On the topic of Gender-Inclusive Housing

Letter to the editor

To the editor,

Male or female? The question seems innocent enough, not to mention it’s a crucial prerequisite to determine housing for students. However, it makes a dangerous assumption: that every student fits into one of the predefined categories, which is not always the case.
How are those without a binary-gendered identity supposed to answer? Perhaps include a third option that simply states “neither” or “I choose not to identify?” Such an option would provide some relief in theory, but further action must be taken to fully ensure the safety of students who don’t identify as a binary gender. Such students feel rather unsafe about their living conditions, in some cases being outed against their will to those around them. The current state of affairs is untenable for those affected, and a solution to this dilemma is urgent in regards to their well-being.

Fortunately a defined solution already exists, at least to an extent, and we needn’t look far to find an example. Our neighbor, Kent State University, is just one of 159 universities throughout the country that has incorporated gender-inclusive housing (GIH) into its on-campus options. We wouldn’t even need to build any new dorms to accommodate non-gendered students; a simple rearranging of some of the existing dorms would be sufficient given the size of the overall student body. No two schools offer the exact same accommodations. However a theme of community is present in just about every instance, with some schools going so far as to promote it as part of the experience.

This community-based model offers several benefits to LGBTQA students to ensure their campus experience is a positive one. The premise is to set aside an appropriate number of dorms which are reserved for students who don’t identify as one of the binary genders. By setting aside dorms for the students, the university provides them with a safe space to share and form their identities.

As the name suggests, the model encourages community building and togetherness among participants. This closeness allows the students to fight challenges and overcome obstacles together. When you stop to consider how many students in this situation feel alone in their journey, the importance of building and maintaining camaraderie becomes magnified. Additionally the model would allow for some of the non-gendered students to easily request a single room in the designated space, bypassing the current need for those students to organize a group in order to form a gender-inclusive suite.
All too often, such groups fail to work out anyway, leaving the students involved in an awkward scenario that has a high probability of ending up with unsafe living conditions. The model stands out as an excellent template for potential solutions, and with enough effort on Case Western Reserve University’s part, it could easily enact a similar solution.

Currently the Residence Hall Association (RHA) has plans to enact an initiative incorporating GIH on campus beginning this upcoming fall semester. However, the specifics of the initiative are not yet set in stone. Undergraduate student Duck Rhee has proposed an initiative that closely follows the model in place at Kent State, designating a floor or area in each residence hall as gender-inclusive. Students, including incoming freshmen, would be able to opt for GIH on their housing applications. Although anyone would be able to live in the designated spaces, priority would be given to those who prefer, or otherwise need, GIH. Such an arrangement would ensure that all LGBTQA students receive a comfortable safe space without being forced to out themselves against their will, enhancing both their experiences at CWRU and the quality of their lives. Simply put it’s a win-win scenario for all involved.

For too long, non-gendered students have been subjected to gender assumptions and, as a result, less than ideal living conditions. These dilemmas have threatened to inhibit their development at a crucial juncture in their lives. With an ideal solution currently in existence, these dilemmas are also unnecessary. Will it create a perfect living environment for every student on campus? Of course not, as such a quest would prove impossible. However, the implementation of a solution would go a long way towards improving the lives of many students who currently dread the situations they face. The students are speaking, and it’s up to the university they attend and pay tuition to, to listen.

David Hoffman