Post submitted Brennan Suen, HRC Youth & Campus Intern

Last year, after more than a year of student pressure, University of North Carolina (UNC)-Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved a “gender-neutral” student housing option that was scheduled to begin this fall. This option would allow students, including transgender students, to live in suite-style dorms with members of the opposite gender. These students would share a common living area and bathroom but would not share a bedroom.

Despite student and trustee support, the UNC Board of Governors, which presides over the 17 campuses in the UNC system, voted unanimously last week to overturn this policy and ban students of opposite genders from sharing suites or apartments in any UNC housing:

“The constituent institutions shall not assign members of the opposite sex to any institutionally owned and operated dormitory room, dormitory suite, or campus apartment unless the students are siblings, parent and child, or they are legally married.”

LGBT student advocacy group Campus Pride organized a small protest at the meeting, but many students were home for the summer and unable to participate. The Board of Governors denied requests for UNC students to speak at the meeting and for moving the meeting to the fall, when the policy could be discussed more in-depth.

Same-gender housing does not always fit the diverse needs of students, especially those who identify as transgender or transitioning. "Gender-neutral" housing is an important option for LGBT students, who may face harassment or exclusion in traditional housing. These policies allow these students to live in spaces where they feel comfortable, respected and included.

The HRC’s groundbreaking 2012 report of 10,000 LGBT-identified youth, “Growing up LGBT in America,” found that pre-college LGBT youth face significant challenges compared to their peers. It is often up to colleges to create safe spaces for students who are escaping less-welcoming home environments and families.

The HRC Foundation’s Youth and Campus Engagement Program has a wealth of resources for students, whether they are looking to increase campus activism, find scholarships or establish inclusive policies and groups.

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