What do Cal Tech, San Diego State University, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and UC Riverside have in common that USC does not? All of these schools provide some form of gender-neutral housing, an important housing policy that more and more schools are beginning to adopt.
Gender-neutral housing is not a new issue on the USC campus. In 2011, students pushed for this policy change, demonstrating a strong backing from the student body. The USC administration has dragged its feet, however, leaving behind part of the Trojan community and leaving our university behind other top schools around the country.
USC currently has “gender inclusive” housing, a sort of compromise from earlier efforts. This option is only available on the Rainbow Floor, a special interest community for LGBT students located at Century Apartments, and still requires that a student room with another student of the same gender in their bedroom. The only difference is that you can share the apartment with students of another gender. For example, two students registered as female and rooming together could share the same apartment as two other students registered as male and rooming together. The female and male students, however, are not allowed to live in the same bedroom. In other words, there is little that is gender neutral about this policy. For students whose registered gender does not match their gender identity, they are put between a rock and a hard place — either they room with people they might not be comfortable with, or they leave USC housing for other housing options.
As a transgender female student on campus, I was unable to apply for USC housing last year with my female friends. Though all of us wanted to live together, the university would not allow me to live with them in USC housing because I was registered as a male student at the time. Despite the fact that I planned to return to the university as a female student, my choice with USC housing was to either live in a male space I was not comfortable with, live alone or come out publicly before I was ready and live in LGBTQ special housing with a man. We ended up pursuing housing options outside of USC.
The current proposal for gender-neutral housing is simple. USC should allow apartments and suite-style living to be used for gender-neutral housing. Gender-neutral housing would be allowed as an opt-in feature, ensuring that only students who are comfortable with and desire to live in gender-neutral housing will be living there. This proposal would not require the creation or modification of any housing, merely a policy change in how roommates are assigned.
This is not just a policy for transgender or gender-nonconforming students. This policy would benefit all USC students by allowing them to live in the spaces and with the people they are most comfortable with. That means the majority of the student body could continue living with roommates of the same gender, while students who prefer gender-neutral housing could make use of it. The proposal would not cost USC any money, nor would it limit housing options. It’s time USC adopted gender-neutral housing so that we might continue to ensure that all students can live in a safe and comfortable space at this wonderful university.
Junior, computational neuroscience