Letter to the Editor: Sex, Gender, Not the Same
The following letter was written in response to “Co-ed Dorm Rooms Are Inappropriate” (Feb. 5, 2009, the Bullet).
I just read the column in the Bullet concerning the Gender Neutral Housing Community for next year.
Beyond my initial blind rage over Rebekah Anderson bringing politics and debates of morality into the discussion, and the fact that someone is saying these things to potential students and their parents, I realized that the article was based around some serious misconceptions.
First, there is a difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.
Basically, to whom an individual is attracted and the way in which an individual presents themself are completely unrelated. LGBT stands for “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” and “transgender.” The first three have to do with sexual orientation; the last has to do with gender identity.
Yes, the communities are related, but being transgender is not the same as being gay. Some transgender people are straight.
This housing is about gender identity.
Second, there needs to be some clarification as to the reasons behind the housing. I know most of the people on the planning committee, and I even took part in some of it.
I was there for the discussions of why this is needed.
Imagine this scenario:
You are biologically female but you do not identify as a woman.
You are signing up for campus housing without a specific roommate, like many students do. You must apply as female because only sex, not gender, is counted when it comes to housing. You have all of the usual worries about a random roommate, such as whether or not your roommate will like to party until all hours of the night of if your roommate will “borrow” your last package of Ramen without asking.
You also have to worry as to whether your random roommate will call you by your preferred pronouns, or if your roommate will be uncomfortable or even outright hostile with you because your gender and your sex don’t quite line up the way people expect.
As one such individual whose gender identity does not perfectly match up with biological sex, I know how stressful this situation can be.
I can only imagine the stress for people who use other pronouns or a different name from their birth name, etc.
The Gender Neutral Housing Community is designed to alleviate these fears.
It is a specific living community that one must apply for, similar to a scholar’s community or a foreign language living community.
Anyone who does not want to be there absolutely will not be housed there.
This gender neutral housing is a way to know that your roommate will not call you derogatory names because of your gender identity.
It has nothing to do with wanting to live with your significant other.
It has everything to do with personal safety and comfort.
While I personally find it unfair that we do not have male-only buildings, we have all-female buildings for both freshmen and upperclassmen (Virginia and Ball Halls).
I do not know Rebekah Anderson or her class status, but if she is not graduating this year, I would strongly suggest looking into these particular dorms.
Priscilla Appel is a junior.