Reframing Housing: How Transgender Student Experiences Can Help Us Rethink Gender in Higher Education

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type




First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez


While offering Gender Inclusive housing (GIH) or Gender Neutral housing, in which students can room with other students of a different gender than them, has become a “best practice” and has been adopted by many colleges and universities, there is no standard procedure for how to institute this practice. Previous research indicates some of the barriers that are faced by institutions trying to implement GIH, as well as the different forms of GIH policy, but very little research has been done on how housing policies affect the experiences of trans and gender nonconforming students. My research focuses on how the housing policies and practices at their colleges impacted the experience of trans and gender non-conforming students in on-campus housing. I conducted qualitative interviews with twelve transgender students from nine different colleges in the states of California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York, and eighteen housing and residential life professionals from seventeen different colleges throughout the country. Interviews with students focused on their experiences in on-campus housing to find a correlation between certain housing practices and a positive, neutral, or negative experience for transgender students. Interviews with housing and residential life professionals focused on the specific housing policies and practices that affect trans and gender non-conforming students, as well as the challenges encountered in trying to institute more trans-inclusive policies. Subjects were found through personal connections and through emailing the housing and residential life departments and LGBTQ+ resource centers of colleges who provide that information online. I found that while there were some similarities between colleges, each had unique policies and practices for gender inclusive housing, so transgender students at different colleges could have vastly different experiences in housing despite the fact that their colleges offer gender inclusive housing. In speaking with housing professionals, I found that geographic location and if the school has any religious affiliation had an impact on the ability of housing departments to institute transgender inclusive policies. Suggestions and recommendations are offered for housing and residential life departments looking to make their policies and practices more inclusive for transgender students. However, it is important to note that this research has a small sample size that lacks significant racial and geographic diversity and should be expanded upon in order to make any conclusive findings.

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