According to the 2010 United States Census, only .3 percent of Americans are transgender. However, despite a limited population, Elizabethtown College has offered up a generous number of rooms to gender-neutral housing, and for good reason.
With the addition of gender-neutral housing, students are permitted to live with any other Etown student regardless of sex or gender identity. Located in Founders Hall, this Learning and Living Community is one of the many ways the campus is trying to support and raise awareness for the LGBTQ students. Gender-neutral housing is a necessary modern option for the Etown campus.
First-year Student Advocating for Gender Equality (SAGE) member Blair Hendricks agrees that gender-neutral housing is necessary to keep some students comfortable. “It provides a space for students to feel more at ease,” she said. “To me, it seems like it would be a space where people don’t have to feel judged, where they can feel free to be themselves without the confusion that could come with living with cisgendered people.” Being “cisgendered” means identifying with the gender you were assigned at birth.
After all, not worrying about gender eliminates some of the problems people transitioning face in public. Not only does it remove the difficult decision of choosing what gender to mark down on your housing selection form, but it also combats more common problems, like choosing which bathroom to use.
Of course, there are some concerns that come with gender-neutral housing. “I think it’s good because people should be able to room with who they want to room with, but at the same time I feel like people are going to just try to be roommates with their boyfriends and girlfriends, and that isn’t really the purpose of gender-neutral housing,” first-year Abby Aumen said.
Fellow first-year Matthew Berezny would most likely disagree with Aumen. Berezny plans on moving into gender-neutral housing with his girlfriend in the upcoming fall semester. After dating for two years, they are ready to be roommates. “I think [gender-neutral housing] gives you the chance to have a variety and more of a connection either with a significant other or someone from the opposite sex,” Berezny said. “Maybe if you feel more similar to someone of the opposite sex, it’s better to room with them.”
While the purpose of gender-neutral housing may be geared towards LGBTQ students rather than young couples, anyone that wants to live in a gender-neutral community should be allowed. After all, the point of the housing community is to promote equality. “I think that everyone at this point is a legal adult, and the point is that it’s gender-neutral–that you don’t care about living with someone who is a different gender than you,” Hendricks said. Maybe gender-neutral housing will be filled with more couples than intended, but every student in the community is opting to ignore gender, which is the point of the community.
Aumen, meanwhile, is less concerned with whether or not couples should be allowed into gender-neutral housing, but is worried about the potential fallout. “If two people are dating and they do gender-neutral housing together and then they break up, I think that would be pretty awkward,” she said.
Fortunately for Berezny and his girlfriend, they have already discussed what would happen in lieu of a potential break up. Their hope is that no matter what happens, they’ll remain roommates. “I mean, it would be awkward for a little bit, but we would still be friends,” he explained. Provided everyone on the floor can make an equally mature decision, having couples living on the floor should turn out fine.
Another potential problem of gender-neutral housing is the possible implication of segregation. After all, some transgender students may feel pressured to separate themselves from their peers. “It could potentially be seen as a form of education because you’re separating people who identify as females from other female residences or people who identify as males are separated from other male housing,” Hendricks said.
However, joining gender-neutral housing is a choice. In addition to everyone being allowed to join the community, no one is being forced to join the community.
Sure, the population of Etown students that identifies as transgender is rather small. However, it is important to provide accommodations for every student to make sure they are comfortable. “I think they usually separate dorms into female and male dorms because they assume that’s what people feel the most comfortable with. For me that is true, but this provides another option for people who feel differently,” Hendricks said. “Having options is usually a good thing!”
Minorities have feelings and preferences that are equally as important as the majorities. Even if gender-neutral housing is only truly useful to a small percentage of Etown’s students, it is 100 percent necessary for transgendered students on campus.