As housing contracts are sent out for the coming school year, some transgender students have to navigate more gender-inclusive housing options.
Housing is assigned by the gender a student is listed as in the registrar, said Aaron Voyles, director of Residence Hall Operations for University Housing and Dining. However, some transgender students said they would not be comfortable living in a gender-specific space.
Plan II freshman Sloan Touchet said he changed his gender marker on his birth certificate before coming to UT, so he was placed with male roommates. He requested to room with people he knew rather than have a random roommate assignment.
“I liked the guarantee that my roommates would not be aggressively transphobic,” Touchet said. “But honestly, my only issue with living in an all-boys floor is that there is piss on the toilet seat a lot, but other than that, it’s all fine.”
University Housing and Dining works with transgender students on an individual basis for housing accommodations, Voyles said. The student must reach out to the office themselves because there is no indication of being transgender on the housing application.
“Every student is different, and where they might be comfortable on campus is going to be different, so we want to work with the student on that individual basis so that all of our students feel safe in that living environment,” Voyles said.
Options for transgender students include private rooms, rooming with friends or changing their gender marker in the registrar through a signed request. Jay Crawford, a visual arts studies freshman, said he applied as female even though he identifies as male. He said the people in his dorm have been accepting and respectful of his gender identity.
“It was kind of weird at first, because I did have to tell my roommate to call me Jay and to tell them that I identify as male, but they all respected it,” Crawford said. “I was a little bit afraid that I would get a roommate who wouldn’t accept me for who I was or would ask for a different roommate, but I didn’t want to room with a male student. It was kind of scary to have to apply for housing and not have an option for transgender housing.”
City ordinances prevent the denial of housing due to sexual orientation or gender identity.
Student leaders from Queer and Trans Student Alliance, Queer and Trans People of Color Agency, Gender and Sexuality Center Student Leadership Committee and Student Government are working with UT administrators to create a more inclusive environment for transgender students. Benjamin Solder, SG speaker of the assembly, organizes biweekly meetings to discuss issues facing the UT LGBTQ community.
“There are lot of LGBTQ issues that need to be looked at by University Housing and Dining,” said Solder, a neuroscience senior. “Specifically gender inclusive housing would be a great first step to be implemented at UT. Not providing gender-inclusive housing similar to other comparable universities across the state really alienates students on this campus, and it hinders their ability to get involved and form those vital connections.”