Unlike home — where there’s likely not much choice in the matter — there’s a variety of housing options at college. Currently, colleges and universities are increasingly offering LGBT and gender-neutral housing.
What is Gender-Neutral/LGBT Housing?
Simply put, gender-neutral/LGBT housing allows you to opt for a more compatible roommate instead of a randomly-selected student. Northeastern University describes this option as when “two or more students share a multiple-occupancy apartment or suite regardless of the students’ sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression.” LGBT/gender-neutral housing represents an evolution in college housing.
The idea behind this housing strategy is that this kind of living environment will be more welcoming, inclusive, and comforting for students. It was initially designed to accommodate lesbian, gay, and transgender students who felt more comfortable rooming with someone of the opposite gender, but it was later expanded to include anyone who requested it.
What makes it different from regular campus housing?
According to NYU bylaws, even using the term “co-ed” is not gender inclusive.
“It leaves little room for the progressive theories on gender, and no room for those who do not identify as their biological sex or those who are transgender. [The] idea of gender-neutral housing is based on the notion that there are more than two genders, in fact, an infinite amount. Allowing for gender-neutral housing, as opposed to co-ed, shows more inclusiveness and room for diverse identities.”
The top schools that offer gender-neutral housing
There is no consistent policy across all schools. The Human Rights Campaign has a list of schools that offer gender-neutral housing. To get an idea of the differences, here are some of the top schools in the country listed in alphabetical order:
Incoming first-year students are not eligible for gender-neutral housing. All suites and certain apartments have the option of being gender-neutral, and designated suites and double rooms are made available in the housing lottery and are selected in the same manner as all other housing units.
To ensure that no student accidentally opts in without fully understanding the option, the Office of Residential Life contacts each student individually before assigning roommates. A student who opts in will always be placed with another student who has elected gender-neutral housing.
Students are required to watch a short educational video before applying for gender-neutral housing at Cornell. Students must elect to be assigned and sign up via the housing lottery by indicating their interest, participants in the general room selection aren’t allowed.
Duke is the first university to have an LGBT-inclusive admissions question on the undergraduate application, and the fourth university nationwide to make explicit mention of sexual orientation and gender identity on the application. The admissions office has an LGBT liaison on staff to aid students with their applications.
A four-year gender-neutral housing program is extended across the three campuses.
Students may select a roommate of any sex or gender and request an assignment in suite-style or apartment-style housing, but this isn’t guaranteed. If necessary, assignments may be made on a case-by-case basis. Prospective or current students interested in gender-neutral housing are asked to contact one of two staff members to discuss available housing options.
Students can identify as LGBT on the housing application during their first year of college, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be matched with another student who has done the same. Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors may request to form mixed-gender room groups, but all must voluntarily agree. Students must direct all requests to the House Administrator. Requests are addressed and managed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all circumstances including space constraints.
Any student who is eligible for the Undergraduate Housing Reapplication and room selection process has the opportunity to select this housing option. It is not available to first-year students living inFirst Year Resident Experience (FYRE) communities, but the gender identity assignment preference is still part of the first year application and assignment process.
Gender-neutral housing is available to juniors and seniors during the room selection process. Incoming students who have recently been admitted can indicate an interest on their housing applications and will be contacted by a staff member for a follow-up interview. Housing is offered in pre-determined rooms and apartments throughout campus with both single and double bedroom options at a range of prices.
Only juniors and seniors can reside in gender-neutral housing. One building is entirely gender-neutral as are select rooms in other dorms. Sophomores can choose their own rooms via the room draw, but singles are the only gender-neutral option and may not always be available during lottery time. Incoming students can request a single, which isn’t guaranteed.
Gender-neutral housing is available for the academic year. Students apply through the draw or lottery as normal and select the housing locations. Transgender students can apply through a confidential process; interested students should contact Student Housing Assignments.
Although Tulane doesn’t provide gender-inclusive housing, it offers two “Living Learning Communities” that are dedicated to multicultural, gender, and sexual diversity. Mo’ 5 offers first-year students the experience of living in this community and the Willows of Culture House offers juniors and seniors this opportunity. Tulane says regardless of where students would like to live, it will do everything to accommodate, including helping find the best room and roommate assignment.
Unity House, a residence hall, is unique. It’s a pioneer in its focus on gender, sexuality, and academic connections to the Gender and Women’s Studies Department and LGBT studies minor. A live-in “Theme Program Assistant” provides resources and support for community residents. Unity House residents are expected to spend two to four hours a week engaged in theme program activities. A feature of the program is the gender-inclusive roommate option, which can be accommodated if there’s space available. To participate, students must explain their preference for Unity House in a short essay on the housing application.
Housing options include the Gender-Inclusive Living Experience, a cluster of rooms on the East Quad that focuses on community, support, and learning. Roommates are encouraged to self-select.
Gender-neutral housing is available to first year students. Room assignments are made without regard to roommate gender.