Since February 2013, the Gender-Inclusive Housing Task Force has researched and advocated for the introduction of a gender-inclusive housing program at The Ohio State University main campus. The Task Force was assembled as a grassroots organization driven by students and supported by university departments and programs throughout the planning process. This report is the culmination of extensive research, interviews, and survey results conducted during this time.
The following proposal provides appropriate context for the creation and maintenance of a gender-inclusive living and learning community at Ohio State, including academic conditions, leadership and living development, and faculty involvement. The Task Force will delineate its reasoning for a Gender-Inclusive Housing program by providing relevant historical data associated with large institutions, expressed need for a complex gender and trans*gender knowledge base on and around campus, and effective implementation of the program within a purview of an academic term.
Section One Footnote:
 Hong, Cindy, and Aashna Kircher. Gender Neutral Housing: Key Considerations, Implementation Strategies, and Assessment. Washington D.C.: Advisory Board Company, 2010.
FROM EXCELLENCE TO EMINENCE
The Ohio State University’s commitment to excellence sparks great pride in our students, staff and faculty, and alumni. Established by former president E. Gordon Gee, the Excellence to Eminence vision resonates as a call to transform our university through cutting-edge research and social advancement with the goal of rising above excellence into eminence. Dr. Gee sought to establish our university as THE Ohio State University by proposing excellence in our time:
“People see this as a moment of real challenge, and it is. But I also view it as a moment of real opportunity. We need to be the architects of our own destiny rather than its victims. And we will do so by focusing on talent and culture and using those to create major changes in the way we do our work.”
We live in a moment of opportunity, in order to advance the wellbeing of Ohio citizens and the global community through the creation, engagement, and dissemination of knowledge. The university is working hard to instill in its students a passion to pursue knowledge for its own sake; ignite in its students a lifelong love of learning; produce discoveries that make the world a better place; celebrate and learn from diversity; and open them to a world of opportunities.
In order to fulfill the mission statement of this university, we believe that the reimagining of gender roles and stereotypes through the inclusion of a gender-inclusive housing program at Ohio State is the next key progression our university needs to take.
DEFINING GENDER INCLUSIVITY
The Ohio State University recognizes many forms of diversity, and attempts to include social and biological diversity through extensive policies and procedures. For instance, Ohio State includes same-sex partner benefits in its healthcare packages for full-time employees. Equally, Ohio State has taken necessary steps to modify its current housing contract(s) to include sexual orientation, which will enable university housing to provide resources for complex identities and demographics at our university. Nevertheless, it is just as important, if not more, to recognize the severity of gender disparities and segregation as they relate to the welfare of Ohio State’s student population. Gender-inclusive housing—of which we will explore—affects two main populations, including queer students and opposite sex friends.
Because all students are affected by gender identity and expression, it is essential that the university provide a space for students to determine, explore, and officiate their gender experience as it relates to their personal identity, scholarship, social relationships, and professional development. Hence, the university must provide safe spaces in which all students of multiple, intersecting identities and backgrounds can prosper and thrive together. Gender-inclusive housing tactics tend to question the validity of gender on a spectrum, which is often why GIH policies and programs appeal and are directed at gender-queer and trans*gender students. Trans*gender and gender-queer, as targeted and marginalized communities respectively, sometimes desire or require non-traditionally gendered spaces our current housing system cannot accommodate. Gender-inclusive housing, we believe, could provide these spaces and would help define The Ohio State University as a trans*positive campus and a stronger ally to the trans* and queer communities.
Gender-based housing creates unique difficulties for trans*gender and gender-queer individuals. Traditional housing conditions are built upon sex-segregation. “Sex segregation in residential facilities and bathrooms is purported to prevent sexual activity and to preserve comfort.” In some cases gender segregation prevents unmediated increases in sexual experiences; however, no research currently exists on the increased potential of sexual assault in gender-inclusive housing. Instead, research suggests that sex segregation may increase a false sense of security since sexual violence does not dissipate in the presence of similar genders living in the same room, floor, or building. Due to these practices, gender-based housing requires students to identify as either male or female—which, at the start, requires students to “out” themselves to university administrators. Living in a suite designated as either a “men’s suite” or a “women’s suite” may be harmful to these individuals on a social and psychological level. Similar programs that accommodate trans*gender students in individual suites may cause students to feel isolated or punished for being trans*gender. For this reason, gender-inclusive housing cannot be defined based on the exclusion of trans*gender and gender-queer students from apartment-style and double+ rooms. Policies such as these harm trans* students who may not identify on the traditional gendered spectrum. While some trans* people identify as either male or female, many do not; and gendered spaces create difficulties for students who are transitioning. Gender-inclusive housing holds trans*positivity as a core value, and encourages non-gendered social imagination. In other words, gender-inclusive housing asks residents—especially allied, gay, and lesbian residents—to re-consider traditional gender constructs in order to encourage gender variance and psychological development.
Gender-inclusive housing is not only important for trans*gender, gender-queer, and LGB-identified students. Housing policies focused on building heterosexual friendships are also an important component. Friendship—which creates an intimate understanding and respect for individuals and their personal wellbeing—provides a foundation for the negation of essentialist ideas about the social construction of gender and sexuality. In other words, friendships, as they attempt to look past physical boundaries in favor of emotional and intellectual breadth, create lasting connections. Building heterosexual friendships within gender-inclusive housing encourages dialogue about gender and invites college students to navigate real-world living conditions. A common misunderstanding about gender-inclusive housing is that living with one another may enable men and women in relationships to live together. One problem with this argument is that lesbian and gay students may currently circumvent the system by opting to live with each other in same-gender housing. For this reason, gender-based housing normalizes heterosexuality. Gender-inclusive housing proliferates the idea that heterosexual students are the only students that are in relationships, and recognizes that students (based on choice) may opt to live together as a couple during their college experience. Institutions with current policies strongly discourage opposite-sex couples from utilizing gender-inclusive spaces, and often screen participants prior to admitting students to the program. We are confident that heterosexual students who opt into gender-inclusive housing will be made aware of the consequences of living with a potential significant other. Another argument is that university housing will see an increase in sexual assault reports of opposite gender (known and unknown) partners. As mentioned above, no data currently exists to suggest that suites with opposite gender roommates create an influx in the number of reported sexual assaults. We believe that heterosexual students who opt into gender-inclusive housing will benefit by learning more about gender identity and expression, and will build stronger personal relationships based on their experiences.
By and large, gender-inclusive housing supports the idea that persons of all genders should be provided space where they can room together without harassment or being questioned about their identities. Gender-inclusive housing stays away from the idea that men and women are “different” and thus should be segregated from each other. The implementation of gender-inclusive housing would provide students with real experiences in which the gender binary is not an absolute. Furthermore, gender-inclusive housing—as a product of gender inclusivity and the proliferation of gender variance—provides the necessary safe space for students who may not identify on the gender spectrum.
Section Three Footnotes:
 Trans*gender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity, expression, or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Please reference Appendix 3 for more definitions.
 Gender-queer is a self-label used by some individuals who identify as neither entirely male nor entirely female and who often seek to blur gender lines. Please reference Appendix 3 for more definitions.
 See Womack, “Please Check One—Male Or Female?” 1384-1387 (2009).
 Ibid, 1385.
 Ibid, 1388.
HISTORICAL GENDER-INCLUSIVE STRATEGIES
Gender-inclusive housing has varied in size and structure since the 1970s, taking precedence in the early 2000s at many Ivy-League and west coast universities. Despite its relatively short history, gender-inclusive housing—also referred to as gender-neutral, all-gender, gender-blind, and open housing—has been successfully maintained at accredited institutions such as Harvard University, UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, and many more. Based on student population sizes, each university has implemented GIH in response to housing type and student need. For this reason, gender-inclusive housing has manifest in several forms, which Krum, Davis, & Galupo (2013) delineate into four categories.
Firstly, gender-inclusive housing has been adopted as same room, different sexed pairings. In this setting, students are placed in suites or doubles where students of several gender identities live in the same bedroom. Bathrooms typically range from in-suite singles to gender-neutral community bathrooms. This option is limited insofar as students currently placed students must disclose their legal sex or gender identity, though encourages the inclusion of all sexual identities, especially cisgender heterosexual students who may be interested in living with friends or family.
Secondly, student interest in singles-within-suites and doubles-within-suites has become increasingly popular. This type of housing is sometimes referred to as apartment-style housing. In this housing option, “each student is given a room with a locking door within a larger apartment,” and bathrooms are typically shared within each suite or gender-neutral community bathrooms. While singles-within-suites may exclude trans*gender and gender-nonconforming students from the shared experience of living in the same room with another person, we recognize that gender-inclusive housing serves individual student needs; and, therefore, singles-within-suites may be regarded as gender-inclusive housing.
Thirdly, students may request housing based on non-legal gender identification in programs where gender identity may vary from legal sex identification. In this option, students disclose their preferred gender identity on the housing application along with their desire to opt out of the traditional-housing process. Students who use this option typically must self-select individuals or groups of roommates with whom they wish to live. According to the New York University program, “If there is no room available or if placement based on gender identity is not possible, the basis for their housing assignment will revert to legal sex.” This option is not widespread and does not succeed in finding alternatives for students who may need gender-neutral housing in order to have a safe and welcoming experience at a given institution.
Finally, some colleges offer the option to choose evenly split suites wherein apartments are divided equally based on legal sex. Referencing Purchase College’s unique version, “two legally male students share one room and two legally female students share the other room of a two-room [four-person] apartment. All four students share the apartment’s common spaces” and bathroom (depending on the apartment’s layout). This option is the least inclusive of the four options, based on our definition of gender-inclusive housing. Nevertheless, this option provides a community where gender-queer and trans*gender students may choose roommates of their specific legal sex before or during transition, based on the students unique needs.
Krum, et al., reveal that traditionally college-aged trans*gender and gender-queer students prefer apartment-style housing (34% surveyed) and same room/different sex pairings (19.4%), and takes into consideration trans*gender and gender-queer students who may select universities based on gender-inclusive housing availability. Regardless of which category participants chose, “participants indicated that opting in policies, signing a community conduct and values agreement, and attending an introductory meeting about the community before applying to live there were all reasonable requests for students interested in GIH.” By meeting the needs of students before living in the community, the university can provide a safe and welcoming space for all students interested in non-traditional housing. Advertising open to all students, including cisgender heterosexual students, will ensure the success of gender-inclusive housing if and only if trans*gender and gender-queer students (precluding the desire of gender essentialism) are provided safe spaces in which they are not subjected to exclusion or harassment. For this reason, gender-inclusive housing spaces must proliferate the greatest amount of information possible about the program specs before placing students in suites with other genders.
Section Four Footnotes:
 Krum, Tiana E., Kyle S. Davis, and M. Paz Galupo. “Gender-Inclusive Housing Preferences: A Survey of College-Aged Transgender Students.” Journal of LGBT Youth 10.1-2 (2013): 65.
 Since we do not define gender-inclusive housing as single-occupancy rooms, the fifth category—labeled self-contained single rooms—in Krum, et al.’s, survey has been omitted in order to create an accurate account of valid gender-inclusive housing options.
 Krum, et al., 66 (2013).
 Ibid, 67.
 Ibid, 67.
 Ibid, 79.
BIG TEN & SUPPORTING INSTITUTION PROGRAMS
According to Willoghsby et al. (2012), “almost half of the largest universities in the United States are currently poised to continue or to start transitioning a portion of their housing to be gender-neutral.” Of the twelve Big Ten institutions in the Midwest, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Michigan, and University of Wisconsin Madison have gender-neutral housing options; and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities is scheduled to implement its pilot program in the fall of 2015. This large number of Big Ten universities who currently have gender-neutral housing policies leads us to conclude that Ohio State’s current individual accommodations no longer satisfy the culture of future students. In contrast, only four of the 130+ colleges and universities across Ohio have gender-neutral housing policies, including Columbus College of Art & Design, Kenyon College, Oberlin College, and Ohio University. The grave lack of colleges and universities in Ohio, for that matter, causes great concern about the welfare of students across the state of Ohio, especially trans*gender and gender-queer students, who currently do not have access to gender-inclusive housing, support, and resources. If Ohio State accommodates these students, our university will see an influx of trans*gender and gender non-conforming students, and a greater diversity of students.
Northwestern University implemented a Gender Open Housing program for gender-queer and trans*gender students and their allies in 2013, with a focus on creating a space for students who cannot be accommodated by the traditional housing model. The program’s pilot began in 2010, following a mixed history of individual policies and attempts at establishing a formalized program in past years; and, since 2013, has become a centralized program for students across the university. The program is open to both undergraduate and graduate students—with no current on-campus living obligation, students, starting freshman year, may opt out of the on-campus living experience. Students have the option of living alone, choosing a roommate, or letting the university choose a roommate for them. Students must self-select the Gender Open Housing program, and no students will be placed with students who did not opt into the program. Northwestern’s policies have received national attention, especially regarding trans*gender inclusion.
The University of Michigan offers an effective and highly inclusive model for trans*gender and gender-queer students by providing a Gender Inclusive Living Experience (GILE) community and standalone apartments and dormitory units. Michigan’s GIH program started in the fall of 2013 with a cluster of rooms in its East Quadrangle. During the 2014-15 academic term, the program housed twelve students in six separate rooms; though, only students who identified as trans*gender or gender non-conforming could request a roommate of any gender. Their roommate of choice did not have to be trans*gender. The GILE program, states Jackie Simpson, director of UM’s LGBTQ center, “provides an opportunity for support, dialogue, and engagement around gender and what gender means in today’s society.” GILE focuses on providing a safe space for trans*gender and gender non-conforming students, while encouraging allies who respect and understand variance in gender expression and identity to apply.
The University of Wisconsin Madison, following a rigorous and informative socio-academic structure, includes space for trans*gender, gender-queer, lesbian and gay, and allied students in its Open House Learning Community. Wisconsin’s program originated fifteen years ago, with approximately nine students, and has continued off and on. Currently, fifty-two students live in the community. Similar to a living and learning community structure, the Open House program requires students to enroll in a Gender and Sexuality in Media seminar during fall semester. Through this academic coursework, Open House encourages students to examine conventional and transformational assumptions about gender and sexuality. The community is consolidated to one floor and provides “private bathrooms” by room. The building is transitioning to all-gender bathrooms in an effort to include community members as well as other students outside of the community. Most students who participate in the program self-identify as queer. In an interview with Task Force members, the program’s marketing director Coco O’Connor noted that the program received incredibly positive response from students and parents. The community has a strong connection with the LGBTQ center at the University of Wisconsin Madison.
By following a similar program structure as the Northwestern University, University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin Madison, The Ohio State University can implement an effective gender-inclusive housing community for its students while advancing campus culture and diversity.
Section Five Footnotes:
 See Woodhouse, “University of Michigan Housing to Offer Limited Gender-Neutral Housing” (2013).
The Task Force agrees that a gender-inclusive housing space at The Ohio State University main campus would meet the needs of its diverse student body. Gender-inclusive housing would have no restrictions on gender identity or expression, thus creating fewer gender-essentialist spaces in order to allow identity growth and free association. Gender essentialism is enacted when traditionally gendered housing requires students of the same biological sex to live together and denies students the opportunity to socialize with students of other genders. To be clear, this form of separation perpetuates the notion that men and women must not be allowed to live with one another because it may enable men and women in relationships to live together. On the contrary, gender-inclusive housing enables students living with friends to form closer and more desirable bonds. Following the history of gender inclusive housing practices, the Task Force suggests gender-inclusive housing to be implemented in two forms.
Firstly, gender-inclusive housing should be instituted in the form of a social identities exploration living-learning community, which is offered side-by-side traditional housing in mixed class halls and a proposed title of Social Justice Living-Learning Community. This option should be made available to full-time enrolled sophomores, juniors, and seniors for the duration of the pilot program. Based on the living-learning model, students will choose between double-occupancy rooms, suite-style rooms, and single rooms, according to the students’ needs. The gender-inclusive community will be founded upon a Social Justice theme, in which students will be encouraged to take one semester of HESA 2577: Crossing Identity Boundaries: A Journey Towards Intercultural Leadership in order to learn about and enact gender equality in their own lives. The mission of a social identities living-learning community will be to facilitate the development of intersectional and critical identity diversity through complex interactions with scholarship, service, and community building. Students will also be expected to participate in community building and reflection activities as directed by the program coordinator. Faculty fellows will be appointed at the start of each academic term in order to provide guidance, support, and lasting connections to potential scholars and future community leaders. Students will be encouraged to participate in community projects and/or scholarship that advance the welfare and equality of social diversity at The Ohio State University.
Secondly, gender-inclusive housing should be created without the added burden of supplementary courses that may or may not relate to a given student’s scholarship, or that will incur extra tuition fees. Gender-inclusive housing should not require students to accomplish tasks in order to live in a safe space. For this reason, we suggest the implementation of spaces designated gender-inclusive in select buildings across campus regardless of their affiliation with an academic program or department. These rooms must include the option of singles within apartment-style housing and doubles, in order to best fulfill individual wants and needs. Students will be required to select their roommates, and (during the duration of the pilot program) it will not be the duty of the university to place students at random.
Students will be required to express their interest in gender-inclusive housing by filling out a supplementary form on the annual Ohio State housing contract. The housing contract will have options stated clearly on University Housing’s website as well as the housing application, from which they can express interest in traditional housing, living learning communities, gender-inclusive housing, and individual-needs housing. Depending on the nature of the pilot program, students must express interest apply for the Social Justice Living-Learning Community or, simply, gender-inclusive housing. Different-gendered roommates will never be randomly assigned. All students under the age of 18 must comply with University Housing rules and regulations. Students will also be made aware of the inclusion of gender-neutral bathroom options. “It is important for colleges and universities to provide a map or listing of all gender-inclusive and single-occupancy restrooms available on campus.” For this reason, we foresee continued efforts to ensure accurate and accessible listings of current and future gender-inclusive bathrooms at The Ohio State University main campus, including bathrooms on west campus.
We foresee the implementation of the pilot program starting as soon as the 2015-2016 academic term. Funding for this advancement and partnerships with university programs and academic departments will ensure the effective marketing and advertisement for this community. Marketing and advertising should commence as early as Fall Semester 2014. Evaluation of the effectiveness and desire for gender-inclusive housing should commence during Spring Semester 2016, after which a committee of Task Force members and University Housing administrators will determine the continued projection and expansion of the gender-inclusive housing community.
Ultimately, we believe all students at The Ohio State University main campus should have the option to live in a mixed-gendered room. Including gender-inclusive spaces in potentially all residential areas ensures the safety of students participating in the program and to discourage the exclusion of students who participate from the larger residence system. This implementation will help create an environment that acknowledges, appreciates, and respects the diverse nature of the Ohio State student body, while giving students more options in finding a roommate who is truly compatible.
Section Six Footnotes:
 See Yale College Council for further discussion of gender essentialism and debunking gender myths.
 Successful completion of HESA 2577 fulfills the Social Diversity in the United States general education course, according to Multicultural Center initiatives.
 Inclusion is not defined by singles, or singles within suites. Please reference Appendix 3 for more definitions.
 See Krum, Davis, & Galupo (2013) for detailed a detailed discussion and survey of trans*gender and gender non-conforming bathroom and housing needs.
The timeline for this university-wide expansion will be determined by the continued positive reception and use by Ohio State students in the next five years. We anticipate queer, non-conforming, and trans*gender students will use this opportunity to find a safe space; and we encourage students who are interested in de-constructing gender binaries to use this program as a college living experience through which change can be implemented. Reimagining gender identity and expression, for these reasons and more, will change Ohio State’s trajectory from excellence to eminence. We conclude, “Most students will admit problems can come with any roommate, regardless of gender identity,” and are confident that opposite-gender roommates in double-occupancy rooms, and suite-style rooms (including singles and doubles) will not create difficulties beyond typical roommate mismatches.
Gender-inclusive housing is particularly important because of the way in which it addresses issues related to gender and sex. The implementation of gender-inclusive housing would benefit individuals who do not find traditional gender-based housing appealing. Often, non-straight individuals who do not feel comfortable living in gender-based housing are forced to live in an undesirable arrangement on campus or to move off campus. A gender-based housing process also creates a series of difficulties with regard to identification for students who place themselves outside the realms of normative practices. Gender-queer students and trans* students in the process of transitioning may not identify as male or female, which naturally results in various problems during the housing process. Gender-inclusive housing would help alleviate these problems by creating an environment in which students are not forced to live in undesirable suite arrangements or choose ill-fitting labels. Additionally, gender-inclusive housing would also contribute to a healthier sexual climate for students living in mixed-gender suites. Gender-inclusive living arrangements often decrease feelings of vulnerability and increase understanding between the sexes. Gender-inclusive housing is a desired and feasible policy that would only enhance the climate on campus. For these reasons and more, we urge The Ohio State University to implement gender-inclusive housing at our university.
Section Seven Footnotes:
 Womack, 1397 (2009).
Please visit this site’s Bibliography Tab to view references from this proposal. This proposal was researched and drafted by Chase M .Ledin, Katelyn Matuska, and Benjamin Weekes during their undergraduate tenure at Ohio State. Please email Chase M. Ledin with any questions about the process or to learn more about gender-inclusive housing.