There is no denying that college is a daunting experience, especially when incoming students are faced with the perils of a new school, a new home and a new life. The transition into college can be even more challenging for members of the LGBTQ community who seek a supportive environment that is accepting to all genders and sexualities.
While UT has been making strides toward inclusivity, such as designating gender-inclusive bathrooms around campus, it still does not provide gender-inclusive
housing on campus.
With the Scottish Rite Dormitory, a private women’s dorm just north of campus, being accused of discriminating against a gay student, UT needs to make strides toward improving the housing environment for the LGBTQ community.
As such, it is imperative UT provides a gender-inclusive housing option for its students. Finding housing is difficult in Austin, and the search for housing for incoming students frequently centers around on-campus options. With as many dorm options as UT has, it should not be hard to establish a safe environment for LGBTQ students to live.
“Gender-inclusive housing is so important because it would help students get into housing with the gender that they identify with,” said Emily Chauffe, an arts and entertainment technologies sophomore and member of LGBTQ community. “I know the process to do that, currently, is rather difficult.”
There is not a formal choice for students to find roommates who identify as the same gender as them, which means LGBTQ students may be placed in hostile and uncomfortable spaces. It’s on the University to ensure that comfortable and safe student housing options are available to LGBTQ students.
In contrast to UT-Austin, UT-Dallas and Rice are the only two universities in Texas that have gender inclusive housing. This is an alarmingly low number considering that the Lone Star State has 170 universities and one of the largest student populations in the nation.
According to UT-Dallas’ website, this housing option includes gender-inclusive units across residential halls in spaces with accepting roommates. A new housing environment similar to UT-Dallas’ gender-inclusive option could open up new opportunities for LGBTQ students who feel apprehensive and discouraged to attend UT amidst a hyperpolarized political and social climate.
“UT should build an environment conducive to everyone’s needs and show that they care about marginalized students,” said Izzy, a non-binary marine and freshwater sciences sophomore who wishes to remain anonymous. “UT tends to be performative in their inclusion — they haven’t shown that they really care yet. (Opening gender-inclusive housing) would be a big step forward in terms of inclusion.”
Although not enacted, the idea for gender inclusive housing has been discussed before. In 2012, UT’s Student Government passed legislation to establish a gender inclusive housing program at UT. It later fell through at the University level, eventually retiring into the stacks of the PCL. It is time for UT to follow through on a change that would fairly provide a safe environment for all students.
Changing housing may seem unreasonable since it is so limited already. But UT does not have to create new buildings for LGBTQ students. UT can follow the UT-Dallas model for gender inclusive housing, where students in any dorm can opt for inclusive units. Transforming floors in dorms to be exclusively open to all genders, thereby
creating a safe space, is also a viable answer.
UT should follow through on making its campus inclusive and diverse. None of our students should ever have to face discrimination and unfair treatment in their housing spaces. Providing a community-based and gender inclusive housing option is just one step toward pursuing a
genuinely inclusive and diverse campus.
Mata is a psychology sophomore from Houston.