Wits LGBTQ+ students have proposed accommodations exclusively catering to them, to foster inclusion and safety for the queer community 

The Wits University management, consisting of the dean of students, the director of campus housing, and the Board of Residence (BOR) is weighing the feasibility of a queer only residence. This was done following a ‘queer-safe house proposal’ by two transgender students. 

The students, Samora Mbambi and Jordan Lee Green, first approached Tish White, programme coordinator at the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advocacy Projects after encountering difficulties at their respective accommodations.   

Mbambi, a transgender woman, came to Wits in her first year in 2020, having already fully transitioned, she was assigned to a men’s only residence, to share a room with two male students.  

“Not only did it make me uncomfortable, but it also equally made them uncomfortable, because they would always mabe phuma [when they would leave the room] to go to the kitchen, other boys would laugh at them” explained Mbambi. 

Mbambi and Green were initially told by management that a queer safe house would exclude students based on their sexual orientation.

However, White escalated the matter to the dean of student affairs, Jerome September, who took it up to the director of Campus Housing and Residence Life (CHRL) Basil Mugwena. Last month, the pair, together with the students and the BOR met to deliberate on the viability of the proposal.   

As part of their proposal, the students conducted a survey through Activate – a queer student society at Wits – asking their peers if they would apply to live in a queer only residence.  The survey received a resounding response, with 95.8% of the people surveyed answering yes to the question. 

Survey conducted by Samora Mbambi and Jordan Lee Green through Activate student society. The results show resounding support for the queer residence by queer survey participants.


Anele Zulu* said that the bi-gendered system that Wits uses to assign students to residences should be revisited. “It has been triggering me with dysphoria, as I am forced to share a room and unit with men while I’m a woman and in my transitioning phase.”   

In August 2018, the institution removed gender prefixes from communication to students to promote inclusion of transgender students. In the statement Wits said, “the University recognizes that it is invalidating and distressing for a person who, for an example, was assigned female at birth but identifies as male to be constantly addressed by a non-affirming title in University correspondence and systems.” However, based on these students’ concerns, more can be done.  

Green emphasized: “we know that they strive for inclusion and equality. We would simply like to push this a little further”.  

The queer-safe house team told Wits Vuvuzela that the mixed residence option is “integrated on paper”, but because of people’s attitudes and biases, there is still a long way to go to ensure that some queer students in res feel safe.   

The name with * was changed to protect the student’s identity.

FEATURED IMAGE: Samora Mbambi, one part of the queer safe house proposal team. Photo by Morongoa Masebe.


Wits Vuvuzela, Toxic res culture unpacked at queer dialogue, August 2019.

Wits Vuvuzela, New haven for queer student, August 2021.