Queens is incorporating gender-neutral housing as a residential option for the Fall 2019 semester.
Taylor Robinson, Queens’ Student Government Association executive president, described gender-neutral housing as suite-style dorm rooms conjoined by shared bathrooms. She said it does not involve males and females living together, but possibly two roommates of the same gender sharing a bathroom with two other roommates of the opposite gender.
Faculty and staff want students to feel satisfied and comfortable while living on campus during their time at Queens, Robinson explained. she added that they were also encouraged by how effective and successful it’s been for other Charlotte universities, such as Johnson C. Smith University and College of Charleston.
Another contributor was the experience Residence Life professional staff brought from other institutions. “Every single one of us has worked at multiple institutions, and I think those experiences brought this awareness,” said Director of Residence Life and Housing Kayla George.
George mentioned how Queens commonly contacts and receives feedback from North Carolina housing officers about different housing policies that have or have not worked at other universities. “So, we’ll ask who’s out there doing gender-neutral housing, and if you can send your policies for us to look over,” she said.
Currently, Queens has been executing a successful trial run for this project idea, Robinson said. It consists of one male student, who’s a resident assistant, and two female students sharing a suite.
After everything is established, gender-neutral housing will be available for all students, Robinson said. However, it will only be applicable to residence halls that are suite-style, such as the new Northwest residence hall.
The LGBTQ+ Community
Robinson said the gender-neutral housing option definitely applies to Queens’ lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other (LGBTQ+) community. She’s also working with Darryl White Sr., assistant dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement (DICE), to create an LGBTQ+ page on MyQueens, so the gender-neutral housing policy will be available there as well.
Queens wants to be inclusive for their LGBTQ+ community and provide them options, George said. She feels they can provide support and comfort for those students who prefer living with a gender that aligns with theirs.
“It’s also our job to advocate for those students,” George said. She revealed how the professional team in Residence Life and Housing have wanted to approach this path for a very long time. “Although there are more steps that we need to take, this was more of cracking the door open, and making sure we’re moving in the right direction.”
“We are definitely listening and trying to respond to the needs of the LGBTQ+ community, who might be pushing for more gender-neutral policies,” said Robinson. SGA is closely working with SAFE, which is a club on Queens’ campus providing LGBTQ+ members information on safety and other resources that will help them feel comfortable on campus.
Also, SGA and the DICE Lounge are working together on ensuring not only inclusion but education to Queens’ student body, regarding the needs of this particular community. “We want to make sure their voices are being heard just as much as any other student,” said Robinson.
George also added that the most non-discriminatory way for permitting students to live on campus is allowing them to choose housing that matches the gender they identify with. “So, if I identify as a woman, I can live in women’s housing at Queens,” she said.
“However, this policy is more about who can I have live with me,” she added. Therefore, if one group gender identifies as men, and another group identifies as women, they can occupy the same suite.
Also, for students who have been marginalized throughout their life, it speaks volumes for them to attend an institution where people understand them, George said. She feels it’s important they have these options and know they are at a university where the people care about them inherently.
Gender-neutral housing will really allow students to room with their chosen peer, and form friendships with other classmates regardless of how they identify, Robinson said, explaining how this will also help them to prepare for the real world, once they start moving into apartments and choosing roommates of any gender.
Robinson hopes all members of the LGBTQ+ community will take advantage of Queens’ gender-neutral housing. Some of their previous dissatisfactions revolved around trying to belong within their own community or simply being unlucky with roommates, she explained. “However, they’re looking forward to this new policy because it will allow more flexibility and being able to choose who they share these spaces with.”
There are students who believe it’s keeping Queens up-to-date alongside other sister universities. “Also, making sure we’re responding to the needs of the student population, being a leader, and including everyone, regardless of race, gender, and ethnicity,” said Robinson
“I feel like these topics are nationally controversial, I think we have a really unique opportunity to stand up and advocate for a particular student population and have them feel seen, valued, and heard,” said George.