CHARLESTON, Ill. (WAND) -- This week, Eastern Illinois university unveiled a new housing option for students in their gender and sexual diversity community.

McKinney Hall is giving EIU students part of the gender and sexual diversity community a designated living space on campus for the first time ever.

"Our goal and objective is to always bring comfort to all," EIU Exectuvie Director of Housing Services Mark Hudson said.

"This is a place where I can discover who I am and grow and be comfortable in that space," Izzy Fernandez, a resident assistant living in the GSD residence hall, said.

EIU already has the Doug DiBianco community in place to support students of all gender and sexual identities - but the added residence hall adds a sense of peace.

"There's a little bit of a balance for students who aren't all the way out yet who would feel most comfortable in these spaces but cant tell their families about it or don't feel safe telling their families or the public," Fernandez said. "You're safe in this space, we aren't going to out you to anyone."

There's a growing wait list for the inclusive housing community. Fernandez helped move students in this week and she looks forward to seeing how the space will help shape relationships. 

"If you feel comfortable identifying as you actually are and feel safe doing that, then that takes some of the load off of your plate so you can focus on making friends, doing well in your classes and getting used to the college experience," Fernandez said.

"The environment is full. There is going to (be) special programming for the community - they're going to do some things with the GSD Center," Hudson said.

The inclusiveness program at EIU is growing, and it could have a ripple effect across the world.

"I think it's a step forward in making EIU more inclusive. It makes it easier to educate other people to create more spaces like this and being a leader for other colleges as well," Fernandez said.


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