Nowadays, in the dormitories of the American University, the implementation of effective policies and norms plays an important role. The point is that students from different parts of the world are allowed to live in American dormitories and free to develop their personal needs, religious interests, political persuasions, incomes, and personal identities. Despite the fact that many modern people are not dependent on certain prejudices and remain to be open to new tendencies and decisions, the majority of social institutions and a university, in particular, are built in regard to a system with proper gender identities.
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Therefore, the question of gender identification has a significant impact on the development of student relationships in dormitories and other facilities. However, this issue is now challenged by a number of additional factors and exceptions which may be accepted by one group of people and unclear to another group of people. In this research article, the goal is not only to develop a discussion about gender identification in the American university campus. The task is to underline that there is a missing point in such discussion regarding the presence of the individuals who identify themselves as the representatives of a different gender than theirs and the necessity for ordinary students to live in the same private places with such people for a certain period of time.
Importance of Gender Identification
It is necessary to identify if there are any difficulties male and female students may experience while living with the people who are born with the anatomy of one sex but believe that they belong to the opposite gender. In addition, it is interesting to investigate a deeper aspect of this discussion and clarity if sharing a bathroom with a transgender may be uncomfortable for a person of an ordinary orientation. Today, people have to live in society where individuals have to “choose from identities that would seek to render them comprehensible” promoting “the regime of a gender dichotomy” (Thorpe 1).
This kind of discussion is not to humiliate or offend transgender people, but to focus on the attitudes of other people who have to share the same place, traditions, and even needs and consider the existing policies of coed dormitories at the American University.
Coed Housing on Campuses
The policy of coed dormitories is frequently used in the American University. College or university residential life has already become an important aspect of academic experiences and personal lives of millions of students who make their decision to continue their education at the American University (Willoughby et al., “The Emergence of Gender-Neutral Housing” 733). Therefore, the University administration tries to consider the needs and opinions of all students in order to provide them with appropriate living and learning conditions.
During the last 50 years, many universities have successfully accepted the policies regarding the nature of campus housing and replaced gender-specific dorms with coed dorms (Willoughby et al., “The Decline of in Loco Parentis” 21). There are more than 100 universities in the United States that have coed dormitories today.
To facilitate the lives of students in such dorms, numerous improvements and policies have to be made. One of the recent achievements that have been made in campus policies includes the creation of female and male floors in the dormitories so that the representatives of both genders could have enough space for living, entertaining, and other social demands (Hoffnung 681; Willoughby et al., “The Decline of in Loco Parentis” 22). Still, in many cases, it is normal for the representatives of both genders to live on the same floor or even to share the same bathrooms. However, sometimes, dorm inhabitants have to face some new tendencies where the already established policies and norms cannot help.
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Transgender Issues on Campuses
Nowadays, transgender or homosexual people deserve the same rights to education, work, and living as ordinary heterosexual individuals do. There is the position that protects gender identity and expression under Title VII according to which discrimination based on sex is prohibited (Perdue 50). Therefore, from the legal point of view, transgender people are free to demand the same conditions and opportunities as compared to other students.
At the same time, the legal support of transgender people does not promote such issues as personal respect and recognition of needs within a living place. Transgender children may receive increased attention in the media, the Internet, and press and become visible in today’s society (de Jong 199; Olson et al. 467). Many students and employees do not have enough knowledge or resources to learn how to work and live respectfully and productively with transgender people (Thorpe 8). If students feel uncomfortable while living and sharing the same space with a transgender student, they are free to demonstrate their personal attitudes in case they do not contradict the law.
Human Difficulties and Personal Challenges
The policies of coed dormitories are based on the fact that there are two genders of students: male and female. Therefore, universities find it normal to create special floors for male and female students and respect gender composition of colleges and universities (Hoffnung 680). However, as a rule, in organizational management, there is no recognition of such group of people as transgender people.
Such omission may cause certain misunderstandings and concerns among students. For example, Willoughby et al. noted that gender-neutral housing has a certain impact on gender behavior and beliefs or promote outdated gender ideals (“The Emergence of Gender-Neutral Housing” 734). At the beginning of the 2010s, about 0.3-0.5% of the American population is comprised of transgender people (de Jong 199). It means that there are more than 1 million transgender people who live in the United States, and heterogeneous people may easily communicate, collaborate, and live with such people.
As a rule, human bodies are intended to be heterosexual, meaning that people feel safe and sound when they share the same gender zones and spaces (Westbrook and Schilt 49). As soon as the representative of another gender interfere this space, certain problems or concerns may occur, including the possibility of using force or reinforcement of stereotypical notions of femininity and masculinity (de Jong 204).
Though many people do not experience challenges while communicating and living with transgender people, there is a considerable percentage of people who still have some doubts, experience personal dislike, or simply cannot understand the choice of people to be transgender. Heterogeneous students are as free to make their own decisions about and develop their attitudes to transgender people as transgender people are free to ask for equal rights and freedoms.
Solutions and Options for Coed Housing
Regarding the latest assessments and research and the urgency of transgender issues in the American society, it is possible to suggest that universities and other academic facilities have to elaborate their policies and pay attention to the aspects that may be uncomfortable or unclear to heterosexual students and offensive and discriminative for transgender students. The university is challenged by the necessity to take the opinions of all campus inhabitants into consideration and develop the policies to support all students and provide them with appropriate living and learning conditions.
Today, it is not enough to divide students into males and females. Both genders may have their own subgroups with certain characteristics and peculiarities. On the one hand, these issues have to be recognized and respected by society. On the other hand, the identification of such issues should not cause additional problems and challenges for society. In other words, the decision of a person of one gender to be identified as a representative of an opposite gender should not cause additional problems for other people who live around. Therefore, new research, opinions of different people, and the experiences of various academic facilities and campuses have to be used in the future to clarify what solutions and alternatives can be used to support the idea of gender identification in American coed dormitories.
In general, the policy of coed dormitories at the American University is a powerful tool to support students and other campus inhabitants. It determines the conditions under which students have to share their space for living and recognize the norms and rules that have to be followed. For a long period of time, students had to live in gender-specific dorms. With time, it has become normal to use coed dorms and provide students of both genders with separate floors for living.
Nowadays, coed dorm policies have to undergo considerable changes again because there are transgender students who question the effectiveness of separation of students into males and females only. Certain ethical, social, and personal concerns take place and have to be solved regarding new rules and expectations.
de Jong, Dirk. “Transgender Issues and BSW Programs: Exploring Faculty Perceptions, Practices, and Attitudes.” The Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, vol. 20, no. 1, 2015, pp. 199-218.
Hoffnung, Michele. “Career and Family Outcomes for Women Graduates of Single-Sex versus Coed Colleges.” Sex Roles, vol. 65, no. 9-10, 2011, pp. 680-692.
Olson, Kristina R., et al. “Gender Cognition in Transgender Children.” Psychological Science, vol. 26, no. 4, 2015, pp. 467-474.
Perdue, Troy J. “Trans Issues for Colleges and Universities: Records, Housing, Restrooms, Locker Rooms, and Athletics.” Journal of College and University Law, vol. 41, no. 1, 2015, pp. 45-70.
Thorpe, Amelia. “Where Do We Go? Gender Identity and Gendered Spaces in Postsecondary Institutions.” Antistasis, vol. 7, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-17.
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Westbrook, Laurel, and Kristen Schilt. “Doing Gender, Determining Gender: Transgender People, Gender Panics, and the Maintenance of the Sex/Gender/Sexuality System.” Gender & Society, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 32-57.
Willoughby, Brian J., et al. “The Decline of in Loco Parentis and the Shift to Coed Housing on College Campuses.” Journal of Adolescent Research, vol. 24, no. 1, 2009, pp. 21-36.
Willoughby, Brian J., et al. “The Emergence of Gender-Neutral Housing on American University Campuses.” Journal of Adolescent Research, vol. 27, no. 6, 2012, pp. 732-750.