Gender-Neutral Housing 2015

By: Kyreon Lee, E23 Reporter

For the 2015-2016 academic year, the University of Missouri is offering their first ever gender-neutral housing. There will a 16-bed space reserved in College Avenue hall, which is located on 1300 East Rollins Street, as a test for the gender-neutral housing area. The space is open to students of any gender who are transgender or gender conforming. The goal of this new form of housing is to create a safe and secure housing option for all students.

Frankie Minor, director of Residential Life, and his team say they have been striving for gender-neutral housing for years after hearing the voice of the students. Minor says that the planning of gender-neutral housing was made easier when the Board of Curators added gender expression and gender identity to the University of Missouri System’s nondiscrimination policy last year.

This particular planning has taken multiple years and Minor says all returning students have an option to sign up for the new housing option. Returning students have until March 12th at 11:55pm to sign up. Interested students must sign agreements affirming they are open to having roommates, suitemates and floor mates who are of a different gender or gender nonconforming.

“Being an effeminate gay man, I was worried about being accepted by roommate when doing ROAR (Residents Online Access to Rooms) last year. I lucked out and got a roommate who was open-minded, but I know some people aren’t as lucky. I knew that I would have liked gender-neutral housing, so I am happy College Avenue is offering it next year. I think it is a really awesome option for anyone whether they are LGBTQ or an ally,” said MU student, Cameron T.

The University of Missouri is not the first to add a gender-neutral housing option. According to Minor, about 150 universities nationwide have incorporated similar plans; including Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville. However, allowing incoming freshmen the option to select the space is what sets MU apart from the rest. Of the 16 spaces, four will be reserved for freshmen, who sign up for housing starting in April. Minor said plans for expanding the housing option will depend on student demand.

“In the past, those students who are gender nonconforming are really starting to explore that in college because they have more freedoms being away from home for the first time,” Minor said. “But it’s happening younger and younger, as our country is understanding it and as these students are seeing more support networks.”

He said there is nothing preventing twins of two genders or a heterosexual couple from living together. The latter equalizes the fact that students in homosexual relationships have had the chance to live together for years in MU residence halls, Minor said. But the point of this housing option is to create a safe space for transgender students, which is stressed in the agreement students sign.

“We’re not saying that all of our gender nonconforming/transgender students need to live in this housing,” Minor said. “But if they want to live in an environment where they won’t stand out but be welcomed and supported, this is the place for them.”