ResLife introduces first gender-neutral housing for fall 2015

Sixteen beds in suite-style housing at College Avenue and all bathrooms at the new Gateway Hall will be gender-neutral.
Gateway Hall, which is under construction, as viewed from Responsibility Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. All bathrooms at the new residence hall will be “gender-flexible.”

Residential Life is introducing the first ever gender-neutral housing option at MU.

Director of Residential Life Frankie Minor said four gender-neutral suites will be available on the first floor of College Avenue Hall, totaling 16 beds in both single and double rooms for students and one single room for a community advisor. The changes will be adopted starting in the fall 2015 semester.

Gateway Hall, the new residence hall under construction on Virginia Avenue, will also have gender-neutral bathrooms.

Minor has been advocating for gender-neutral options since 2012.

While the gender-neutral rooms are available to all students, the new housing option may be more beneficial for students whose options were previously limited.

LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator Struby Struble said the new housing option could be a safe space for all students.

“I think because there’s a lot of negativity around gender-nonconforming and transgender people in our culture at large, having a space that’s openly transparent about their support of all students is really important,” Struble said.

She said the eight gender-neutral rooms are a great place to start gauging the demand for this type of housing option.

Ben Micek, hall coordinator for College Avenue, said a community advisor for the new gender-neutral floor has not yet been chosen, but ResLife is exploring several options.

“We’re hoping to find someone who is already pretty involved with gender issues on campus or in their personal life,” he said. “We have a number of staff members who fit into that category, so we’ll be looking at them in addition to the new selection pool.”

Micek said the advisor will go through additional training to help meet specific needs residents on the floor may have.

Residential Life Area Coordinator Maya Hernandez said she hopes the new gender-neutral floor will be inclusive to other students who identify as cisgender.

“It doesn’t mean that if you choose to live in this community you are (gender-nonconforming),” she said. “Hopefully you’re supportive of gender-neutral (students), but you could be in transition yourself or maybe you want to be an ally.”

Minor said transgender or gender non-conforming students still have the option to live in other residence halls across campus. He said ResLife and the LGBTQ Resource Center currently work closely together to help students, who choose to contact them, to help decide which residential hall best suits their needs.

All bathrooms in Gateway Hall, which is scheduled to open for the fall 2015 semester, will be gender-neutral.

Minor said that on the first floor, there will be three public restrooms which will be designated as male, female, and unisex. He said there will be two community bathrooms on floors two through five, which will be labeled as “gender-flexible” community bathrooms. Each will have three sinks and five separate rooms within the restroom. These will have fully locking doors that indicate whether it is available or occupied. Two of the five will have a toilet and shower, and the other three will have a toilet, shower and sink.

Minor said the gender-neutral bathrooms will help provide students complete privacy that is different in other community bathrooms which just have stall doors or shower curtains.

Hernandez said she is excited about the department’s move to provide more gender-neutral options because it helps improve inclusivity at MU.

“If we’re going to be true to having a diverse campus, we need to include this population in the work that we do,” she said.

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