Crystal Wang ’25 is planning to major in English and History. In addition to being a copy editor for the Flat Hat, she writes for the DoGStreet Journal and is a member of WM Archery.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.
It has come to my attention that gender-inclusive housing for students is not guaranteed for the next academic year. The Flat Hat recently released an article about the new housing policy and upon reading the article, I am not impressed with Residence Life.
It comes as no surprise that ResLife has been bad at its job this year: closing One Tribe Place, inducing a housing crisis for upperclassmen, not contacting those upperclassmen about their housing crisis, reopening One Tribe Place once they noticed their major oopsie, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong, ResLife has a hard job and, if rumors are to be believed, they have a lot of new staff this year.
But they had one job: to make sure that students have a safe place to live. They had one job and somehow failed to do it. However, the issue of gender-inclusive housing not being guaranteed is not new. I reached out to ResLife after reading The Flat Hat article, inquiring about what is happening with gender-inclusive housing. They wrote back in an email that “Gender Inclusive Housing is not guaranteed in any year.”
This was alarming since I was under the impression that those who needed gender-inclusive housing would receive it. Not guaranteeing gender-inclusive housing for gender nonconforming students is like a slap to the face. It implies that the needs of those students aren’t guaranteed to be met. It implies that the needs of those students are not as important as the needs of other students.
Furthermore, having gender-inclusive housing isn’t just a comfort issue; it is a safety issue. Not being able to room with people who affirm your gender identity could tank a person’s mental health. Someone who doesn’t fully identify as a man rooming with a bunch of men or someone who doesn’t fully identify as a woman rooming with a bunch of women when they don’t want to isn’t okay. It actively denies their gender identity. Transgender people are already much more likely to have anxiety and depression, issues that plague the College of William and Mary’s history. Denying their gender identity only makes the issue worse.
While I don’t totally consider myself a woman, it is not affecting my mental health to room with and use the same bathroom as people who do consider themselves women. However, I am not the blueprint; not every transgender or gender-nonconforming person is the same. While I would be comfortable with rooming with people who don’t share my exact gender identity, I know people who would not be. I know people who didn’t go to an all-women’s college despite being assigned female at birth because it would not be gender-affirming. I know a current College student whose housing situation is affecting their mental health because it is not gender-affirming. This is an actual issue that some people face.
ResLife tried to justify this in the same email by writing that “this year (and in prior Flexible Housing years) we have not run out of eligible spaces during the room selection process.” This implied that this situation had yet to be a problem. But I still see a problem. If giving people gender-inclusive housing has never been an issue, then why not just guarantee it? Why still dangle the possibility of not having gender-inclusive housing in front of people like a threat?
There are two possible answers. The first is that there aren’t enough rooms with private or suite bathrooms available to accommodate everyone in the future. The second is that, to ResLife, the issue of guaranteed gender-inclusive housing isn’t even important enough to be a blip on their radar. I hope for the sake of ResLife that the answer is the former.
Gender-inclusive housing should be guaranteed. Transgender students and gender-nonconforming students deserve to feel just as safe and just as seen as everyone else.