In general, most colleges and universities are allowed to implement, change and structure their housing programs as they see fit. While there are still many schools that prefer to stick to the traditional same-sex dorms, a growing number of campuses are beginning to implement gender neutral/gender inclusive housing options for students. This alternative provides much more freedom and allows students to live in dorms or other similar housing facilities with members of the opposite sex, including the opportunity to have a roommate of the opposite sex.
As popular as this new type of housing program has grown lately, sometimes further measures need to be taken in order for colleges to accommodate the needs of all its students. Individuals identifying themselves as “transgendered” are faced with their own challenges on this topic. Even though there are housing options that make living arrangements on campuses comfortable for students that are gay, lesbian and bisexual, it is the transgender group that has experienced its own obstacles when choosing a housing program that is sensitive to their situation.
The University of South Florida is one college that has made leeway on this matter by offering students the chance to opt for transgender housing programs. In the past, students had only two options to choose from when selecting their preferred housing arrangements: male or female. By adding “transitioning” as a third option, USF is notified of the student’s situation, giving them the opportunity to extend whatever resources and assistance is required to make sure the transitioning student’s needs are met as they relate to their living accommodations and who they can choose as a roommate. Under the current transgender housing program at USF, transitioning students can pick whether to live alone or with a male or female roommate. The change in the housing program at the University of South Florida was implemented after a transgendered student brought their negative housing experience to the attention of the college.
While this step is a first for the University of South Florida and the state, it is not the first time a college has introduced and followed through on the concept of offering students transgender housing programs. Other colleges and universities that have been actively doing this include the University of Minnesota, Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin, UC Riverside and Ithaca College. These campuses believe in not just providing a safe and welcoming housing program for all of its students, they take the extra step of implementing what is known as LGBTA (which is short for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered Ally) living-learning programs.
These types of programs also allow students the chance to live with others of the same or opposite sex in environments that are respectful and sensitive to the LGBT community. Housing arrangements with LGBTA living-learning programs implemented typically offer students gender-neutral rooms and bathrooms. Colleges and universities with these housing programs include UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, Syracuse University, the University of Iowa, Tufts University and the University of Vermont, to name a few.