Content warning: mentions of fears of (sexual) assault/harassment, transphobia.
It is imperative that my friends and fellow students have more access to gender neutral housing. To feel comfortable where we live is a basic right of every student at this school—I know Princeton takes great strides to ensure the safety and happiness of their students—and without access to gender neutral housing, many of my friends may not feel happy, and definitely not safe.
-Chase Hommeyer ’19
As a genderqueer person, I live in a society that tells me that my gender isn’t real. I am constantly reminded of this – whenever I use a bathroom, whenever I’m filling out a form, whenever I get cat-called in the street. The world defines me by my apparent womanhood.
My room is a single, but Princeton still felt the need to designated as a room for a woman. I took it – because, hey, it can be pretty nice to have a single. But why does a gender need to be attached to a room?
I’ve never used gender neutral housing before, but I know I’d definitely benefit from it in my social life. Being cis-male, this issue doesn’t affect me so explicitly and hurtfully, but I recognize that any change to opt-in and bring equality among all genders is so important. In high school and college, my social groups have always been comprised of women, which makes room draw a stressful period. I don’t have many male friends, especially when tied to a specific residential college. Because of this, I’ve roomed with someone I am only fairly acquainted with. My roommate and I picked each other out of complete necessity, because it was either each other or drawing alone. While my case is not as important the struggles faced by others on campus, I know that this initiative would bring both cis- and trans- people more benefits.
It would have made my life at Princeton much better and more comfortable had gender-inclusive housing been readily available to me prior to my senior year. Although I deeply desired such housing from the moment I matriculated, I was only able to successfully draw into it as an independent senior seeking housing in Spelman.
As a nonbinary person, being forced to draw only in room configurations with “other women” as a rising sophomore was very unpleasant in its unnecessary genderedness. Every conversation about room draw in those Spring months — and of course there were many — renewed my discomfort and sense of powerlessness to live somewhere I could freely be myself. I had anticipated what the process would be like and gone to the Wilson College Office earlier in the year to see what my options were. When I did, I was told to have any chance at GIH I’d need to transfer residential colleges and that if I decided to do it it would take ages and be an enormous pain in the butt. I ended up just gritting my teeth.
Making things worse, none of my friends in Wilson were women and I wasn’t allowed the option of drawing in a quad with my guy friends — this led to my sophomore year being way more socially isolating than it ought to have been, as I had to draw into a single near no one that I knew that I hadn’t really wanted. I know many students that have endured similar circumstances, ranging in consequence from mildly disappointing to psychologically devastating.
Drawing as an upperclassperson, the current n+1 rule (which requires GIH to have a common space) is incredibly limiting as well. There will be a lot less heartache when all rooms have the option of being gender inclusive instead of just a few of the most desirable ones. The proposal before the University Student Life Committee is such an easy fix that will make such a difference for people. I really hope that the USLC moves quickly to approve the administration’s proposal so that no one has to go through such an alienating room draw again for such pointless reasons.
I am a trans woman, and I have scraped through my time at Princeton with some luck in my housing, but always feeling that I barely avoided catastrophe. It took me until my junior year to come out as trans; before, I was steadily coming more into a genderqueer identity, and sophomore year especially, my gender presentation (clothing, nail polish, jewelry) was far more “feminine” than “masculine” and I started going by gender–neutral pronouns among friends. I was lucky freshman year to be assigned a double with a private bathroom, and a male roommate who not only was accepting of a gender-questioning roommate, but was actively supportive. As a pre-frosh, knowing that I would need to experiment with gender, I had made a mention in my rooming request form that I preferred an LGBT or actively accepting roommate. I was lucky to be granted this; I did not know of any other avenues available to me, and that clause could easily have been ignored, to my extreme detriment.
Sophomore year, I roomed again with the same guy — we had gotten along well — but I was lucky that he wanted to, because I had essentially zero other male-registered friends in Forbes with whom I would have felt comfortable living; and, having the dead last draw time, I would have been out of luck had I counted on getting a single. That year, we shared a hall bathroom with a pair of strangers; I mostly kept to myself, and they were never problematic — I was, to strangers, still “male”, even though by then I knew I was female. Again, I was relatively lucky, but I realized in retrospect the peace of mind I could have felt by having a private bathroom again.
I still didn’t know much about the gender–neutral housing system — all I had heard through the trans grapevine, vaguely, was that it was a convoluted process of talking to res college directors, and most of the rooms were snatched up early by those who had no special need for them. This uncertainty, combined with a paralyzing anxiety and fear of outing myself unnecessarily, led me to take my chances with regular room draw. I came out publicly as a woman, but left my sex as male in the housing system so that I could live with my closest, male-registered friend, in Whitman. We got a decent draw time, but we watched the pairs of singles with interconnecting bathrooms drop off until the last pair was taken by the group before us. There was one good option left — a double in the tower with a single bathroom outside. One slot lower, and I could have been absolutely screwed by having to use a hall bathroom, as someone registered as male, living as female, and looking like neither, especially in early mornings, wrapped in a towel. As it was, the bathroom had a private shower, but I was still gendered male by the context of my roommate and the fact that the other double on the floor had locked to male as soon as we drew ours — and again a pair of strangers took it. I actively avoided them all year, never once introduced myself, and the few brief encounters and things I overheard reinforced my wariness. Still, I ran into the bathroom’s cleaning staff regularly, and if I was gendered, it was always as a man; the same happened with a services crew of men who came to work on the floor just outside my room for about two weeks, every morning. I regularly found myself listening at the inside of my door for silence, dashing out with my hood up, or getting up extra early — anything to avoid the staff and my neighbors. Still, I felt like I couldn’t really complain — I had been lucky to get the bathroom, after all, and living with my best friend was most important. However, I wound up outing myself to the Whitman administration anyway, when my roommate began planning to study abroad in the spring: I begged for any accommodations to prevent me from getting assigned a random male roommate for that semester — though moving to a single was not an option either, as I would forfeit the bathroom. Every time I knew that my statement of my gender identity and my pleas were circulated to a new member of the Whitman or housing staff, I winced a little — and the accommodations were not looking promising anyway. I told them that I would much prefer a female-registered friend than a random male, but essentially no such friends were returning from a fall abroad. When at last it came out that my roommate would stay for the spring, I was relieved, but residually embarrassed and uncomfortable with having to be a ‘special case’.
Senior year, I am in Spelman, where these concerns are thankfully moot, but I feel strongly, with a certain terror, that for three years I barely avoided one traumatizing embarrassment after another, and still endured some. I stress this point: for me as a trans student, private bathroom and shower access has been THE most important aspect of my housing, and I believe bathroom access must be put at the forefront of any trans-inclusive housing process. The sole experience of having to use a hall bathroom can completely destroy a trans student’s well-being, emotional and physical safety. Mixed gender rooms are also key, because for me, the division of possible roommates was never between male and female, it was between those with whom I felt comfortable and accepted, and those with whom I did not — regardless of their gender. Lastly, the steps for trans students to apply for and access safe housing must be made common knowledge, straightforward, and place as little emotional burden as possible on the student to out themselves or repeat a gender testimony to multiple strangers in power. Safe housing for trans students is not extra privilege, it can mean the difference between a healthy and successful year and a traumatic one.
-Becca Bedell ’17
I have always felt more comfortable with a mix of genders and being homosexual, I have always felt more comfortable with the opposite (in terms of a binary) gender in close proximity.
One of the main reasons that I left the Math department and declared COS my sophomore year was that the ratio of women/femme presenting people was very low in the Math department. This reason might seem trivial to some but the way that gender is expressed certainly creates an atmosphere that can be emotionally destructive, especially in a learning environment. I hope that the administration is able to see how these environments can affect us as individuals and make us less comfortable in a place that is supposed to be our home for four years.
Being able to live with my friends, regardless of their genders, would be so much more inclusive, diverse, and enjoyable. Why should I have to choose between my friends based on something as arbitrary as the gender that they present? The draw at the end of my freshman year, I had to find a cohort of male-identified people to room with as there were no genderneutral options in Wilson. Since mixed doubles are not allowed, I was also forced to room with a man my Junior year even though our draw group had women.
Please change these policies. People desirous of living in gender neutral housing should have full access. People that want gendered housing shan’t be affected. The choice is quite clear.
*Many more to come!*
“Honestly shocked this is still a question.” –Lacey-Ann Wisdom ’17
“Thank you for your hard work on this issue. EVERYONE deserves the ability to feel comfortable and safe where they live.” –Julianna Wright ’17
“This is common sense! It’s 2016!!” — Abigail Gellman ’17
“Be kinder to LGBTQ+ pls” — Charity Young ’20
“As a queer student and friend to many trans folks on campus, I think this is incredibly important step for the University to take in order to make Princeton a more inclusive campus, and communicate that the University recognizes and supports folks of all gender identities.” –Micah Herskind ’19
“Why hasn’t this already happened Princeton” –Ellie Sell ’17
“Class of ’15. I think we’re well overdue for gender-neutral housing and I strongly urge the university to make this option available to incoming students.” –B. Holt Dwyer ’15
“Being able to draw into a room with people of different gender identity from me would make me feel much more comfortable and would increase the diversity of living experiences available for all students. As a cis-man whose primary social circle consists of women, being able to draw with my closest friends would have made sophomore and junior draws much less stressful and isolating; having greater options would increase the chances that every student, regardless of their own gender identity or of those they associate with, can live in social, emotional, and physical safety. I urge USG and the administration to make this common sense and necessary change happen” –Daniel Krane ’18
“Everybody should be able to feel safe and comfortable in their living space.” –Max Grear ’18
“For students who desire to room with somebody of the same gender, a change in policy will have no effect on their experiences living at Princeton. But for students who would like or need to access gender-inclusive housing (or private or single-occupancy bathrooms), the change will go a long way in guaranteeing their safety and well-being on campus. So how can we justify the status quo? How can we justify not choosing to make campus even more inviting and inclusive to students of all (and I mean ALL) genders?” –Stephen Chao ’19
“Living in Gender Neutral housing has been the best thing about my senior year. I honestly can’t believe everyone doesn’t have that option.” –Carey Camel ’17
“Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable in their own home.” –Caitlin Quinn ’18
“I am safer when others are safer!” –Miranda Alperstein ’17
*Many more to come here as well*
Zoe Claire Sims
Ariana Natalie Myers
B. Holt Dwyer
Ren Diaz ’15
Jhor van der Horst
Sandra Mukasa ’12
Dylan Blau Edelstein
*Plus 50 more signatories — by a conservative estimate — who didn’t want their names shared*