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One News Now

UNC Gender Neutral Housing: ‘Pretending Gender is a Total Non-Issue is Ridiculous’

By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
November 20, 2012

CHAPEL HILL — Three’s Company, Bosom Buddies, or perhaps The New Normal — it’s hard to say what gender neutral housing at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill might look like as the school’s trustees last week endorsed a proposal asking administration to institute a new policy at the request of Terri Phoenix, director of the UNC Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Center.

Although the media initially reported that the move would allow students to have opposite gender roommates, in truth it would open dorm suites and campus apartments to mixed gender groups, while roommates would have to be same gender.

According to officials in the Trustees office contacted on Monday, the plan would initially affect only two to three dozen students and would have them selecting other students to share suites that involved either single bedrooms or same-gender bedrooms, so that members of the opposite sex would be sharing common living areas and bathrooms, but not sleeping quarters. The school already has co-ed dorms but suites have so far remained one gender.

Phoenix and Kevin Claybren, coordinator of the Student Gender Neutral Housing Coalition, told the trustees that UNC students were reporting harassment in gender-segregated housing and that the new plan would increase the health, safety, and well-being of students. In their presentation last week, they cited a student report of having his “alternate form of masculinity” challenged by other males and a testimonial from a girl who said that after suitemates told her they had no problem with her sexual orientation, they still exiled her from suite activities and hurried out of the bathroom when she came in.

Chancellor Holden Thorp, who had rejected the gender-neutral housing proposal nine months ago, told the Board of Trustees last week that it is an “important project that is vital to protecting the safety of our students.”

A press release from the school stressed that the program will be application-based, opt-in only so that women would not be forced into a suite with men or vice versa.

While he was glad to find out that the new policy would not place members of the opposite gender in the same bedroom, the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said it is still not a good idea.

“This is setting up a special privilege that is primarily based on sexual orientation,” he said. “Although the university says it would also help brothers and sisters who want to room in the same suite, the truth is that it is tailored for LGBTQ students.”

He said while the university has the responsibility to ensure that students are safe on campus, this is a far-reaching effort that insists that alternative lifestyles are totally embraced and accommodated.

UNC’s move is part of a national trend that gained steam after Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in 2010. Many assumed his suicide resulted from the fact that his college roommate had videotaped him and a gay lover.

“If a person is harassed and threatened by his or her roommate for whatever reason, then the problem should be reported and dealt with,” said Dr. Creech. “But to elevate sexual orientation above other considerations is giving those who choose an alternative lifestyle special protections that are uncalled for and at the cost of society at large.”

Tami Fitzgerald, director of the N.C. Values Coalition, called the move “another misplaced ‘diversity’ policy” and asked for Coalition supporters to contact Thorp and urge trustees to change their minds.

“The UNC Board of Trustees is bending over backward to please the homosexual lobby – a group that represents only about 3 percent of the population – without regard for the consequences…,” she said. “To make matters worse, our tax dollars subsidize the University of North Carolina system.”

Fitzgerald also pointed out that the policy has not been written yet, so there are other issues that could arise. For example, if it applies only to gay, lesbian and transgender students, it would violate equal protection. Also, if it winds up allowing students of opposite genders to live in the same room, as do gender neutral policies at a number of other colleges, it could violate the state’s cohabitation statute.

Similarly Dr. Creech warned that it’s a slippery slope to embrace “gender blindness.” For instance, Iowa’s Grinnell College, which began offering gender neutral dorms three years ago, now lets students of either gender use the same bathrooms, showers and locker rooms.

“The bottom line is that we’re created with gender. It’s how God made men and women — equal but different. Trying to deny that difference exists or trying to pretend that men and women can and will ignore one another’s sexuality in ongoing intimate settings is naive at best,” he said. “Furthermore, trying to accommodate every whim of people who are born one way but behave another by having the rest of society pretend that gender is a total non-issue is ridiculous.”