Natalie Gilbert (she/her)
A Far From Comprehensive, yet somewhat useful guide to being Queer at UM.
Hello, my name is Natalie Gilbert and I am a current junior at UMich of the lesbian variety. As you all know, the world is currently on lockdown, and so if you’re anything like me you are probably getting big time cabin fever. However, my therapist said that I should try being more ‘constructive’ during this time; that I should fuel my energy into looking forward to things I can do after the pandemic, rather than focusing on all the things I can’t do right now. LOL, so, this is me doing just that. Here is my unofficial guide to the best queer friendly business, nightlife, campus information etc. that I think would have been helpful to know as a freshman coming into the University of Michigan. I hope that this guide can help other LGBTQ+ students, and maybe even introduce you to some of your new favorite organizations, events, businesses, etc.!
P.S. As an additional note-- all opinions and rankings are based on my knowledge and research of these places. I did research about these places and compiled that information with my first hand experiences with these locations, but like all opinions you are absolutely free to disagree with me! Also if there is another location that you think I missed, definitely feel free to comment on it!
A REVIEW OF ON-CAMPUS HOUSING
While all University of Michigan residence halls aim to be inclusive and welcoming to all residents regardless of gender or sexual orientation, there are definitely many things to think about when choosing where to live on campus, especially for queer individuals. Below is a basic guide to these dorms, and my basic analysis of how different dorms can support queer individuals.
1. CO-ED On-Campus Housing: Alice Lloyd Hall, Bursley Hall & Baits Houses, Couzens Hall, East Quadrangle, Fletcher Hall, Mary Markley Hall, Mosher-Jordan Hall, North Quadrangle, Oxford Housing, South Quadrangle, Stockwell Hall, and West Quadrangle.
Rating & Notes: 3 out of 5
As noted above, all of the co-ed dorms strive to welcome students of all gender identities and sexualities. Each has a number of gender neutral bathrooms for student use. However, for many of the co-ed dormitories, the locations of the restrooms can be rather far, making it more difficult for students to access them. I also wouldn’t be surprised if individuals who use these restrooms often experience long wait times to use them.There is also no real emphasis on LGBTQ+ inclusivity besides the presence of gender neutral restrooms and the blanket policy of inclusivity for queer students within these dorms. Therefore, I can only give the co-ed dorms a 3 out of 5 in terms of rating.
2. Gender specific housing: Martha Cook , Helen Newberry, and Betsy Barbour.
i. Martha Cook:
Rating and Notes: 2 out of 5
Martha Cook is by far the most traditional of the ‘all female’ dorms on campus, and for obvious reasons may seem inaccessible to non-binary or transgender students who may be interested in living in this dorm. While I can not speak for the members of the transgender or non-binary community, I have lived in the Martha Cook dorm for two years and will share my general thoughts on this community as a potential housing option for queer students. Overall, during my time spent at Martha, I was genuinely surprised by how accommodating and inclusive it is for the vast majority of students. The community is very welcoming, which is one of the main reasons it has one of the highest student return rates. Many attribute this welcoming feeling to the fact that the community consists of only around 140 students, which means that it could be a great option for individuals who want to experience a more tight-knit community. As one of about only four out lesbians in Martha Cook, I really enjoyed my experience and generally did not have any problems involving interpersonal conflict with other dorm members due to my sexual identity. I think one major thing to keep in mind is that if you are looking for a dorm with a larger queer community then Martha Cook might not be the place. In addition to this, Martha Cook does not have a strong presence of non-binary or trangender students living there. During my time in Martha Cook I can only recall meeting one nonbinary resident. In addition to this, Martha Cook only has one gender neutral bathroom which is actually located in the computer lab and does contain a shower fixture. Therefore, for students who rely on these features Martha Cook may not be a great fit. However, if you are not a cisgender individual but are still interested in learning more about the community I recommend reading this article published by the Michigan Daily about Martha Cook becoming a ‘progressively all female dorm’ or by reaching out to the Martha Cook board of governors, which can be contacted through their website.
Michigan Daily Article:Martha Cook Website:
ii. Helen Newberry:
Ranking & Notes: 3 out of 5.
Helen Newberry is the oldest all-female dorm on campus and is home to around 110
students. It offers a very tight-knit community to its residents, and I have heard many
good things from friends about this dorm. Helen Newberry, like Martha Cook is a
‘progressively all female dorm’ meaning that any non-male identifying student may live
in this dorm. This is also the only ‘all female dorm’ that provides its residents with a
gender neutral bathroom that contains a shower, making it a lot more plausible for
non-cisgender students to live here than other all female dorms.
iii. Betsy Barbour Residence:
Ranking & Notes: 2 out of 5.
The Betsy Barbour Residence is very similar to Helen Newberry, and is even located
right next to it! Betsy Barbour has a slightly larger community than Helen Newberry with
120 residents. However, unlike Helen Newberry, Betsy Barbour’s one gender neutral
bathroom does not contain a shower. This makes it difficult for non-binary students to
iv. Henderson House:
The Henderson House is another all female house which is home to around 28 residents.
However, the Henderson house has its own application process and is known as a
cooperative house, meaning that students share the responsibilities of cooking and
cleaning. There isn’t much information about the Henderson house and whether it has
gender neutral restrooms or a community that would be conducive to living for
non-female students. However, if this is residence may interest you and you have
additional questions about this residence I would recommend contacting that hall director
Caitlin Corkerat email@example.com.
3. Gender Inclusive Living Experience (GILE):
Ranking & Notes: 5 out of 5.
The Gender Inclusive Living Experience is a residential experience that partners with the University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center to offer an inclusive environment for all students regardless of sexuality or gender identity. This community is located in East Quadrangle and offers various seminars on LGBTQ+ identities, trained staff members that can help facilitate discussions pertaining to sexuality and gender identity, and can also be a great way for residents to meet other queer students. In addition to this, GILE has the most gender neutral bathrooms by far for residents.
Ranking & Notes: 4 out of 5.
While the University of Michigan co-ops are not designated as official university residences, it just wouldn’t be right not to include them within this list. The UM co-ops consist of 16 houses, each with their own unique personality. While I won’t do an in-depth review of each house, I will say that most of these houses have a fantastic reputation for recruiting the queer community and have many resources that can aid queer residents to make their co-op feel like a home. Therefore, if you are a queer student looking for a little more non-traditional experience, but still would like to feel like you are a part of the broader campus community a co-op may be a great option for you.
Below is a link to learn more about the various co-ops and to get in touch with their presidents.
Guide to gender inclusive restrooms on campus:
LGBTQ+ ON-CAMPUS EVENTS
1. Pride Outside: Pride Outside is an annual welcome week event put on by the Spectrum Center for LGBTQ+ students and allies. This includes free UM pride gear, getting to know LGBTQ+ organizations on campus, and a free drag show event. This event is a lot of fun and I would highly recommend that you make an appearance, especially if you are a freshman looking to meet more members of the LGBTQ+ community on campus. Here is a link to other events endorsed by the University of Michigan Spectrum Center:
2. LGBTQ+ University Organizations: There are over 13 LGBTQ+ specific clubs available for students to explore. I will include a link to Maize Pages and the Spectrum Center, which are interactive resources to guide you through finding the right LGBTQ+ organization for you!
3. LGBTQ+ University Led Support Groups: There are also a number of university support groups run by the Spectrum Center for LGBTQ students including:
1. Jim Toy Community Center: The Jim Toy Community Center of Ann Arbor is an amazing organization that students of the University of Michigan can take part in. They have so many different support groups, reading groups, etc. that will interest a wide range of individuals. This may be a great group to join especially if you are interested in LGBTQ+ programing outside of the university. Here is a link to the broad array of programs that are available: https://www.jimtoycenter.org/groups
i. Necto Pride Nights: If you are 18 or older, you are able to attend Necto Pride Fridays.
Necto has a premiere LGBTQ+ scene and often hosts drag shows and other Pride events
in addition to weekly Pride Fridays. Remember to stay safe and take a friend with you!
Click this link to learn more: https://www.necto.com/pride-friday.html
ii. Candy Bar @ Live Nightclub//
Live nightclub of Ann Arbor hosts an LGBTQ+ dance party every Thursday night,
known to locals as the Candy Bar. Each week has a particular theme and some weeks you
may even be able to see a drag show here! This is definitely a great place to be if you’re interested in getting involved with Ann Arbor’s gay nightlife. One note is that it is a fairly long walk from central campus to there. I would recommend either walking at night in a large group, or getting a ride if you’re going alone, and always be safe and have fun!
iii. Bar at 327 Braun Court:
The Braun Court Bar is a favorite among the Ann Arbor queer community. Although it is
not exclusively a bar for queer patrons, it is located in proximity to the Jim Toy
Organization, which is a LGBTQ+ organization in Ann Arbor. This bar is LGBTQ+
friendly, and is a great place if you are over the age of 21 and want a lowkey bar
iv. Fleetwood Diner// 300 S Ashley St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104:
So, although Fleetwood isn’t a nightclub and is a vastly different space than the ones
listed above, it just didn’t feel right not to include it within this list. You practically
haven’t lived if you have not eaten hippy hash after a night of partying with your friends!
This diner THE BEST! It is open 24/7 and offers patrons an affordable meal and free wifi
along with being super cozy. Although it is often pretty busy, especially on weekends, as
it is fairly popular, this is definitely a must try. The fleetwood diner’s name is a homage
to the band Fleetwood Mac so major ~Queer Vibes~.
SHOPS: Ann Arbor tends to be a very liberal town, and therefore if I were to list all of the businesses that support LGBTQ+ people the list would be practically endless. However, these are definitely a few that deserve a particular shout out.
1. Book shops
i. Literati Bookstore// 124 E Washington St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104:
The Literati Bookstore is one of my personal favorites. It is located conveniently close to campus and offers a large array of new literature, including an impressive collection of LGBTQ+ literature. They also host many discussions with award winning authors like Margaret Atwood, and host many interesting events throughout the year. In regards to LGBTQ+ friendly features staff members are always super helpful and eager to help you find what you need and they even have a LGBTQ+ literature section located in their basement! Another perk of this bookstore is that it has a full coffee shop located on the second floor where you can get a cup of coffee and even read your new book! However, the top floor often fills up fast-- especially on the weekends, so it probably wouldn’t be an ideal place for a coffee date. Overall, the Literati Bookstore is a must see before you graduate.
ii. The Dawn Treader// 514 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104:
The Dawn Treader used bookstore is a cult classic in Ann Arbor, and it holds a special place in my heart along with much of the Ann Arbor community. It has a beautifully antiquated and academic feel. It is very centrally located and so there is no excuse not to visit! As far as LGBTQ+ friendly features, The Dawn Treader has a large section of LGBTQ+ literature. In addition to this, the Dawn Treader seems to attract a lot of LGBTQ+ college students so hey, maybe you’ll be able to strike up a conversation with a future love interest while here? Although it can sometimes be difficult to find what you are looking for, and new literature is sparse as it specializes in used books, it is definitely worth the visit. There is also no seating for customers, so it isn’t a good place if you are looking to stay for a while.
iii. Vault of Midnight// 219 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104:
The Vault of Midnight is an amazing comics book store in downtown Ann Arbor. They offer a variety of comics, from new graphic novels to traditional comics literature. They have a large selection of LGBTQ+ specific content, and it is usually right at the front of the store so it is very easy to locate. In addition, the comics shop attracts many members of the LGBTQ+ community and gives off ~QUEER vibes~ so if you get the chance I would definitely recommend visiting. However, one downside is that the Vault of Midnight does not offer any seating, therefore it wouldn’t be ideal for a date.
iv. Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tea Room// 114 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104:
Crazy Wisdom is my all time favorite Ann Arbor Bookshop. However, if you are looking for a traditional bookshop, Crazy Wisdom may not be for you. Crazy Wisdom has a lot of books, rock collections, incense, tarot cards, etc. It gives off a very dark academia, witchy vibe that definitely attracts a lot of queer students. The building itself is absolutely beautiful and the tea room located on the second floor is amazing, and is also a fitting place for a date. They also offer tarot card readings during the week, and host a lot of events throughout the year. While you may not find mainstream literature here, Crazy Wisdom is definitely the place to be if you’re interested in getting in touch with your spiritual side.
2. Tea/ Coffee
i. TeaHaus// 204–206 N 4th Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104:
The TeaHaus is the place to be for any of your tea needs. I am pretty much convinced that they have every type of tea in existence. You can sample some of their teas while sitting down, or you can purchase in bulk for home use. It also is a great place to sit for a while, and honestly would make a great location for a date. It gives off antique Parisian vibes, so if you’re into that then this will quickly become one of your favorite places. They also have a good selection of pastries that are reasonably priced-- definitely recommend the macarons if you get the chance!
ii. RoosRoast// 1155 Rosewood St, Ste B, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 or 117 E Liberty St,
Ann Arbor, MI 48104:
RoosRoast has a few locations around Ann Arbor and is kind of a smaller coffee shop. The reason that I mention RoosRoast here is because a) they have amazing coffee and tea, and b) they are very interested in social justice issues along with being as sustainable as possible. This is really a great place to go if you’re looking to give your money to a company that actually gives a shit about people and the world, rather than one just solely focused on profit. So, if you are open to trying a new coffee shop outside of just the typical Starbucks, perhaps give RoosRoast a try?
3. Other Businesses
i. Orbit Hair Design // 334 1/2 S. State St // Downtown Ann Arbor (State Street Area):
Orbit Hair Design is an amazing place for all your hair styling needs. They work magic
with hair dye and are also very good at doing an array of queer cuts and styles. They also
get a shoutout for being a trans affirming safe space to get a haircut. Although Orbit
Design is a little more pricey in terms of hair styling, they always make sure you are
satisfied with your style and are little hair miracle workers, so if you are willing to shell
out a little extra for an amazing haircut, Orbit Design is the place to be.
ii. Ragstock// 337 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104:
Ragstock is another cult classic in Ann Arbor. This clothing store offers a mix of vintage and modern clothing at very reasonable prices. They also have lots of items for costume parties and they are absolutely the place to purchase a clubbing outfit. This store definitely gives off very queer vibes as well, and has lots of pride apparel to choose from, which can come in handy for Necto Pride Nights or clubbing at Candy Bar!