Genderblind Housing at IC

Ithaca Housing

By Laura Lanz-Frolio

Laura Lanz-Frolio
Genderblind Housing at IC

Freshman year of college can be intimidating for a whole bunch of reasons: finding your new social circle, jam-packed lecture classes, and especially, sharing a cramped dorm room with a total stranger.

Coming face to face with a new roommate for the first time can be especially scary for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) students. They may face awkwardness, discrimination and even aggression from roommates who don’t accept their sexual orientation.

eastmanFortunately though, there is a movement spreading to campuses across the country called gender-neutral housing, which allows men and women to live in a dorm room together. Pioneering the movement is the National Student Genderblind Campaign, which was founded in 2006 by Guilford College student David Norton and Clark University student Jeffrey Chang.

According to Chang, gender-neutral housing benefits a large number of people, from gay or lesbian students who may feel more comfortable living with a friend of the opposite sex, to heterosexual friends wanting to room together. According to Chang, transgender students are especially interested in the gender-neutral housing option.

“Transgender students are often in the process of transitioning while they’re in college,” Chang said. “Oftentimes their biological sex doesn’t match up with the gender that they’re transitioning into, which can be a huge barrier for them.”

The Genderblind Campaign recently inspired Ithaca College to join the growing movement and implement gender-neutral housing. Beginning in the fall 2008 semester, students will have the option of living in gender-neutral dorm rooms that will be located on one side of the hallway on the second floor of Eastman Hall. Though there are only a small number of rooms that have been designated gender-neutral, Lis Maurer, the coordinator of the college’s LGBT education outreach services, thinks it’s a step in the right direction.

“I think that it provides an important option for people in a variety of different circumstances who might like to live with someone with whom they are a very good match, regardless of their sex or gender,” Maurer said.
 Maurer said that before Ithaca College announced the gender-neutral housing option, she saw a high demand for a similar program among LGBT students. 

“What I saw happening was that there were a lot of LGBT students who fled the campus as soon as they could to find housing in the larger community so that they could live in groups that were meaningful and safe for them,” Maurer said. “I just thought that was a tremendous loss for the campus community.”

Along with implementing gender-neutral dorm rooms in Eastman, the bathroom in the second floor hallway will be made co-ed and will be renovated to provide residents with more comfort and privacy.

Gender-neutral living policies have caused controversy on other campuses with people worried that it will increase sexual activity among heterosexual couples. But Ithaca College students and administrators have been overwhelmingly accepting of the new option.

Margot Jebb, a senior Ithaca College student who worked as a resident assistant on campus for two years, thinks that the gender-neutral housing option will be helpful for a lot of students.

“Having lived with students as an R.A., it seems to me like it’s an important step for the college to make, especially since we have such a large gay and lesbian population,” Jebb said.

Though The Genderblind Campaign has been recently gaining attention, Chang says that there are still only about 30 colleges across the country that have adopted gender-neutral housing policies, making Ithaca College somewhat of a role model for other schools.

Though freshman year of college will still be full of anxieties—that will probably never change—at least incoming students can rest easy knowing that their roommate will be someone that they feel safe and comfortable sharing a 12-by-12-foot room with.