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Posted on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

University of Michigan to offer limited gender-neutral housing

By Kellie Woodhouse


A new gender-neutral housing program will begin in East Quadrangle in the fall.

University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library

University of Michigan housing will set aside a block of gender-neutral rooms for transgender and gender non-conforming students in fall 2013.

Twelve beds will be included in the new Gender Inclusive Living Experience program, to be located in the 860-bed East Quadrangle, which is undergoing a $116 million renovation.

The program is U-M's first step toward an official gender-neutral housing policy, which several students have advocated for over the course of nearly four years.

Under current practices, students are assigned roommates of the same gender, although housing has offered exceptions for transgender students on a case-by-case basis since 2005.

"There has been growing interest over the last several years with providing a more inclusive environment for all students," said Peter Logan, communications director for housing.

Last year U-M placed 7 students who asked about transgender and gender non-conforming accommodation. Logan said between three to five students were accommodated in previous years.

Under a broad gender-neutral housing policy, students could chose roommates of any gender. In 2010, a group of students approached housing with an open housing proposal. In its most liberal form, the proposal allowed for men and women of any sexual orientation to chose roommates of the opposite gender.

"We weren't prepared to go that far, yet," said Logan, explaining that the GILE program "felt like a comfortable step in that right direction of at least making some accommodation" for students with non-traditional gender identity.

"It's something we wanted to get into deliberately and carefully, because we haven't had much experience in this area," he continued.

Some colleges, including Columbia University and George Washington University, have implemented broad open housing policies. Most colleges that allow for gender-neutral housing, however, review requests case-by-case or have limited programs. Some schools, such as Grinnell College, Michigan State University and Syracuse University, earmark a certain number of their dorm rooms for gender-neutral housing.

With the GILE program, only students who identify as transgender or gender-non conforming may request a roommate of any gender. Their roommate of choice does not have to be transgender. Students who want to participate in the program will apply and be interviewed by housing.

"It gives us an opportunity to study with those students how the process works," Logan said of the GILE program, "We feel [gender-neutral housing] has promise, otherwise we wouldn't be doing this."

Students in the program will have access to a gender-neutral bathroom. Most residence hall bathrooms are restricted to specific genders.

Jackie Simpson, director of U-M's Spectrum Center, a resource for LGBT students, noted that the new GILE program is one of several unique living experiences offered by housing. For example, the university has a residence program for entrepreneurs and a newly-created program for veterans.

"What the environment is going to provide for everybody is an opportunity for support and dialogue and engagement around gender and what gender means in today's society," Simpson said, adding that the GILE program was created after a "long process."

Simpson says she expect U-M to eventually adopt a broad gender-neutral housing policy.

"These things take some time. If you go back to the 1960s, men and women didn't live in the same residence hall and men had to wait at the front desk if they were interested in visiting a woman," Simpson recalled. "Social systems do take time to change, but I don't have any doubt that U-M will continue to grow and learn in this area."

Transgender and gender non-conforming students who want special housing but don't want to live in East Quad can still request other gender-neutral housing options.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.


buvda fray

Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 12:52 a.m.

I am finally ready to publicly admit that I have always identified as a millionaire. Now it is up to all of society to step up in a socially responsible manner and give me everything I need to finally live that life. Thank you for making me whole.

Scott Reed

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 6:48 p.m.

I think all dorms should be gender-neutral by default. I don't see any good reason for artificial gender segregation anywhere.


Mon, Jan 28, 2013 : 5:30 a.m.

@ Bob, read the ENTIRE sentence before commenting. ARTIFICIAL GENDER SEGREGATION. Men and women do NOT naturally segregate themselves away from each other, In fact the opposite tends to happen. The fact that the U artificially segregates people is wrong

Basic Bob

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 8:37 p.m.

Please explain this concept of artificial gender. For the vast majority of people, gender is all natural.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

42,716 students. But let's make sure that seven of them feel included.

Basic Bob

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

That's what I was thinking. And next year they will all decide that no matter the gender, the dorms are not nearly as nice as a slummy off-campus apartment. Which will leave room for the next 7.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

I am neutral about this but the first thing I want to know when I see the headline and start the article is: How many people are we talking about here? Appears to be missing. The only indicator on numbers I get is 12 beds in East Quad and 7 students accommodated last year. Those numbers are quite small and I am surprised that the U is acting on an issue that affects so few students. The alternative is to live off campus and live however you wish, and that option is already available and does not cause some collection of UM staff to schedule meetings to think out this policy and come up with titles and terms that make some of us wonder "what the heck does that mean?" Also I think that if the U is willing to do so much soul searching and accommodating for a few students, they will have to do so with any collection of a few students with some other social agenda they hope to have fulfilled, be it an NRA members floor or whatever hobby lobby that might come up. Would it not be insensitive to refuse to cater to all students with their wishes when you cater to one? After your first year, when you are put in a room with someone, you can pick your room mate and put in for another room for the following year, so people with similar lifestyles can do that now can't they?


Mon, Jan 28, 2013 : 5:38 a.m.

The idea is to have GENDER NEUTRAL housing for all. The U has decided to test it on a small sampling. Why is that bad? I wonder if you feel making special provisions for blind or deaf students are worthy of the time people put into it? How about the extra time put in to accommodate those that use wheelchairs. Tell us what the magic number is so we all know how many of a certain kind is appropriate before we make efforts for them? This is not a lifestyle o belief system, this is who they are. The U makes all forms of accommodations for people's CHOICES like religion,


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

This is backward policy. Why add to someone's confusion by making it seem normal?


Mon, Jan 28, 2013 : 5:40 a.m.

1. It is not CONFUSION 2. It is as normal as anything else. I guess you would say that a blind person is not normal, so we should not add to their confusion by allowing them have braile booms, since it isnt NORMAL. RIDICULOUS


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 3:42 a.m.

For college age youth? Well, maybe housing for gender neutered students would work. ;-)

Wolf's Bane

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:14 a.m.

Gender Inclusive Living Experience? Gender included? Good luck. As far as I can tell you have men and women; doesn't really matter how they started (man or woman). The only thing that matters is what they believe they are now. So, how does this help? Someone explain to this to me like I'm a seventh grader?


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:56 p.m.

I think I am with you Wolf. I find this article a little confusing with all the terms created. I thought that the issue was students want rooms for men and women to be room mates, like boyfriend/girlfriend. But this article seems to be heavily pointed to transgender students and gender non-conforming, a term I have not heard of yet. I have to look up gender non conforming I I did, at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and it appears the terms are somewhat one and the same. If there is a difference perhaps a reader will tell us what it is.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

Please do some reading:


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 11:07 p.m.

The gender neutral housing that was part of former UM student body president, Chris Armstrong's, agenda was proposed to include all students regardless of sexual orientation because the proponents wanted to claim that they were not asking for "special rights" for LGBT students. However, the broader policy would allow unmarried couples to co-habitate. What happens if the couple breaks up? Do they have to wait until the end of the year or the end of the semester to change roomates? That seems like a recipe for domestic violence. This really gets into both practical and moral issues that are really not the Univesity's business. Perhaps Shirvell was right about Armstrong and his colleaques having a "radical homsexual rights agenda".


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:35 a.m.

It works EXACTLY the same way if students broke up and they were living OFF CAMPUS< or if they were NON-students and happened to live together, OR even if let's say a husband and wife DIVORCE and there is a lease involved. I know this is hard for you to understand, but students who live in dorms are still PEOPLE. They may hate their roommates, may live with people then break up. If they break the housing lease they are still responsible to pay, so let;s here more of your "radiccal" homosexual agenda junk.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 11:56 p.m.

perhaps, but your "agenda" seems to be one of bigotry.

Elaine F. Owsley

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 11 p.m.

FYI in the mid to late 1980's an upper floor of the Residential College - Tyler Green - was mixed sex. Guys and girls shared a floor that had previously been all male.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

1980's?? I lived in West Quad in the 70s and I know there were floors in either than dorm or another with both sexes on the same floor. Restrooms were Men or Women, not M and W.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:05 a.m.

"mixed sex", also known as "co-ed", is not the same as gender neutral.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:07 a.m.

Elaine - I lived on 4 Strauss in the early eighties and it was as you describe Tyler Green. I am sure it was nothing new in 1980 and cannot imagine that it has changed much over the last 30 years. Many people had singles, but the doubles and triples were "same sex." Just the floor and the bathrooms (unofficially) were coed.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : midnight

many of the dorms/halls are already like this. That's not what this policy is changing--this is changing how they pair up roommates

Dog Guy

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : midnight

Quite true, but they were not required to use the floor.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 9:32 p.m.

Uh oh, Conservatives view of a strictly divided population are again being challenged! Bring out the bigotry (it's the only thing they have left).

Atlas Shrugged

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

Enso, isn't your sweeping and assinine (in my opinion) comment a manifestation of stereotyping and bigotry? ...the very thing liberals -- or at least you --- apparently loathe but ascribe to conservatives. "All Muslims are.... all gays are... all members of a particular are...." Those sentences wouldn't sit well with you (or me), but it's obviously OK for you to say similar things about conservatives.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 3:40 a.m.

Oh, but haven't you forgot your liberal campaign to isolate and discriminate against gun owners?? Wise up - ideologies are all scams. The only difference is which kind of hypocrites and dupes they cater to. And now we know which kind you are. :-)

Dog Guy

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 9:23 p.m.

Golly gee! Our family unknowingly has had gender-neutral accommodations for generations. If this new Gender Inclusive Living Experience program makes confused students feel more at home or more special, I am all for it.

Elaine F. Owsley

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

Refer to topic of discussion.

Elaine F. Owsley

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 9 p.m.

Check back to the late 1980's.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 9:10 p.m.

Check back for what?


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

What next? Special gender neutral locker rooms at all the pools, sports complexes, etc? Gender neutral bathrooms everywhere? Oh, wait, many places already have those. They are called "Restrooms".


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 3:17 p.m.

UM does not require students at any level to live on campus. However, they STRONGLY encourage it, especially of freshmen. But living in campus housing is not a requirement to attend school there.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

All I'm saying is that many places already have gender neutral restrooms, even hospitals in their lobbies etc. They just say Restroom, with no sex preference given.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

UM DOES require gender neutral restrooms in each building.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:06 a.m.

The difference is, this has to do with where they actually live. Their "home". It is my understanding that UofM has requirements about underclassmen living in their dorms instead off-campus housing. At least they did 10 years ago. And, everybody involved is an adult. All lives deserve respect whether you agree or approve of them or not. Unless, they knowingly and intentionally cause significant harm to others.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 9:30 p.m.

Ah, yes, the ol' Slippery Slope argument. For a self-proclaimed 'Thinker" you certain missed your use of a logical fallacy.

An Arborigine

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:40 p.m.

Does that make UM a "thought leader" in gender-neutral solutions?


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:26 p.m.

This is amazing!!!! If only there were bathrooms for transgender and/or gender conforming students


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 10:22 p.m.

Oops, my bad. Thanks for pointing that out @Kellie!

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 3:42 a.m.

Don't be so insensitive, Steven. It will have a special gnoilet, which looks a little like conventional bathroom facilities, but has been specially designed for the needs of people who may or may not wish to stand while urinating - it's up to them. They're a bit pricy, but less expensive than the gender neutral water-bottle refilling stations.

Steven Taylor

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:54 a.m.

So it'll have a urinal and a toilet?


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:30 a.m.

I think you mean gender NON conforrming

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

There will be one bathroom in the dormitory that will be gender neutral.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:22 p.m.

Wonderful news!

Elaine F. Owsley

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:22 p.m.

This is hardly a new idea, nor is it new to Michigan. Several of the young women who experienced this arrangement we know thought it was an inconvenience.

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:47 p.m.

Yes, there have been case-by-case arrangements since 2005. This is the first time U-M has pursued the idea with a designated program.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:19 p.m.

How is this inclusive? Who cares what people do behind closed doors. Quit treating people differently and calling it inclusive. Gender neutral? Really?


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

Angry I've lived in the A2 area for 50 years and can't remember ever reading about unspeakable acts of violence against transgender people. Are they just not reporting them, or are these happening on the days I don't read the paper? Now I've read countless stories about PEOPLE being assaulted almost daily in A2.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

Well said, Anonymous!


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.

It has absolutely nothing to do with what they do behind closed doors. It's about who they are. Gender is a continuum. Not all people identify as simply male or female. This will allow for people who identify as somewhere in between to feel safe. All humans have the right to feel safe. This is about gender identity, not sexual orientation. Get educated.

Angry Moderate

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:42 a.m.

"Who cares what people do behind closed doors." People who discriminate and commit unspeakable acts of violence against transgender people, who are more likely than anyone else in the country to be murdered.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:30 a.m.

It is inclusive to allow people to live with and as whom they choose. I am all for open housing (anybody can choose to live with whomever), but that is not happening currently, so this is the first step. By the way, I wonder why people aren't complaining about freshman being put together, I mean a student is a student RIGHT? Or MAYBE some students have needs that are not the same as the white picket fence suburbanite


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:19 p.m.

How much is this "program" costing us taxpayers?


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 4:04 a.m.

Johnnya2, The college degree I received using the GI Bill cost me four years of my life. It was part of a contract that American taxpayers agreed to. You're getting a good deal so, no, it's not funny how that doesn't come up.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:28 a.m.

How much is ANY housing costing taxpayers? It is ridiculous to put a price on equality. I am sure when blacks and whites began sharing rooms the first thought would be what does it cost. For the record, there is also a veterans program as well, funny how COST does not come up in that situation, with a person who gets FREE education through the GI bill

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 9:16 p.m.

Peter Logan said there is no financial impact to U-M.

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

I imagine since these students were going to live in dormitory housing anyway, there's not a significant impact financially. I will check with Peter Logan though.