Several UT organizations advocate for gender-inclusive housing


Plan II Honors and Biology senior Katie Fife sits in a mock version of what a gender-inclusive dorm would look like, Tuesday morning. Members of the gender-inclusive housing initiative aim at providing a safe living option for transgender and gender non-confirming students.

Photo Credit: Zen Ren | Daily Texan Staff

Promoting the movement for gender-inclusive housing on campus, StandOut held a demonstration Tuesday afternoon on Speedway about what a dorm room with students of different genders would look like.

Ashley Hall, co-director of StandOut and psychology junior, said gender-inclusive housing is aimed at providing a safe living option for transgender and gender non-conforming students, a goal StandOut has been working to accomplish since last semester. Hall said gedner-inclusive housing provides a safe living option for transgender and gender non-confirming students.

The demonstration featured students doing what they would be normally doing in their dorm rooms — doing homework and listening to music. Hall said the point of the demonstration was to show students that gender-inclusive housing is no different from the University’s current housing environment and to grab passersby attention.

“That gives us the chance to educate on gender-inclusive housing and what we want from that program and why it is important,” Hall said.

John Ramsey, president of University Residence Hall Association and finance junior, said URHA is set to vote on the proposal on April 30. On April 2, URHA unanimously supported gender-inclusive housing in a straw poll.

“But we haven’t voted yet and we’re still waiting on what kind of feedback we can get from regular residents,” Ramsey said.

Should the vote pass, Ramsey said the next step would be talk to Division of Housing and Food Services to set up a pilot program.

“Just because we get the vote passed doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee, but it is definitely the first step,” Ramsey said. “DHFS is very adamant about listening to student opinion, and URHA is the official student opinion we have.”

Patrick Haisten, treasurer of StandOut and professional accounting graduate student, said the organization began promoting gender-inclusive housing last semester, but they have vamped up their work this semester.

“I know there have been other groups and other students on campus that have tried to do something like this before, and we of StandOut have tried to build on their progress,” Haisten said. “Now we’ve really made it our sexual issue of the semester.”

In February, StandOut started a petition for gender-inclusive housing. Since then, Hall said over 600 students have signed the digital petition. Shortly after starting the petition, Hall said URHA reached out and has worked with StandOut on the issue.

“They’ve hosted us in their meetings twice, which has been really helpful,” Hall said. “In a lot of ways they’ve been helping us out, and now they’ve agreed to look at the proposal and tweak that with us, so we’ll keep working with them.”

Hall said URHA has helped StandOut draft their proposal, which resolves some of the myths about gender-inclusive housing.

“There are myths that people are going to get pregnant from this, and that is just not happening,” Hall said.

Hall said another myth and concern is sexual assault, but she said sexual assault is not a concern at campuses that offer gender-inclusive housing.

“[Gender-inclusive housing] actually currently has a completely clean record, and that is more than we can say for traditional housing,” Hall said.

Hall said University Democrats has been another student organization that has helped the cause for gender-inclusive housing. She said in late March they passed a referendum in support of gender-inclusive housing.

“They helped us spread the word and get more signatures on the petition,” Hall said. “A lot of what we really needed is more outreach to different groups that we’re not that well connected to. And UDems has been great at getting the word out and getting us connected to those groups.”

Published on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 as: UT gender-inclusive housing proposed