Allen residence hall to offer gender-inclusive housing

By Daily Illini Staff Report

Allen Residence Hall will offer gender-inclusive housing to students starting fall semester of 2016.

The residence hall introduced gender-neutral bathrooms this fall in response to student and residence feedback from several focus groups conducted last year. The bathrooms are only in Allen One North, which is where the new gender-inclusive rooms will be located.

Logan Weeter, an Illini Media employee, is a freshman resident of Allen Hall. He said that although at first he wasn’t sure what the gender-inclusive environment would be like, he has had a positive experience so far.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Allen, the community is really great,” Weeter said. “I went in a little concerned (gender-inclusive bathrooms) would be awkward, but if you treat it like a normal bathroom you don’t even notice a difference.”

Kirsten Ruby, associate director of housing for communications and marketing, said students were given the option to live in the gender-inclusive wing this fall. Students could live with each other in rooms regardless of their gender identities.

“The next step that was along this planned path is that next year the rooms will be identified as gender-inclusive,” Ruby said. “That means that any two individuals that choose each other will be able to share a room in that one community,”

Ruby said she hopes this will serve as a testimony to the University’s efforts toward a more accepting campus.

However, the University isn’t the first to incorporate gender-neutral housing, as 197 universities in the nation currently have such housing available to students according to Campus Pride. The University isn’t even the first of the three university campuses to incorporate gender-neutral housing, as the University of Illinois at Chicago incorporated gender-neutral housing last fall.

While the University has offered co-ed housing by door — female students live next to male students — in Nugent, Saunders and Bousfield Halls, gender-inclusive halls are not limited by traditional notions of gender.

By not incorporating gender into housing considerations, non-binary identities or identities that are not exclusively male or female will no longer have to conform to traditional restrictions.

The University’s incorporation of gender-inclusive housing, comes at a time when transgender individuals have fought for the right to use their preferred bathrooms, despite cities and states across the nation proposing “bathroom bills,” which would make it illegal for a person to use a bathroom that is not assigned to their biological gender.

“This really shows University Housing’s and University of Illinois’ commitment to be inclusive of everyone, regardless of their identity,” Ruby said.

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