New queer house share platform to help LGBTQ+ people find safe, affirming homes
It’s not always easy to find a secure, safe place to live as a queer person.
Too often, LGBTQ+ people end up in flat shares with people who mock and denigrate them, or they end up paying money to landlords who don’t believe their identities are valid.
Parm Virdee knows what it’s like – she’s had her fair share of bad experiences in housing.
A few years ago, Parm was sharing a flat with a straight man who had a bad habit of making “objectifying comments” about queer women.
“I remember siting in the front room and this guy is just laughing at the fact that two girls could have sex and objectifying them,” Parm tells PinkNews.
Even worse was that he wasn’t alone.
“A straight girl who lived in the house was like, ‘Oh that’s so disgusting, what do you guys even do? That’s so gross.’”
As time went by, Parm started to feel more and more isolated – and she noticed that her housemates were avoiding her. People would get up and leave the room when she walked in, making her feel painfully alone in her own home.
Parm Virdee set up Queer Homes to help LGBTQ+ people find inclusive housing
It’s an experience that plenty of LGBTQ+ people will relate to, but not all of them are in a position to try and change the system.
Parm is a trainee solicitor working in property law, which is why she decided to set up Queer Homes. It’s a new property website aimed at helping LGBTQ+ people find inclusive, safe and welcoming housing, whether that’s with queer housemates or with a landlord who respects who they are.
“I’m quite an entrepreneurial person, so I thought, why not create a safe and inclusive environment so those in the LGBTQ+ community can live with each other,” Parm says. “That’s essentially what we’re after when we use the likes of Spare Room or Gumtree or what not, we’re putting up LGBTQ+ friendly ads and titles for that reason, because we want to make sure we’re in a friendly environment.”
Those other sites, as far as Parm sees it, don’t “cut the mustard” for queer people who are searching for housing.
“In society today, it’s overlooked very easily – people don’t want to believe that there’s an issue with homophobia and discrimination, but the truth is it still happens today.”
Those issues range from housemates making rude or passive aggressive comments right up to violence in the most extreme cases.
“[Other housing sites are] not bridging that gap that our community needs and requires,” Parm says. “If it was, we wouldn’t have so many issues happening on a daily basis in flat shares and house shares.”
LGBTQ+ people’s mental health can suffer in unaccepting homes
Parm has set up the website with help from her partner, friends, and her brother, who is also gay. It’s a tough job to undertake, especially given she also has a day job as a solicitor.
“The kind of thing you’re providing on this website needs to be spot on,” Parm says. “If it’s going to be inclusive, it needs to be as inclusive as it can be.”
Still, she fully believes that it’s all going to be worth it – she’s excited to be providing a platform that will help protect queer people.
“Mental health is a massive thing that needs to be taken into consideration [in housing],” Parm says. “My own mental health has been compromised with these issues. There’s a lot of trauma that’s related to the struggle that LGBTQ+ people deal with and it stems from not being able to be yourself, feeling like you have to come out. This is about providing a space where you don’t need to do that.”
She continues: “I think it will be massively advantageous and beneficial for people to have a safe environment to live in where they don’t have to worry about the judgement and opinions of other people.”
On Queer Homes, people will be able to advertise spare rooms they have in their LGBTQ+ friendly homes, and landlords will also be welcome to advertise queer-inclusive lettings.
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“Landlords will be welcome, but everything will be closely watched,” Parm stresses.
Queer Homes is still in its early days, but Parm sees a bright future ahead. She’s hopeful they’ll be able to branch out into other European countries in the coming years, and eventually, she would like to crack the United States too.
She’s also keen to expand the website beyond just listings for spare rooms – one day, she would like to put her legal training to use and provide assistance to LGBTQ+ people who find themselves in disputes with landlords.
“When it comes to landlord and tenant disputes, a lot of people are like, ‘I don’t want to do anything because it’s going to cost me loads of money,’” Parm says. “I want to provide a level of legal assistance, part of it being pro bono as well. In the future I’d like to have a section on Queer Homes where people can contact us, let us know what’s going on, and we can evaluate the situation and let them know if they could bring a claim against their landlord.”
For too long, LGBTQ+ people’s needs have been neglected when it comes to housing – but if Queer Homes takes off, that could finally start to change.
You can visit Queer Homes here.
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