Gender-neutral housing on deck at the U of M Twin Cities

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MPR News reports that gender-neutral housing is coming to the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities in fall 2015.

That means gender would play no role in assigning rooms. The policy is meant to support transgender people.

It's different from co-ed housing, which allows for a room of men, for example, to be next to a room of women in the residence halls. Co-ed housing doesn’t allow a male and a female to room together in the same space.

Transgender people may have been born biologically male but identify as female. Or they were born biologically female but identify as male. Or they don’t identify as either. They may be taking hormones or they may have had surgery.

Transgender students have been pushing for the change. They say college years can be difficult for those struggling to establish gender identity.

“People will say rude things to you, people are often physically assaulted, and when you’re in a shower situation, I think those things are exacerbated, said Katie Burgess, executive director of the Trans Youth Support Network in Minneapolis. "It’s already a place where I think everyone feels a little bit vulnerable no matter who you are.”

A student report to the university Board of Regents said the Rochester campus already has gender-neutral housing and the Morris campus may implement it next year.

The university's office of housing and residential life says it doesn't ask about the sexual orientation or gender identification of students. But, it says, a couple of students a year get special housing consideration because they say they are transgender and ask for it.

The new gender-neutral housing will be open to all sophomores, juniors and seniors, not just transgender students. The university expects some students will want to live with people of other genders. The university has not yet figured out an opt-in mechanism.

The Transgender Law and Policy Institute says the University of Minnesota will join 25 campuses nationwide that offer gender-neutral housing.

The Campus Pride Index, which measures how supportive campuses are to the LGBT community, gives the University of Minnesota five out of five stars.

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