by Olivia Washburne
UT’s LGBTQ students are hoping for a more streamlined and user friendly way to access gender neutral housing on campus for the upcoming housing application process.
Gender inclusive housing is an option for students on campus to room with people of the same and/or different genders. Rather than being forced into same gender housing, it is an accomodation used by many transgender and gender non-conforming students. However, getting approved is a long process for many LGBTQ students on campus, according to Brown.
“It’s not an thing easy for [LGBTQ students] to do, you have go through a lot of different things and requirements to get approved for it,” said Mackenzie Brown, president of the UTampa Pride Club. “They don’t advertise it explicitly on the site for when you’re applying for housing or anything like that so you don’t really know what’s happening. It’s all worded vaguely.”
As reported on UT’s LGBTQ+ Resource page, gender inclusive housing is offered as an option for continuing students, while first year and transfer students may request gender inclusive housing. Once they fill out the application and the option is picked, they will eventually be contacted by a housing director.
“Many students will select interest in gender inclusive housing but are still concerned as to whether or not roommates would be welcoming to a different sex or gender,” said Nora Jarmon, Director of Residence Life. “Other times, incoming students who select these spaces decide to request a single room until they can make connections on campus and find roommates that are open to gender inclusive spaces.”
There are currently 92 students on campus who use gender inclusive housing as of Spring 2019, according to Jarmon.
There has been an issue with couples attempting to use gender neutral housing in order to room together on campus. The wording on UT’s housing applications makes it seem like gender inclusive housing is geared more towards cisgender students who want to room with their friends, rather than a resource for LGBTQ students, according to Brown.
“While students may choose to request a roommate of any sex or gender this program is not intended for romantic couples,” said Jarmon. “It’s intended for students who wish to share a room, suite or apartment with students of a different sex or gender.”
Some UT students say that they can understand why the housing department is strict about the policy because of this.
“I kind of get why they’re so strict about it because obviously you don’t want the whole issue of couples trying to room together,” said Brittney Richards, a junior psychology major. “But even though there are those people, what is really important is for people who are non-binary or trans to be in gender neutral housing it’s just more comfortable for them and I don’t think that they should have to explain themselves in such a way where it’s like they don’t feel comfortable anymore.”
Brown says she is hoping for an easier process for applying for gender inclusive housing in the future.
“I think it would just be good to have in the initial housing application that you just have an option to identify yourself just to the school directly,” said Brown. “So that the priority is given to those students as far as it goes and just having like any good housing but also having first priority for the single dorms as well.”
Olivia Washburne can be reached at Olivia.firstname.lastname@example.org