Pride Alliance pushes for gender neutral housing

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Western could soon see change in residential housing options. Western’s Pride Alliance and Residential Hall Association have been working hand-in-hand to propose the university designate a select number of gender neutral dorm rooms.

Pride Alliance President Kate Chapman feels that creating gender neutral dorms will allow students to feel safer on campus.

“My freshman year I met this person that first told me they identified as a man, but as I further got to know them they told me they prefer feminine pronouns and had, more overall, identified as a feminine person. It had gotten to the point where they were trying to come out more, but they did not feel safe within their own dorm room,” Chapman said.

Chapman described the student’s discomfort as not feeling safe to shower in their own dorm room because of conflict with their roommate.

“A couple weeks later, they ended up dropping out. So, it’s just one example of school push out when it comes to a minority such as the gender nonconforming, because of that and knowing more transgender people that have either faced discrimination or have been pushed out. It is clear that keeping them in their assigned-at-birth gender room is not proper,” Chapman said.  

Although no definite paperwork has been presented to university administration, Pride Alliance has gained support from SGA as well as the general student body.

Jordan Booth, president of the Residence Hall Association feels the change is necessary to make Western a competitive option for incoming students.  

“We met with a bunch of other universities and almost every universities in the midwest region has transgender housing, or they are pushing for it as well. We are one of the last schools to get on the bandwagon, so we have support from every other campus out there,” Booth said. “This is something state funding looks at as well, so this allows us to get funding for the university as well as make sure we are on par with every other campus out there.”  

While the deadline to set aside gender neutral dorms for the Fall of 2016 has passed, Director of Residential Life Nathan Roberts is happy to help individual students.

“RHA reviews [the proposal] and at that point, it depends on the timeline of the housing cycle. I have worked at a variety of institutions that have had transgender housing. Typically, they are looking for a private room, to go through whatever situation they’re in, and whenever they are in their process and that they have the privacy to go through that without prying eyes. Which we can accommodate that pretty much with any of the halls. 

Roberts is hopeful that students will feel comfortable talking with residential life to help the university better accommodate the students’ needs.

“We usually can make accommodations, if folks want to make the requests; I’m not always sure what their requests are, or what their needs would be, but I’m happy to listen and see how we can best accommodate them,” Roberts said.  

If the petition is approved, Pride Alliance is in hopes of creating gender neutral dorm rooms by the Fall of 2017.

“There will always be a stigma, but by giving [students] an area in which they can truly express themselves, you give them the opportunity to no longer have to hide away in the closet,” Chapman said.