Safe and Inclusive: How and why Senate’s Diversity Chairs are creating gender neutral housing

Pixie Rock, Senate Diversity Chair, '19

Pixie Rock, Senate Diversity Chair, ’19

It’s possible that there will be a new floor implemented in one of the St. Kate’s residence halls. Pixie Rock, an ACTC Anthropology major, ‘19, is half of the Diversity Chair in Student Senate and has been advocating for a safe community for those who identify as trans* (the asterisk indicates a variety of identities under this umbrella) or whose gender identity doesn’t fit the gender binary (male/female) system that exists in our society. Their solution? Create gender neutral housing on campus in order to be more inclusive of all students who want the experience of living on campus.

“[Gender neutral means] recognizing that the gender binary is really harmful to men, women, and people who identify outside of the gender binary,” said Rock. They continue to say, “It’s very constricting… It’s a way for us to include everyone regardless of how they identify. It’s an all-inclusive term so that all of us feel welcome and cared about.”

On a tour for high school juniors and seniors, Rock asked their tour guide how trans* and non-binary students are accommodated in residence hall living and was surprised to find that St. Kate’s had no accommodation for these students and really didn’t have any gender-inclusive safe spaces around campus.

“To find out that the college of my choosing didn’t offer [accommodations] was really disappointing. It wasn’t even an option,” said Rock.

During Spring Semester, the Diversity Committee in Senate started working on gathering information about what Gender Neutral housing looks like on other campuses both in and out of the Twin Cities and what the logistics (e.g. costs) for providing this housing option were. The information is being used to form a case for why gender neutral housing is a necessary implementation on campus.

When gender neutral housing is implemented, the floor in one of the residence halls would need a Resident Advisor who is trained into [using gender neutral language] and handle the realities that come with the lives of trans* people and non-binary people.

“Honestly, it’s just a floor. It looks exactly the same. Instead of [a sign saying ‘Women’ on the bathroom] there would be a sign saying ‘Restroom.’  The door [decorations] would have the preferred names [of students].” Said Rock.

The floor is meant to create a safe space for trans* and non-binary students on campus, not to create a living space exclusively for LGBT+ Katies. There aren’t any spaces on campus for non-binary students the way there are for LGBT+ students. The floor is about having the space for those experiencing physical changes if students are experiencing changes that sometimes trans* people go through in order to have their bodies match their identities and also to have a guaranteed safe area for all residents to express themselves in the way they are most comfortable. It is also a way to build community and support between residents who opt to live on this floor.

There is more work to be done before the floor is implemented.

“[Residence] Life has to okay it and Administration has to okay it,” said Rock.

The Diversity Committee has been having trouble since February getting in touch with Residence Life to start talking about this plan.
Rock’s plan is to make this floor an option for residents by Spring 2017. Living on this floor will be opt-in and will initially be advertized as interest housing the way Gryffindor Tower in Caecilian Hall and the Honors Floor in Carondelet are advertized. Students who wish to live in a gender neutral space will mark their interest in living there and would not automatically be placed there.

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