Gender-inclusive housing breaks down walls


by Rachel Peterson

Before spring break, Simpson Residence Life announced a gender-inclusive housing policy for next fall. 
This means that housing on campus will not discriminate by gender when choosing roommates.
Chris Heineman, junior and member of PRIDE, identifies as non-binary.
“I do not identify as either male or female. I prefer using the pronouns they, them and their. Gender is a social construct, and I don’t identify as either of the two that are most widely accepted,” Heineman said.
“I’ve always felt that I wasn’t male. Through middle school and high school I identified as female, but I didn’t feel right. It was this year that I learned about non-binary,” they further explained.
Res Life worked closely with PRIDE, Simpson’s LGBTQIA group, to draft an acceptable policy to the president’s board. 
“We made sure that it was as inclusive as it was trying to be, mainly in its wording,” Heineman said. “There was one section that used the terms he or she instead of student, which included only people who
identify with the male or female gender.”
The policy does not allow couples in romantic relationships to live together. However, Heineman speculates this may be hard to enforce. Simpson’s new housing policy is one of the most progressive in Iowa
because freshmen will be allowed to choose a gender-inclusive roommate. Heineman said there will be a separate wing or building for gender-inclusive rooms.
“This will show other colleges this is a social thing that needs to happen and to follow in our footsteps,” they said.
Heineman thinks this policy will make Simpson a more open and accepting environment.
“Simply by the fact that it exists, it’s going to start discussion about why some people choose to live that way,” they said.
Though Heineman found a safe haven in the fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha, they want others to feel at ease with their living situation.
“We can room with people that we’re comfortable with, and we’re not being mis-gendered by the people we’re assigned to live with,” they said.
The policy sets out a guideline that parents of students who choose to live in a gender-inclusive environment will not be notified of their
child’s choice.
“While the school will encourage students to tell their
parents, the school will leave that decision up to the individual. I think this is good because in some situations it may be unsafe for students
to disclose this information,” Heineman said.
More details from Res Life will be released as housing assignments are produced for the upcoming semester.