Gender-Neutral Housing

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At Wes

2001-2002:

The Queer Task Force secured a guaranteed single for all transgender students, though this is only available to trans students who are out enough to make their needs respected and also those who can afford the $300 higher price of living in a single. All students in doubles in dorms housing first-years (Clark, 200 Church, Hewitt, WestCo, the Nics, or the Butterfield dorms) were placed with same-sex roommates.

2002-2003:

The Queer Task Force worked with the Office of Affirmative Action to revise the university’s non-discrimination plan to include gender identity and gender expression. After this was passed, we could move forward on housing. Residential Life, the Queer Task Force, and the 2002-2003 gender group worked together to craft a plan that would be acceptable to all. You can view the text of the Gender Blind/Gender Neutral Proposal to the URLC here. It was accepted, and we developed the gender-blind hall, described below.

2003-2004:

The gender-blind hall encompassed the ground floor of Nic 6 for students who requested that gender not be a factor in roommate assignment. The first year of the hall was mixed: some students who requested the hall were not placed there, while most of the students on the hall had not requested to be there. Only one out trans student lived on the hall; hir room was the only mixed-sex room on the hall. Also, Res Life did not provide an RA for the floor, despite the provision of an RA being am important part of the Queer Task Force's request for the hall. The RA assigned to the floor above refused the offer of assistance from the trans/gender group in creating programming for the hall; the gender-blind hall end up with zero programming for the 2003-2004 academic year. The Queer Task Force, the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee(URLC), and the Office of Residential Life worked together to create a new system of gender-neutral housing to go into effect Fall 2004. A major concern was that we did not want to relegate trans-identified students (or others for whom the option was important) to a single hallway on Foss Hill. Consequently, we developed a proposal permitting first-year students to request a gender-neutral assignment in any first-year residential area. First-year students requesting a gender-neutral assignment were to be placed in a single room or in a double room with another student requesting a similar assignment.

2004: (aka, Wesleyan steps backwards)

Gender-neutral housing was one option on the incoming frosh housing application. There were approxiamately 80 students who selected the gender neutral choice on their housing request form from res life. Of those 80 or so, about 16* ended up, due to the “random” pairings of those who selected gender neutral, rooming with someone of a different biological sex. Res Life, in wanting to make sure the students knew what they were getting involved in, called these pairs to clarify any questions. When 12* of the students heard what gender neutral actually meant and who they were paired with, they elected to change. Only four remained.

President Bennet and Dean Patton, working in mid-August (after incoming first years had already been informed of their roomate assignments) decided to move those students to rooms based on the students’ “biological sex.” They made this decision without the input of any of the students who worked with the URLC, the Queer Task Force, or the WSA. Officially, gender-neutral housing has not been dismantled, because students who selected gender-neutral housing are still being placed with other students who selected this option. The four students who were reassigned protested the switch, saying that they chose gender-neutral housing, wanted gender-neutral housing, were happy with their mixed-gender roommates, and did not want to be roomed on the basis of biological sex. The future of gender-neutral housing is uncertain, but students refused to step backwards. Gender-neutral housing was approved to go, and last-minute nervousness must not hobble the program.

Students protested the University's failure to implement the agreed-upon gender-neutral housing plan for all of the 2004-05 school year. In September 2004, the Wesleyan Student Assembly unanimously passed a resolution in favor of gender-neutral housing (click here to view it). A Wesleyan Student Assembly poll garnered the highest turnout of any WSA poll ever, with 1,170 students voting and 92% of voters responding that they supported the implementation of the Gender Neutral policy as it was approved by the Office of Residential Life and Undergraduate Residential Life Committee.

Dean Patton refused to budge, saying in a campus forum that his moral values refused to allow him to condone rooming a "biological female" with a “biological male.” For more information on events of Spring 2005-now, please contact zstrassburge@wesleyan.edu or pkruza@wesleyan.edu.

2005-2006

Throughout the 2005-2006 school year students met with several admininstrators almost weekly to discuss the need for Gender Neutral Housing for all students. President Bennett and the trustees decided that we needed “advisors” to meet with us and determine if our argument was truly valid. The 2-4 students at each of these meetings then had to tell their stories involving their identities, their housing situations, and their bodies every week to a new stranger and the usual administration. One of the administrators was Jennifer Finney-Boylan, a transwoman who is a professor at Colby. Another was a psychologist. Zach would usually end up asking them why they thought they were an “expert” on this issue and they would reply they weren’nt. Basically, these meetings were degrading to the students who had fought so hard for this issue.

However, one good thing did come out of the meetings. Not one of the “advisors” could claim that gender neutral housing was in any way harmful to the student body. With the support of all three advisors, the administration was left with no choice and for the first time in Wesleyan’s history, gender neutral housing truly exists. The actual policy that is in place is far from ideal. In meetings all year the students presented g.n. policys that would allow all students to have gender neutral housing without having to defend or explain their identities and reasons for wanting to not have their “sex” taken into account in their housing. Each week, the administration would come back with the policy completely changed, making students explain their identities, and defend their reasons for wanting gender neutral housing. In the end, this was the only policy that could be put forward. It is far from ideal and we must work hard to get it changed.

2006-present

The first class to benefit from the newly-implemented gender neutral policy was the class of 2010. However, this policy is only a three-year trial. Therefore, we still need to fight just as hard as ever to make sure they don&srquo;t take it away from us!

Why is it important?

Gender-neutral housing is important to lots of people—queer students who don't see same-sex roommates as being logical in terms of attraction, trans students whose “biological sex” differs from their chosen gender, people who just don't think gender should matter in housing assignments, students who want a progressive and innovative housing option, and more. The WSA, the URLC, the Argus, the Hermes, the Queer Task Force and others have come out in support of gender-neutral housing as one of the few times in recent history where students and adinistrators have successfully collaborated on an initiative, but it seems that the administration is now erasing that rare success. It's important to note that the decision to eradicate gender-neutral housing flies in the face of the University's non-discrimination clause, which includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity/expression. Preventing a male-identified person from rooming with another male-identified person because one of them might have a different “biological sex” is discrimination. Wesleyan University must be responsible to its diversity.

Links to Check Out

Wesleyan Argus articles:

You can see other articles about gender-neutral housing by clicking on “links” in the left menu bar.

Wesleyan University Trans/Gender Group: Shaken and stirred.