz as the co-author.

After a meeting addressing recent conversation about LGBTQ education, Unity Nebesniak, Wefald resident assistant, posted a TikTok detailing frustrations LGBTQ residents and RAs face in the dorms and the lack of response from Kansas State.

“A lot of discrimination happens, like people telling others they are going to go to hell on rounds, getting slurs carved in the doors. … Nothing has really been happening when that happens,” Nebesniak said. “We bring it up but nothing changes.”

This year, Nebesniak said they were frustrated by another RA’s language toward them.

“Two days after starting testosterone for my transition, the staff member literally yelled down the hallway while me and another person were doing rounds … and this is direct quotes: ‘Are you feeling angry on all that testosterone?’” Nebesniak said. “And that is not OK at all. That is one specific instance from this year.”

The post, calling for “equity and accountability now, not later,” received over 83,500 views and was shared over 2,000 times across messaging services. 

“We [RAs] talked about our frustrations with housing and dining not being able to hold people accountable for their actions, especially in regards to LGBTQ people,” Nebesniak said. 

Nebesniak said the post compiles instances that offended them during their time in the dorms.

“Like, RA’s having a bible study in the lobby, I feel like that is a line where it gets wishy-washy, because you are allowed to have your faith and should be able to practice, but also if your practice is impeding the community you are trying to create, that is a problem,” Nebesniak said.

Nebesniak said two meetings took place before they decided it was time to post a TikTok. The first involved a group of Christian RA’s and Derek Jackson, associate director of Housing and Dining Services. The discussion was about Equity and Inclusion lessons RAs participate in every year. 

“Equity and Inclusion meetings happen periodically throughout the year during staff training,” Maleah Meyer, senior RA in fine arts, said. “We are shown a mix of videos, websites and other resources, then there is always some sort of discussion either in small groups or as a whole. Each year our senior staff picks the theme. This year it was LGBTQ.”

Meyer said the group of Christian RAs met with Jackson to share their perspective of the Equity and Inclusion discussions. 

“Some of the Christian RAs had concerns about how Equity and Inclusion meetings were conducted and how sometimes we feel like our views are seen as uneducated or narrow-minded,” Meyer said. 

Nebesniak said after the meeting with Jackson took place, rumors spread around the dorms about the intention behind it.

“Rumors I heard being spread were that they were upset with the Equity and Inclusion topic and they wanted it to be canceled,” Nebesniak said. “Those were the really awful rumors that went around and obviously that would cause a lot of harm.” 

Meyer said the real intention of the meeting with Jackson was to communicate concerns about Christian RAs’ discomfort when sharing their views at Equity and Inclusion discussions. 

“It makes me really anxious because I feel like there have been circumstances in the past where people have said things as loving as possible that offended other people because they weren’t the same views,” Meyer said. “There was a trust that was broken.”

The second meeting — held in response to rumors — included all RAs and Jackson with the goal to clear up confusion. Nebesniak said this was not the case for them and inspired them to post the TikTok. 

“Basically it was like ‘yeah we are going to think about all of this in the future and we are really going to do something to move forward’ but like, no actual stuff was said that was going to happen,” Nebesniak said. “So that is why I made the TikTok, I have been saying this for years — if K-State is reactive and not proactive, let’s give them something to react to. That is the thought process.” 

Jackson said Housing and Dining Services has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and the department focuses on creating a safe space for all students.

“Are we there? No. Do we need to get better? Absolutely. Are we going to ignore this? No,” Jackson said. “It’s easy sometimes to ignore difficult conversations and difficult identities, but that really doesn’t strengthen trust within a team.” 

Chase Johnson, junior in biology and RA, observed this issue as it emerged and says he understands both perspectives.

“Each side has its own perspective, and neither is inherently wrong. Everyone is trying to do what they think is best,” Johnson said. “It’s just a matter of finding that common ground of helping people express that in a better way.”

Jackson said Housing and Dining Services plans to ease tensions and address this issue.

“We have work to do on reconciliation. Our teams are stressed, and I know they’ve been working for the last couple of weeks on building with each other,” Jackson said. “We’ve talked about bringing in some outside people and resources as well to help us continue to work within these areas.”

Nebesniak said they want to reach an understanding and have conversations in future meetings about how to approach LGBTQ issues.

“This is not about being upset with them over this,” Nebesniak said. “This is about educating them on why this is upsetting. For me, I think it all stems from learning from things and not being hostile towards them which was their concern in the first place.”

To move forward, Nebesniak said a third meeting, centered around the importance of language and education, will take place. 

“We are going to have a slide show where it is like, ‘Ok so if you use this language this is how it comes across to people.’ For example, saying ‘well I don’t believe in that,’ that makes people feel invisible as a queer person,” Nebesniak said. “I am not a unicorn. I exist.”

To receive guidance and help involving discrimination or confusion surrounding LGBTQ education, visit the LGBT Resource Center located in Holton Hall.