For many, signing up for housing and living in a dorm is quite simple: students pick out their top residence halls and know what floors they might live on based on their gender.
For transgender students at Bradley, however, this process can be troubling.
Currently, if transgender students choose to live in a campus residence hall, they will be automatically placed based on the gender they were assigned to at birth, not the gender they identify as. This is why Student Senate recently proposed a resolution for transgender students to be housed based on their gender. However, the resolution did not pass with the two-thirds majority it needed.
According to Camille Sanders, sophomore sociology major and incoming Chief of Staff for Student Senate, one argument against the order was that next fall, Wyckoff Hall will feature an open housing floor. This floor will provide gender neutral living for LGBTQ+ students and the use of communal bathrooms, but according to Sanders, transgender students will still face housing limitations.
“Yes, we have an open housing plan already, but some people don’t want to feel like they’re treated special all the time,” Sanders said. “These people just want to live a normal life and be treated as such, so they don’t want to be like, ‘Oh, you can live over there, while everyone else is over here.’”
Sanders wasn’t alone in her thinking, either. Alice Allpow, a senior English creative writing major and outgoing member of Student Senate, said for transgender students to “have to live over here from all the ‘normal’ [cisgender] people is discriminatory,” and that not all transgender students want to live in an open floor.
A “cisgender” individual is defined as a person who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth.
This was just part of the conversation that took place during Student Senate’s General Assembly meeting on April 23. Other dialogue involved the senators speaking on behalf of the Bradley population they represent, however, Allpow said she questioned how much the senators actually took their transgender peers into account.
“A lot of the senators had said how they had talked to their constituents and that they were uncomfortable with the resolution, but I don’t imagine that they had really talked to all of their constituents first of all,” Allpow, a transgender woman, said. “The question that I asked was, ‘did you ask your trans constituents,’ to which they kind of were like, ‘Uh, well…’ and I was like, ‘No you didn’t, because trans students are just as much part of the university and part of those constituencies as anyone else.”’
Sanders agreed that much of the conversation around this order was focused on how cisgender Bradley students would feel living on a floor with a transgender student.
“[The senators] felt their constituents would feel uncomfortable having a transgender roommate,” Sanders said. “My response to that is it’s the same thing as if a roommate was a different religion than you, if your roommate was gay, another race than you: you handle that on your own time. I believe it’s not really something that the school should account for.”
According to Sanders, one of the largest counterarguments for the order was the concern of sharing gendered restrooms with transgender students.
“That’s not for Student Senate to decide because [the order is] just a suggestion,” Sanders said. “That’d be for the University to decide, and the students do have a voice in that, but for the most part it’s the university.”
Oregon State University was cited as a college who excelled in this topic for transgender students. According to the school’s website, students are matched solely based on their gender identity and not the gender they were assigned at birth. Activists at Bradley will continue to push for this resolution or similar ones to be passed.
If a future resolution on the topic were to pass, it would also go through University Senate and potentially the Board of Trustees before becoming an actual part of university policy.
Anyone who is interested in the topic can attend senate committee meetings, which take place on Mondays from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. By going to three meetings, students can become voting members.
Otherwise, Sanders suggest that students talk to their representatives.
“See your senators and talk to them, like ‘Hey I want you to vote yes on this. I want you to support this bill. Or, if you don’t, say you don’t support it. Because really that’s what the senators are there to do, to vote on behalf of their constituents,” Sanders said.