Mandating Same-Sex Dorm Rooms Ignores Queer Students

The typical dorm experience involves being in a cramped room with a member of the same sex, walking down the hallway to use a disgusting bathroom, and living on a hall full of other rowdy, often drunk students, who are all of the same sex. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?

While some people cling to traditional dorm living, others are urging colleges to provide more options. And colleges are responding to students’ wishes, tailoring the college experience to meet the needs of diverse groups of students. Some universities have housing options that include apartment living, co-ed floors, and single-person dorm rooms.

Many colleges even offer gender-neutral housing. Recently, a student from Michigan State University proposed that the school allow co-ed dorm rooms. The proposal wouldn’t randomly assign people of the opposite sex in the same dorm room, but allows two students of the opposite sex to choose to live together.

The proposal, much like other efforts to create co-ed dorm rooms, has stirred up controversy. But objections to co-ed dorm rooms are based on heteronormative assumptions and stereotypes about gender and sexuality. Those who object to a man and woman living together often ask “What if a couple rooms together? Should universities be supporting this type of living situation?”

This type of thinking is outdated and illogical. Concerns about co-ed dorm rooms are based on naive assumptions. The truth is that opposite-sex roommates will not necessarily have a sexual relationship (regardless of their sexual orientation) and same-sex roommates might have a sexual relationship. Policies that only allow for single-sex dorm rooms ignore LGBT students and straight men and women who have non-sexual friendships.

Gender-neutral housing is particularly appealing to LGBT students, who don’t necessarily adhere to the gender-binary or stereotypical sex roles. Many LGBT students feel more comfortable living with someone of the opposite sex. Also, sex-segregated housing can be problematic for genderqueer students or transgender students who have not yet fully transitioned.

Two consensual adults should be able to live together regardless of their sex. Colleges should drop their homophobic, sexist policies and allow students to choose who they’d like to live with. Luckily, the gender-neutral housing movement has made progress. Supporters of co-ed dorm rooms have rallied behind the cause, starting activist networks such as the National Student Genderblind Campaign. Now, more than 30 colleges offer gender-neutral housing.

Photo credit: borman818