Gender-Inclusive housing: necessary, overdue

Pup peeves

I can’t go downstairs like this. It’s a brown t-shirt and black leggings, but they won’t like it and I’ll have to put up with shitty comments and stares and god I hope no one lays a hand on me and…

Welcome to a taste of gender policing. If you’re like me and don’t really fall into the gender binary’s boxes, choices as simple as what to wear to breakfast and where to sleep are suddenly riddled with variables, known and unknown.

Case Western Reserve University is currently constructing dorms for an influx of students. Apparently in their planning for those students, they never stopped to consider that students would be like me and not really be safe nor feel comfortable in a “boys” dorm or a “girls” dorm. The currently policy is to use the coed suite option, but this still reinforces the gender binary assumption. And not to mention it’s not always possible to fill a suite with trusted people. Instead of the onus of safe housing falling on CWRU’s shoulders, it has done what is usually does and sends students scampering for options on their own.

Gender-inclusive housing (GIH) is a necessary component of being a safe space for trans, non-binary, non-conforming, gender variant and other students that do not fit the binary Western assumption of gender. CWRU loudly proclaims its LGBTQ+ equality rankings, but the lack of real housing options is the glaring hole CWRU doesn’t want to fill.

Housing claims it’s sending out a survey asking students what its next steps should be in GIH. A survey doesn’t put a roof over anyone’s head, nor does it solve the problem. GIH examples exist from universities across the nation. This column cannot give such options proper overview; see David Hoffman’s letter to the editor for just such an analysis. CWRU Housing, however, seems to want its students to do all the research for them.

This is especially cruel given the massive academic load students already face in their education. The wishy-washy promise of sending out a survey or promising coed suites does nothing to ensure the safety and housing of students that need answers now.

Additionally there is something off about asking cis students for their opinions on trans-safe spaces. To ask privileged people their opinions on underprivileged people can seem like legislating morality and acceptability, which smacks of respectability politics. While cis allies are important, they are not the group to focus on, nor the group facing serious questions.
A place to live safely and as one’s true self is a basic need. If CWRU is not willing to fill this need then it must seriously reconsider positioning itself as any sort of LGBTQ+ safe space. Students scrambling for options and fighting systems of power at every turn just for a place to rest their heads is not an acceptable situation.

Note: Deputy Provost Lynn Singer has released new statements regarding GIH as we go to print; stay tuned for updates.

Zak Khan doesn’t even go here anymore, but they have a lot of feelings and angry barking.