University of Texas student, Kaj Baker won't give up without a fight following heartbreaking dorm discrimination

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Image credit: Kaj Baker

University of Texas student, Kaj Baker won't give up without a fight following heartbreaking dorm discrimination

December 4, 2018

Kaj Baker’s parents have always told her to stand up for what she believes in, but she’s never had an opportunity to do so quite like this.

Kaj (pronounced Ky) is the University of Texas, Austin first year student who recently made headlines when she was banned from having any guests visit her in the off-campus residence, the all-women’s Scottish Rite Dormitory (SRD), because she and her girlfriend reportedly made other residents “uncomfortable.”

Confusion turned to disbelief as Kaj was forced to confront her dorm administrator and ask just why she was being punished if she did not break any rules, only to find out that her lack of rule breaking did not matter. What did matter was her sexual orientation. In a voice recording of her meeting with SRD officials, Kaj was explicitly told “other residents” had complained about Kaj being in the dorm with together with her girlfriend. She was told that the comfort and “safety” of other students had to be considered and action needed to be taken.

Kaj Baker.

In what seems like a clear case of discrimination based on sexual orientation, Kaj is still facing pushback from her dormmates and is currently seeking alternative housing due to the hostility she is facing within her dorm. After speaking out, she also faced criticism from classmates who accuse her of “victimizing” herself.

Once a regular college student, Kaj is now forced to publicly fight for her right to live openly—like everyone else, or hide who she is in her own home. She’s choosing to fight by telling her story with GLAAD. She hopes she can teach others that anti-LGBTQ bias still exists, but that LGBTQ youth can overcome it, so that no other person has to experience the discrimination that brought her into the spotlight.

GLAAD is standing with Kaj and you can too by supporting a GoFundMe campaign that her girlfriend set up to support Kaj’s future housing while she continues at the University of Texas. Learn more about Kaj, in her own words, below.

Have you experienced harassment or unwanted negative attention since your story was covered in the news?

I have experienced harassment since my story was covered. Although many people at my dorm have been supportive of my situation, there are others who don’t feel the same way. When the [my] first video [interview] came out, a resident at my dorm told me in a group messaging app, “I hope you feel happy with yourself and that video” and “Kaj is victimizing herself plain and simple”. I’ve also been privately messaged by people at the dorm saying things such as “Why don’t you go to her place instead of bringing her here if you don’t feel welcomed”. I’ve tried to spend one night at the dorm but I don’t feel comfortable, so I’m staying with my girlfriend. I’ve gone back a few times to get my things but I use the back door because I don’t want to run into the girls who have messaged me. However, many people at the dorm have also stood up against resident’s negative comments, and reached out to me to offer their support.

Have you received support since this incident occurred?

I have absolutely received a lot of support from many people since the incident occurred. Many girls at my dorm and even more people outside of SRD (including SRD alumni and many kind strangers/allies) have reached out to me, offering their condolences and letting me know that what SRD did is not okay and that people are on my side. My girlfriend has been my main support system during this time, allowing me to stay at her apartment because I feel unsafe at my dorm. More than that, she is a kind person and has been my rock at times when this has been very overwhelming for me, even though this has also been stressful on her. She has the kindest heart of anyone I know and even started a GoFundMe to support my housing and legal needs.

Kaj Baker and her girlfriend.

What would you say to people who claim you are using this incident to get attention?

I’ve always been a pretty shy and quiet person and this situation has been overwhelming for me. However, I think this is an important story to tell. Many people aren’t aware that discrimination still occurs, even though it’s 2018 and Austin is a very liberal part of Texas. Even though I did want to get my story told, I never expected it to have as much of an impact as it has. I hope this story can help people, as I don’t want anyone else to experience the discrimination that I have experienced.

Do you have a message for other LGBTQ youth who are experiencing discrimination?

A lot of people who are in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as other minority communities, have reached out to me to share their experiences and let me know that I’m not alone. I would want other LGBTQ+ youth who are experiencing discrimination to know that they are also not alone, and I hope that sharing my experience as well can contribute to this. There is an enormous community of people both in your community, as well as allies, who have kind hearts, value equality, and will be a support system for you when life gets too overwhelming.

What do you wish the other students in your dorm knew about you?

I think that if more girls in the dorm got a chance to really get to talk to me and my girlfriend, they would realize that we are good students who follow the rules and are just like anyone else living at the dorm. She’s the sweetest person in the world with a sense of humor that can brighten anyone’s day. At the end of the day, we are more than what is happening at my dorm. To the people who have offered support at SRD, I hope they know how much that means to both of us.

Clare Kenny is the Director of Youth Engagement at GLAAD. She leads GLAAD's Campus Ambassador Program, Rising Stars Grants Program, and amp series. Clare is a graduate of Skidmore College. Follow her on Twitter @vonkenny.

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