I ran across an interesting topic in my e-mail box today. Goddard sent out their policy on gender-neutral housing and I wanted to share it with all of you.
I have always wondered how transgendered students (also known as transsexuals) feel when they have to share dorms with non-transgendered students. I would imagine a few awkward situations might arise, and not everyone is tolerate of differences among people.
Goddard’s solution to this dilemma was to designate a dorm, or as many dorms as necessary, as “gender neutral.” As you shall see, this is more than simply a co-ed dorm. This dorm is totally neutral to gender differences among students. No student will be housed in gender-neutral housing unless that student specifically requests this housing. As for myself, I would prefer to stay in a dorm with other women. I don’t want to walk out of my room and come face to face with a guy in his underwear.
So, here is the policy.
“Goddard’s goal is to make the diverse college community a safe and welcoming space for all people. There are many ways to create a welcoming community; from sensitively reflecting on our own and other’s identities, to improving buildings, grounds, and housing options in ways that ensure people are as comfortable as possible. This residency cycle, for example, we will offer gender-neutral housing.
“What is gender-neutral housing?
“Gender-neutral housing allows same-gender roommates, opposite-gender roommates, other gender-expression roommate pairings, and their allies, regardless of physical sex, to room together. In particular, Goddard, like other colleges around the nation, understands that single-sex housing leaves transgender students without a safe or comfortable housing option. We have studied the advances of other progressive colleges and consulted with Goddard students and professionals. We believe our approach will meet the needs of Goddard students. (To clarify, gender identities are numerous and include male, female, and transgender, among many others.) Thus, residents of gender-neutral housing may request any roommate whosoever.
“How will gender-neutral housing work?
• Placement priority will be given to students that request gender-neutral housing and/or notify residency staff of their need for housing sensitive to their gender identity/gender expression
• Single rooms (when available) and doubles will be options.
• If a student wishes to live in a double room in gender-neutral housing but does not request a particular roommate, they are asked to get in touch with the housing staff at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss their preferences.
Gender-neutral housing will feature lockable, single-person restrooms and shower facilities, providing privacy.
“Will gender-neutral housing affect other policies and practices at the college?
“No student will be required to live in gender-neutral housing. We will continue to offer a variety of housing options to all Goddard students including queer friendly space as well as single sex housing.
“How can I help make sure our community is welcoming for all?
“We ask that all residents of this dormitory as well as of any other Goddard College dorms, continue to build a healthy community by supporting common standards of civility and respect regarding diverse gender identities, expressions and sexual orientations as noted in the Community Life Agreements.”
Some people with mental illnesses feel comfortable only with other people with mental illnesses. I can understand why. We have a special understanding among each other. We have all experienced hostility from our non-mentally ill peers in some form or another. I recall–I know I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll mention it again–the time when someone said to me, upon our making acquaintance, “So, when you first became ill, did you lose all your friends?” And sure enough, yes, I had lost all my friends, and all the other mentally ill people in the room had lost all of their friends upon becoming ill. And in this way we shared a bond that we couldn’t possibly share with members of the larger community that didn’t have this experience.
The only reason I’m making this parallel–between transgender and mental illness–is that mental illness is something that sets me apart from others. For the transgendered person, that is what sets that person apart more than anything else, I would imagine, though perhaps I’m assuming too much.
Mental illness is very isolating. For me this was mostly because of what was going on in my head. The illness made me painfully shy. I am still shy. I tend to stick to myself and not trust anyone. Sometimes I get paranoid (see previous article on paranoia). Paranoia is the loneliest illness of all.
I imagine that it’s very isolating to be transgendered. It must be incredibly tough to be transgendered in a politically conservative (“religious right”) community in this country, or in other countries where transsexuality is not tolerated or is forbidden by law. It must be incredibly tough to be transgendered in any community.
I imagine that, common to both scenarios, friends and family may back away, employers may discriminate. Society has its way of poking fun at both the mentally ill and people who are transgendered, in advertising and the media, and showing us as objects of disgust and deformity.
Needless to say, I don’t think it’s necessary for a college to have a “mental-state-neutral dorm;” in fact, it would probably be a bad idea. Sounds like something a little pscyhedelic, doesn’t it?
One can only hope that people are as trustworthy and faithful as possible, that one’s friends stick around through the rough spots, and that when all is lost, when one’s friends have given one up, one can come home to a happy, welcoming, trustworthy, faithful dog instead.
Puzzle says, “When in doubt, squat on a few lawns.”