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Transgender students unaccommodated in UNC's on-campus housing

UNC first-year Lucy Henthorn is a biology major with double minors in chemistry and marine science. Henthorn discussed the struggles trans students are facing in on-campus housing.

Moe Goins, a sophomore at UNC, lives in a women's dorm room on campus even though he does not identify as a woman. 

He didn't have a choice. 

Transgender students at UNC cannot receive dorm assignments according to the gender they identify as without government-issued documentation. Instead, students are assigned to housing based on the gender listed on their official academic record, according to a statement from UNC Media Relations. 

Last year, Goins reached out to Carolina Housing to explore his options. 

"They essentially told me that until I get my records changed, which requires you to basically already be transitioned in the state — they couldn't really do anything,” he said.

Goins also said that, as legally changing gender information is not something that every transgender person sees as necessary, the University's reliance on legal documentation is not the best avenue to use for assigning housing. 

For a student's gender to be updated in the student information system and, consequently, for them to be housed according to their actual gender identity, legal documentation showing a change in gender is required. 

“Carolina Housing strives to provide students a safe, supportive, and welcoming home in our on-campus communities. System policy requires housing assignments be made using the gender field that comes from the student’s University record,” Allan Blattner, executive director of Carolina Housing, said in a statement. 

Carolina Housing must also follow the UNC System Board of Governors 700.8.1 policy, which states:

“The constituent institutions shall not assign members of the opposite sex to any institutionally owned and operated dormitory room, dormitory suite, or campus apartment unless the students are siblings, parent and child, or they are legally married. This policy applies to housing assignments beginning with the fall 2013 semester.”

Goins said he feels Carolina Housing has not done enough to accommodate transgender students at UNC.

“I believe it was a right step with Pride Place and just opening up those avenues, and like expanding that dorm so there are more spaces available for students to have that sort of open accommodation,” he said.

Pride Place Residential Learning Program is a housing community in Joyner Residence Hall that is open to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Residential Learning Programs do not track students’ gender identity or reason for living in that community, according to the Media Relations statement.

While Pride Place is ideal for students who do not want to live in the traditional residence hall, it currently only has 30 beds. 

Lucy Henthorn, another UNC student, lives in an all-men’s dorm as a transgender woman. Although she feels lucky because she gets along with the students in her dorm, she said others have not had the same experience. 

She said her residence hall's floors are separated by sex, so she has to share bathrooms with the cisgender men on her floor which she does not like. She said that being placed in housing conditions with people of the opposite gender is a constant reminder of being out of place. 

“It’s just a bit ostracizing,” she said. “And I feel like it makes a lot of people uncomfortable as well. I'm sure there are some people uncomfortable with me being in the dorm and I'm a little bit uncomfortable because there are other guys in the dorm. So it's just not always a fun situation for everyone." 

Another transgender student at the University, who wished to remain anonymous, said they have had a similar experience with Carolina Housing. 

While filling out the Carolina Housing application, they requested a single dorm, but were not given one.

“I said, ‘If you somehow will not listen to my concerns — just what I'm requiring as a trans person — then please place me, at the very least, with somebody who is trans, or somebody who would prefer somebody who was trans," they said. "Because they would be able to understand me and will be able to understand what I need and what I want in my space."

They said Carolina Housing placed them in a suite with all cisgender people of the opposite gender instead of respecting their preferences.

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In addition to listening to the concerns of transgender students living on campus, they also hope Carolina Housing will be more considerate about the use of deadnames. During move-in, resident advisers put stickers on doors with residents' names and commonly use deadnames instead of students' preferred names.

The student said that, if a deadname is written on their door, then their roommates might think they have a right to call them that name, which can create a further sense of discomfort. 

“I don’t know why a prestigious school like UNC is having such a hard time with housing,” Henthorn said.