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MIT student blogger Laura N. '09

The Rainbow Lounge by Laura N. '09

Where the LGBT kids hang out.

Back in the day (TM) when I was a prefrosh participating in the awesomeness that is Campus Preview Weekend, I noticed an event in my 500 page calendar called “Rainbow Lounge Open House.” I had no idea what that meant.

Perhaps you are as sheltered and/or clueless as me, so I’ll break it down for you. The rainbow is the symbol of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Community, so the Rainbow Lounge at MIT is the home to the Institute’s various LGBT student groups and support staff.

More loftily (and according to the sign outside the door):


Through the establishment of the Rainbow Lounge the MIT students, staff, faculty and guests strive to:
– provide a safe space for the MIT LBGTQ community, including allies
– achieve a better sense of community with its cross-cultural perspectives
– educate about gender issues, safe sex, and LBGT-related topics
– present resources available at MIT and in the surrounding community
– encourage participation of allies and friends
– provide a comfortable space for meetings, relaxation, learning and social interaction

    The MIT Rainbow Lounge exists as a place and a home for all people – lgbt, questioning, allies & friends – to feel comfortable about themselves, while learning and sharing with others.


The entrance to the Rainbow Lounge has a big collection of those informative booklets for anyone to take, and posters about various LGBT events that are going on around campus. (By the way, as you can tell from the number in the photo above, the room is in the basement and doesn’t have the greatest lighting- so I apologize for the quality of the photos. I did the best I could, but hey, I’m not Yan.)


The Rainbow Lounge has a whole bunch of resources for students. There are two full-time staff members who are around to talk to students, plan events, and generally hang out.

There’s also a reading room with a huge collection of LGBT related books…


…and movies.


Any student is welcome to sign up for lending privileges and borrow any of these materials for a few days at a time.

There’s even a small kitchen which is useful for things like making PB&J sandwiches during movie nights.


The Rainbow Lounge, just like the Center for Health Promotion and Wellness (who are totally cool people, btw), also functions as a resource for safe sex information and materials (like free condoms).


The main room is used for club meetings, informal gatherings, movie nights, and occasional special events, like movie screenings, discussions, or last week’s “Make Your Own LGBT Valentines.” As the name suggests, the room is very colorful.





Also, those couches are seriously comfy.

One of the most well-known projects to come out of the Rainbow Lounge is the “You Are Welcome Here” campaign. (Money Man has blogged about this before. The idea behind the campaign is this: any member of the MIT community who would like to participate can get a copy of a small slip of paper, about the size of an index card, to place on their office door.

The stack of “you are welcome here” cards in the Rainbow Lounge.

The presence of one of these cards on a door indicates that those behind the door are friendly to and supportive of LGBT people and causes.

I see these cards everywhere, so to demonstrate their ubiquity, I took a camera with me on a brief trip around campus and compiled a bunch of photos. This is by no means anything approaching a comprehensive list, but possibly a representative sample? (Does it matter that I was lazy and never made it up a staircase?)

So, who are all of these people who went through the trouble to stick one of these cards on their doors? From left to right and top to bottom: the staff at the Career Development Center, Chris Colombo, the Dean for Student Life and Kim Vandiver, the Dean for Undergraduate Research (also the Director of the Edgerton Center and my 2.009 instructor), Professor Gibson (from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, according to the MIT “people search”), Steven Lerman, the Vice Chancellor and Dean for Graduate Education, the people in room 10-183 (whoever they are, they are apparently LGBT-friendly!), and me (I grabbed a copy for my dorm room door while in the Rainbow Lounge to take photos).

And of course…

I know the [email protected] category is….basically empty right now, so if anyone has any questions that might inspire some content for that page, send ’em this way.

EDIT: This blog entry is not about tolerance or intolerance, or justifying or glorifying or encouraging or discouraging anything. It’s about providing interested people with factual information about life at MIT. Obviously I have presented the facts with a bit of my own personality interwoven, because this is a blog and not an encyclopedia. However, the fact remains that this is not about whether anything is right or wrong. Some of you started a discussion about LGBT issues in general, and I’m ashamed to say that it got quite ugly on both sides. It did not want to have to do this, but I have deleted all of the comments from this discussion, and I will delete and future comments that reopen the argument. Please feel free to continue commenting on the content of the blog entry, asking questions etc, but I will delete any future comments that make judgments or are in any way uncivil. There are plenty of places on the internet where interested parties can have such arguments. This is not one of them.

71 responses to “The Rainbow Lounge”

  1. Banerjee says:

    This was actually a pretty funny post… in a really messed up way.

  2. Anon. says:


    How so?

  3. jimmy '13 says:

    @banerjee………two words:

    Typical Indian conservativeness………i’ll stop with that……

  4. Piper '12 says:

    The LGBTQA community also hosts support groups (including one geared towards freshmen), brunches, study breaks, etc.

  5. jimmy '13 says:

    you knwo what, I can’t stop with that….I really wish I could…..but I can’t…………….how could you even say something like that?That was really offensive……..messed up?

    messed up?

    can you call this messed up?

    can you call this messed up?

    oh man………I am so shaking with anger right now…….

    apologies to all at MIT blogs………there are some things that I can’t stand………

  6. jimmy '13 says:

    you know what, I can’t stop with that….I really wish I could…..but I can’t…………….how could you even say something like that?That was really offensive……..messed up?

    messed up?

    can you call this messed up?

    can you call this messed up?

    Oh man.I am so shaking with anger right now

    Apologies to all at MIT blogs.There are some things that I can’t stand.

  7. sepideh says:

    @jimmy 13
    sometimes other peoples words can cut one very deeply and the conditions around can make you suffocate and fill you up with anger just try to relax and be happy about this post you really enjoyed; if you had to listen and care about every ones thoughts and sayings then there would be no end to it, so pretend they’re not and live your life as you please cause its yours and no one else’s…wink

  8. sepideh says:

    and i can’t stop without saying that i am really ashamed and sorry, for the country i live in is one of those seven…

  9. Anonymous says:

    Those little cards seriously are everywhere.

    And this was an interesting entry; I’d never seen the Rainbow Room before. smile

  10. 1st says:

    @ Anonymous

    I’d have to agree, after claiming my place as first and reading the blog, i learnt a lot. Never before had i even heard of the rainbow room. Quite interesting..

  11. Carlos '13 says:

    I’ve been waiting for a Rainbow Lounge post for months!!!

    thanks a million!

    Can’t wait for CPW!!!!

  12. jimmy '13 says:

    yeah me too!!!!! I was thinking maybe massachusetts’ not the most gay-friendly place after all…..but thanks for the post..i’m reassured………..hey..carlos….where are you from..and stuff?

  13. jimmy '13 says:

    hey…LGBT movies…….books………..and a kitchen….its just like heaven…………. I MIT………….

  14. jimmy '13 says:

    * I heart MIT……….

  15. Anonymous says:

    jimmy ’13, Massachusetts is actually one of the gay-friendliest places in the USA. One of the only states that allows homosexual marriage.

  16. jimmy '13 says:

    @anonymous.yeah I did know, but since no one blogged on it, I guessed it was just sort of a cover up…..sorry……..

  17. jimmy '13 says:

    lol…I am so excited that I can hardly stop writing every few seconds..anyways…i gtg study surface chemistry.bye everyone.and thanks Laura

  18. Sheila '13 says:

    Awesome! I know someone who will be very happy about this post! XD

  19. Sheila'13 says:

    And yes, I saw those stickers EVERYWHERE at MIT, including at MIT’s Co-ops off the campus. XD

  20. Dhvanit says:

    Glad to see MIT appreciates LGBT! The colors really do portray the right thing..

    @Jimmy ’13
    That was a little too over to directly call Banerjee’s comment as “Typically Indian”. It would’ve been a different thing if you called him conservative but using the word ‘Indian’ is an insult, my friend.

  21. Matt A. says:

    accusations of profiling aside…

    Thanks for the post, Laura, I’ve seen the Rainbow Lounge’s website, but there wasn’t a huge amount of info. Also, I’ll second Jimmy ’13’s suggestion of an interview (or better, a guest entry)

  22. jimmy '13 says:

    well….I finished studying surface chem……hey for your next post, how about an interview a ga/lesbian student @ MIT? or better still, a couple?

  23. Anonymous says:

    also, the comment “typical Indian conservativeness” is incredibly intolerance and stereotyping. ironic in a discussion about the value of tolerance…

  24. LBGT Student says:

    @everyone else
    MIT is really a very very accepting place. As a very open queer person I haven’t come upon anyone who has discriminated against me on campus. Come check out the Rainbow Lounge at CPW!

  25. James says:

    Did anyone notice in the 3rd picture that it says “Lunch for Queer Women”? Or am I just taking that the wrong way

  26. James says:

    @LBGT Student
    About my last comment, I never associated being gay with being queer…

  27. Matt A. says:

    @LGBT student
    Good to hear, I’ll be sure to swing by if I get in and if I make it up there for CPW

  28. Anonymous says:

    @James – Many people in the LBGT community use queer as a synonym for anyone in the LBGTQA spectrum

  29. Rebecca says:

    I have to agree with anonymous a couple posts up. Any group seeking acceptance needs to not be blatantly in people’s faces, just as they dont want us in theirs. I am only using “us” and “theirs” because I am straight and have to distinguish in some way, not because I am “against” the LGBT community. The Rainbow Lounge is a cool concept, and its good that it exists, but dont spread LGBT stuff all over the school. Thats a faster way to make enemies than friends. Why does it have to be a big deal anyway? Isnt the whole point that you are just like us, except for your choices regarding sexuality?

    My advice is let curious or interested people come to you, not the other way around.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes as a minority, especially as someone in a controversial minority group (LBGT) it’s nice to have the reassurance that a new environment is accepting. The “You are welcome here” signs mean that I don’t have to worry that I’ll slip and mention my partner and be judged because of it.

    It was really reassuring when I started my job to see that many of my coworkers had the cards outside their offices.

  31. Matt A. says:

    In essence, the cards are a message TO the LGBT community, not FROM it.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Wow, that’s really cool. I had no idea something like this was at MIT. What a great idea.

  33. Anonymous says:

    “except for your choices regarding sexuality”

    This is a turn of phrase you might want to avoid in this kind of conversation. For many complex reasons (and a few stupid ones), some people in the LGBT community take offense to the assertion that sexual orientation is a conscious choice. It is kind of silly, but remembering might save you a lot of trouble. (Especially because your post could possibly come across as didactic/condescending, since you effectively claimed to know better than an entire group of people, and worse, an entire group of people at an institution synonymous with genius.)

    You are, of course, free to say whatever you like. If you believe that sexuality is a choice and you would rather have people know your perspective than avoid potential offense (or if your intention was to offend), your word choice was appropriate. But all the same, it’s something to think about.

    These subjects are sore enough these days without accidentally stepping on toes.

  34. deng says:

    ooo prettiful rooms raspberry

  35. Laura says:

    Offensive posts have been deleted. Sorry guys, I do have to spend at least a few hours every day sleeping.

  36. I hadn’t heard of the Rainbow Room, but it sounds pretty cool. I like the idea of those “You Are Welcome” signs.

  37. jimmy '13 says:


    In my defence, I did apologise after everything i said, and I apologise again but i have been through so much that I simply can’t take it any more. It’s bad enough they have to be so damn conservative in india. But to bring that attitude even remotely close to a place like MIT is something I can-NOT tolerate.

    Yeah I know it sounds ironic with the “I can’t tolerate thing” but atleast I ain’t bashing people for it, I’m just saying..

  38. Laura says:

    Seriously guys, keep it civil. You’re all pushing a fine line and I really don’t want to delete any more comments.

    Jimmy, it’s really unnecessary to target a whole country. There are plenty of conservative people in the US as well, and in fact in every country. You are in fact bashing people, and it’s inappropriate. Please stop.

    And I’m sorry to say that MIT is far from perfect, and you would do well to start recognizing that now before you set yourself up for a whole lot of disappointment.

  39. Matt A. says:

    Can I ask where you’re from, this conversation has made me a bit curious. I come from suburban Memphis, TN, and I can attest to the existence of social conservatism in the U.S. that Laura mentioned.

  40. @Laura

    Completely off topic, but its amazing to have so many blog entries from you again smile

  41. Matt A. says:

    @MIT ’13
    Considering the fact that MIT created, maintains, staffs, and sponsors [email protected], and that there is a site devoted to it within the domain, it’s perfectly allowable for it to be here on the official blogs. And if you look at the comments, it’s presence here has served its purpose of informing some people of its existence who really needed to know.

  42. Matt A. says:

    Also, I’m starting to see why no one blogged about the Rainbow Lounge before, so another big thank you to Laura!!

  43. Anonymous says:

    could people please just stop for a second and think about what true equality would mean? true equality means not having an LGBT lounge any more than a heterosexual lounge, not posting cards saying “you (i.e. LGBT) are welcome here” any more than posting cards that say “heterosexuals are welcome here”. shouldn’t we be the change we want to see in the world and practice true equality?

  44. Wow says:

    So many touchy people on a college admission blog? Seriously, go to dedicated forums or keep your opinions to yourselves if you feel something stupid/hurtful coming up your throat.

    On a side note, where do students generally hang out, if they’re not in their dorms, classes, or in clubs/things-of-an-affiliated-with-something (like a fraternity or volunteer group). And please don’t say the library, because that’s where my friends and I go for lunch.

  45. jimmy '13 says:


    I apologise. Everyone, i’m sorry if my posts offended anyone, I guess I went a little offtrack.

    @Matt A

    I’m from India…ha ah ,,,wouldn’t you have guessed.


  46. cristen says:

    Laura is not specifically supporting a *people* with this entry; she, like the rest of us posting entries on the blogs, is supporting M.I.T.!

    if you don’t like it, boo hoo for you.

  47. Matt A. says:

    Ah, I getcha, I didn’t infer it from your other comments. Also, easy on the anonymous, he/she makes a good point, and in an ideal world, that’s the way it should be. To repeat what I said earlier, the cards are a message to the LGBT community, and hopefully, through constructive communication and understanding from both sides, we can work toward a world where the cards and the Rainbow Lounge are unnecessary.

  48. jimmy '13 says:


    but Laura, please don’t stop the LGBT posts because of this…..k? please?

  49. Laura says:

    @Matt A: The appreciation is appreciated. Moderating this conversation != fun. It’s actually been quite tiring.

  50. jimmy '13 says:

    so you are not angry?

    lol.that’s good to hear……….

  51. Matt A. says:

    not to speak for Laura, but I’m sure she was well aware of the can of worms she was opening here. In any case, these comments have only proved the importance of having these discussions from time to time, cheesy as that may sound.

  52. jimmy '13 says:

    hey, Matt, are you at MIT now? the world needs more people like you.

  53. Matt A. says:

    HAH!! XD I wish, I was deferred EA, I’m just too lazy to stick the ’13? by my name every time, and the remember me thing on the comment system doesn’t want to work.

  54. Keep up the hope, Matt! I can’t wait until RA decisions come out.

  55. Matt A. says:

    Thanks, and same to you. If you’ve been stalking the blogs as much as I have, the dreams are probably running high.

  56. Narce says:

    So, Laura, based on that edit of yours, if that wasn’t about tolerance or intolerance, the entire point of that post was about the free condoms, right? XP (no, seriously, that note of yours was amusing)

    *is a very tolerant person*

  57. Anonymous says:

    I never knew Laura was a lesbian

  58. Narce says:

    Not that it matters, but I don’t think she said that.

  59. For a bit of a glimpse as to why some affirmative action in various communities is helpful to balance some of the wrongs of the past I’d heartily recommend the film Milk.
    Just won an Oscar if you need further encouragement!

  60. S says:

    the fact that Laura is having to delete offensive posts on this blog tells me that the “you are welcome here” cards really are necessary. It’s not something can always just be assumed. That there are so many of them up around campus is a constant reminder that MIT is a welcoming and inclusive place, and that is an extremely important thing for all applicants to know.

  61. Carlos '13 says:

    3 things:

    1)as if i needed any additional reason to enroll… tongue laugh

    2)@One of the Allies: the LGBT community currently does not need, and should not benefit from, affirmative action.


    3)@Anonymous (above narce) you do not need to be part of the LGBT community to support LGBT causes. (it would seem very odd if Laura was a die hard social conservative posting this)

    ohh and one more:



  62. Dhvanit says:

    @Matt A.
    Good work there buddy..Nice to have people like you around..Much appreciated..Hope to meet you as part of the Class of 2013 at M.I.T !

    A huge thanks! For everything.. Keep posting..more! Btw, @February 23, 2009 08:18 PM, I’ve been thinking about that lately. So it turns out on the whole that applicants usually picture MIT as the picture perfect thing, but just like every other thing on Earth, it’s got its share of both sides of the coin..

    @Jimmy ’13:
    Are you really from India!? Then you must be an NRI if you’re an already accepted EA?

  63. '13 says:

    Anonymous…Unfortunately those who use “queer” as a synonym for homosexual have usurped a general basic word from the dictionary.

  64. Wow says:

    I agree with S.

    btw, I am surprised there are so many Indians (from India) who are applying to MIT. I didn’t know that there was such a huge applicant pool until I saw the particularly low admissions rates for foreign applicants.

  65. '12 says:

    @jimmy, et al.
    Realize that a comment forum on the internetz, with assumed anonymity, brings out all the really strong opinions people hold, and is not representative of the MIT community at all.

    MIT, thankfully, is a very progressive place. In my experience as a gay guy here, most people don’t care to find out; people who know don’t care; and people you want to care, like close friends, are very supportive and just generally awesome. This is, in my opinion, exactly as it should be.

    Of course, there are people here that are less accepting, but they are the minority, and probably wouldn’t be mean to you anyway. If they are, then you just don’t have to deal with them.

    I haven’t heard any bad stories about incidents involving MIT students with LGBT issues. That does not mean that such incidents do not occur, but it does not seem to be a big problem.

    I have not used any of the resources MIT makes available to LGBT students, but it’s great to know that they are there. This is something MIT does really well. Regardless of what problems you are having (family, social, academic, whatever) there is someone here who can help.

  66. yo says:

    i love the rainbow lounge.

  67. Of all things, these cards were the most welcome sight to me at the Institvte. Thank you for the post.

  68. Alessandra says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.