On Being the Rainbow Floor RA

KevinKevin Steen is currently a senior who will be graduating with a degree in Linguistics and Middle East Studies. This year, Kevin had been the resident advisor for the Rainbow Floor (LGBT special interest residential community) at Century Apartments. As RA, he had also put on LGBT programming for his residents and the rest of the USC community. Read about his experience as the RA of the Rainbow Floor.

What was the most rewarding about being the Rainbow Floor RA?
There’s something really special about being the RA to the Rainbow Floor. People don’t end up here randomly. They’re here because they want to plug into a community of LGBT and Ally leaders on campus. So in a way, there’s already a community formed when we arrive. But I have to admit, I was a little afraid of messing it up! I felt a lot of pressure to help everyone get to know each other and make sure everyone felt equally supported by our community. As much as the Rainbow Floor is known for it’s LGBT-related programming, it’s really much more about the one-on-one interactions that take place between residents here one the floor.

So I would say that the most rewarding moments as the Rainbow Floor RA are when I’m walking down the hall and see everyone’s doors open, hear people playing video games, making music, cooking a meal, or just sitting around talking and laughing together. I’m sure it sounds corny, but I just love it when everyone gets along! It shows that my residents can trust each other and have a community to support them and help them grow. Big events are fun, but nothing beats the fun that the Rainbow Floor has at home.

What was the biggest accomplishment of the year as an RA?
There are a few events that I’m particularly proud of. We had a Queer LA Speakers Series last fall the culminated in a walking tour of queer history of Los Angeles. Very interesting, informative, and hands-on! My favorite type of program. I also really enjoyed talking about the power of slurring words with our faculty panel at the Sticks and Stones event. I loved that one of the professors stayed for over an hour after the event just to chat with students and hear more about their thoughts and questions. We also had a very meaningful Trans* Ally Training at the beginning of the spring semester that I think really opened a lot of people’s minds to the challenges that Trans* individuals face on our campus and beyond. I hope that, at least in some smal way, this training helped set the tone for a semester of exciting victories for our Trans* sisters and brothers.

How did the experience of being an RA and its challenges help you grow as a person?
Every time that I begin to think that I’m becoming an expert on issues of diversity, I am challenged to broaden my perspective. This has been a major theme of being the Rainbow Floor RA. More than anything, it has shown me how vastly diverse our backgrounds are and how crucial it is to withhold judgment until you’ve really heard someone out and done your best to not only walk a mile in their shoes, but to look back over all the miles they’ve already covered in those shoes! I am consistently BLOWN AWAY by the strength and the drive of my residents. They inspire me to be my best self. (It must sound so corny but it’s all SO TRUE!)

What advice would you give for the incoming RA of the Rainbow Floor?
The Rainbow Floor RA position is a pretty time-intensive gig. I highly recommend scheduling some time in your day or your week where it’s OK simply to hang out by yourself. Whether you’re a jogger or a gardener or need time to cultivate your Beanie Babies collection, this time of reflection is so necessary! It will relax you as well as allow you to reflect on the week’s activities and how you can learn from them. Being “on-call” 24/7 is about the most efficient way to go totally crazy. Be there for your residents, but don’t forget to take care of yourself or you won’t be able to do the full job. I think this really goes for any leadership position on campus, big or small.

Also: iCal is your friend, listen more than you speak, and only put a few condoms out at a time or those things will be gone overnight.

Some Rainbow Floor events this past year:

  • Rainbow Floor Screening of “Leave It on the Floor” Film on LA Drag Culture.
  • Queer LA Speaker Series (With Chris Freeman and Tom De Simone)
  • Saturday Sports Day
  • Sticks & Stones: The Power of Dehumanizing Slurs

Besides being an RA for the Rainbow Floor, Kevin is actively involved with the Queer and Ally Student Assembly as well as Trojan Knights and USC Men CARE. In the Spring of 2012, he spent a semester abroad in Jordan and was able to study in the University of Jordan. 

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