The University of Texas at Dallas will provide students with the chance to live in gender-inclusive housing this upcoming fall semester, causing some UT Austin students to want the same option.
“(The new housing option is) a really good step forward for equality for the trans community,” said biology junior Chris Dominy, who identifies as a transgender male. “Not only do we have transgender women and men but we also have non-binary students who wouldn’t feel comfortable being forced to live in a binary dormitory.”
The new housing initiative came from a task force UTD organized to address students needs, said Catherine Pickrel, director of Residential Life. Residential Life is an office that aims to provide on-campus housing for students at UTD.
Pickrel said students are provided a third option on their application if they want to do gender-inclusive housing through Residential Life. The students, despite what gender they identify as, would be able to room with other students who also chose the same option.
According to The Mercury, a weekly student publication at UTD, UTD is the only institution in the UT System to provide this option, however this could not be confirmed by Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, executive director of media relations and external communications for the UT System.
At UT Austin, students are provided the option to room with other students who identify as the same gender as them, but the choice is not formally placed on any application, according to Aaron Voyles, interim director for occupancy management and conferences.
“We use the gender that is on the application or if a student already lives with us, the gender from the registrar,” said Voyles, also the associate director for student learning and development. “If a student were to update their gender marker with the registrar and alert us, we’ll work with that student to figure out what the best housing option would be for them.”
Voyles said the Division of Housing & Food Service is working with the University Residence Hall Association to provide an option for gender-inclusive housing at the reconstructed Creekside Residence Hall. Voyles said this option will be seriously considered for the students because they have the right to feel at home if they live on campus.
Although some students see this as a step forward for transgender and non-binary students, others fear this new housing option would increase the likelihood of transgender and non-binary students being harassed.
“People think that when there is a group of marginalized people and people know about that space being available, it’s much easier for it to be targeted,” said health promotion sophomore Len Rudd, who identifies as a genderqueer person, someone who neither identifies as male or female.
Voyles said the Division of Housing & Food Services aims to address this fear by working with students one-on-one to make sure they feel comfortable wherever they decide to live.
“We really want to do what’s going to make the student feel safe,” Voyles said. “Every student has a different level of comfort and everyone has a different expectation of what they want their living space to be. We’re not trying to provide a blanket solution with what to do with individual students.”