Coed Dorms Promise Comfortable Future for LGBT Students

For centuries, the distinction between "man" and "woman" has been a readily accepted convention. Yet, with modern culture constantly seeking political progressivism, the once-defined line between genders is a bit blurry. In keeping with this trend, many universities have adopted gender-neutral dormitory policies to ease tension and provide more options for students.

For many universities, on-campus dormitories provide students with a convenient and safe alternative to off-campus housing. While many students find on-campus living to be most convenient as opposed to other options, the possibility of being paired with a complete stranger can make this prospect slightly uncomfortable. Considering this, many universities are concerned with roommate compatibility in regards to lifestyle and gender.

Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., is one among roughly 50 universities across the country that has adopted gender-neutral housing, according to the Los Angeles Times. Others include UC Riverside, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Cornell, Dartmouth, Sarah Lawrence, Haverford, Wesleyan and the University of Michigan.

Universities have, for centuries, strictly enforced gender specification among on-campus dormitories. While these arbitrarily drawn lines have been accepted for the most part, many universities still fail to consider questions of gender identity with regard to student housing.

Andrea Elzy, a USC master's student in Higher Education and Student Affairs, feels gender-neutral dorms are essential. "The reality is that, as society progresses, we are seeing more of an acceptance of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) identities," she said. "Universities should aptly prepare for students who may not identify as one gender or another. The absence of space for those students is unacceptable."

Although this has continued to shock conservatives, gender-neutral policies have been enacted at educational institutions as early as the 1970s, with some universities instituting coed hallways, then bathrooms, and now dormitories, the Times reported.

While some universities have adopted these policies, the question of allowing coed housing on campus is ultimately an issue that should be left for students to decide. In keeping with America's democratic foundations, universities should implement the same political philosophies and give students the right to make a decision that directly affects their educational and social experience at school. Allowing students to choose with whom they want to live, regardless of gender, is vital for creating a comfortable environment on campus.

Considering the continual and expanding presence of LGBT communities in the public consciousness, gender-neutral housing is an issue that needs to be taken into account. It is a step toward a more equitable society. Gender is now being viewed more as a spectrum of identity, rather than the traditional concepts of "man" and "woman."

It is becoming increasingly important to find a safe and comfortable space for people who don't fit into customary gender roles. The rights of these people need not only be considered, but approached with respect and understanding. With the increasing presence of gender in popular and progressive culture, the concept of gender neutrality is one that should be implemented not just in schools but in all aspects of American life.