Almost four years after LSA senior Amy Navvab successfully pushed the Open Housing Initiative, University Housing has announced plans to start a gender-inclusive living community in East Quad Residence Hall for the fall 2013 semester.
The Gender Inclusive Living Experience will allow students who identity as transgender, gender non-conforming or as allies to choose a roommate of any gender and live with a community of like-minded individuals.
University Housing spokesman Peter Logan said Housing would reserve 12 beds for the community next fall and would work with the Spectrum Center to review applications to live in GILE.
Navvab, chairwoman of the Open Housing Initiative, said she became involved when she realized that students who did not identify with the gender binary and who wanted alternative housing options could only find a comfortable living situation in Northwood Housing.
“It was something that was unjust,” Navvab said.
After work with both the Open Housing Initiative and the Spectrum Center Advocacy Board, students submitted a petition to University Housing to explore more options for gender inclusive housing in 2008.
Jackie Simpson, the director of the Spectrum Center, said the petition sparked a conversation between University Housing and student groups like Central Student Government on how to develop a gender inclusive community beyond the arrangements in Northwood.
“Students were grateful (for Northwood housing) … but they were interested in (the community) being more than what was offered at the time,” Simpson said. “They desired a supportive community based around their gender identity.”
Simpson added that their efforts were met with understanding and passion from the University community.
“Everyone has been very supportive and open to having conversations about providing opportunities and spaces that represent inclusion,” Simpson said.
Navvab echoed Simpson’s comments on the progressive evolution of gender-inclusive housing at the University.
“I think it really helps to have a lot of strong student voices both from students who identity as gender non-conforming as well as students who were allies that thought it was important to create (a) more inclusive student space,” Navvab said.
Navvab added that she thought the Open Housing Initiative could serve as a model for working with the administration to pursue change in the University community.
LSA senior Noel Gordon said gender-inclusive housing represents a huge step in developing a safe space for transgender and gender non-conforming students to live in.
“Having that option available to students will be one step closer to allowing them to feel safe, secure and sort of comfortable in their environment,” Gordon said.
Logan said he was excited about the new gender-inclusive living opportunities because they support the “diverse needs of the student body.”
“This is part of our growing efforts to support gender non-conforming students, and we hope it succeeds and grows,” Logan said.
—Daily Staff Reporter Ashwini Natarajan contributed to this report.