Last week, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students marched the mile from campus to the Board of Governors meeting site to protest the UNC System’s blanket ban, imposed by the board, on gender-neutral housing. InsideHigherEd reports that
“The new policy — which overturned the Chapel Hill Board of Trustees’ endorsement of the housing option — was approved while students were away for the summer under the reasoning that “there are more practical ways” to make students “safe, comfortable and included,” the board chairman said.
“But it sparked outrage among advocates and campus officials concerned for the well-being of transgender students and others who would prefer to live outside traditionally designated pairs for college roommates.
“Among elite institutions, UNC’s move was unusual – many institutions are in fact moving in the opposite direction. There are now about 150 colleges that offer gender-neutral housing, according to a running count by Campus Pride. Granted, that’s out of more than 4,000 institutions – and it’s taken more than 20 years to get to this point.
“But for many of those campuses, whatever controversy ensued when men and women started living together has dissipated, and officials have moved on to more administrative-type policies. Last month, American University became the latest institution to cover gender reassignment surgery under its student health insurance policies.
“We’re seeing a progression. Trans students and allies have been working now for a number of years at many schools to create gender-inclusive bathrooms and gender-inclusive housing options, because those are pretty basic – to have a place to sleep and a place to pee,” said Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the first campus to offer gender-neutral housing, back in 1992. (A recent settlement by the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights suggests colleges would be wise to provide these options.) “They’re looking now to address other important issues, and so gender in name documentation, hormones and surgeries are coming up more and more frequently for schools that have really begun to address transgender issues.”
“Insurance in particular. Several colleges have added transgender surgeries and hormone therapies to their student insurance policies over the last couple of years, with at least 70 in all covering one or both of the expenses. (The additional services add virtually nothing to the cost of premiums.)
“Campus officials say the development of transgender services has been part of a larger inclusion agenda, often driven by students or a single, instrumental staff member.”