Presentation to explain, question option of gender neutral housing

Courtesy Photo / LA Times
Gender neutral housing allows for opposite sex roomates

Courtesy Photo / LA Times Gender neutral housing allows for opposite sex roomates

Samantha Butcher

Bill Bailey, an RA in the South Apartments community, and Misael DeJesus, an RA in the Murray/VanSteeland community, are working to make gender-neutral housing a consideration at GVSU.

On Monday, the South Campus living communities and Students for Freedom and Equality will host “What is Gender Neutral Housing?” The program will dispel myths about mixed-gender dorms and address student questions or concerns.

“We aren’t just suddenly bringing this up,” DeJesus said. “I hear people talking about it, but they’re always like, ‘Oh I wish.’ So let’s stop wishing and do something about it. It’s not that big of a switch, I think, for our time and how progressive we are. I feel like it’s the next natural step.”

The event will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Room 215 of The Connection. A panel of speakers will share their experiences in housing and an open forum will allow students to ask questions or express concerns.

“Anyone who’s even had a momentary struggle with housing and not being able to live with who they want to live with will not only learn a lot but be able to add to this conversation,” Bailey said. “They have experiences, and that mosaic of experiences is really what’s going to convince the institution to make a change.

Currently more than 50 colleges and universities across the country offer mixed-gender housing options to students, including the University of Michigan.

According to the Housing Department at GVSU, the only way for gender-neutral housing to be a consideration would be student demand. Bailey said he hopes the event will act as an assessment of the student body. It could be the beginning of a campaign if it is successful.

“If a gender neutral housing option were on the table, it would be as a result of many student services units working together to that end,” said Colette Seguin-Beighley, director of the LGBT Resource Center.

When she made her statement in March, mixed-gender housing was not under consideration.

DeJesus said both Housing and SAFE have supported the exploration into gender-neutral housing. As an RA, he said he often deals with roommate issues related to gender identity or sexual orientation.

“When you work in housing, you know the situations that occur,” he said. “You know the problems people have living together, and everyone in housing that I’ve spoken to can see the benefits of this.”

DeJesus added while transgender students are one piece of the gender-neutral housing puzzle, the concept applies to a broader base of students.

“It kind of started with this being an issue for transgender individuals who find it uncomfortable living with people they know they don’t associate well with, but it’s way more than that,” he said. “It’s for everyone. Everyone talks about it, and everyone can find their own reason, so we just want to open the door and get people talking about it.”

Bailey said “What is Gender Neutral Housing?” also educates residents and introduces new perspectives.

“It’d be a great living-learning community,” he said.

For DeJesus, one of the most important aspects of the event is to gauge student interest.

“Even if you want to argue against it, just come to the program,” he said. “We want to hear from everyone.”

[email protected]