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'Why don't we deserve just basic safety?': Transgender students struggle with on-campus housing

UNC first-year student Lindsey Kanipe poses for a portrait inside his room at McClinton-Graham Residence Hall on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023.

When first-year Lindsay Kanipe applied for housing, he was assigned to Graham Residence Hall with a male roommate. 

Kanipe, a transgender man, reached out to Carolina Housing to discuss if there would be an issue regarding his residence hall assignment because of the difference between his assigned sex and gender identity. 

After Carolina Housing confirmed Kanipe’s biological sex through legal documentation, he was reassigned to McClinton Residence Hall — the only all-female first-year residence hall on campus. 

At McClinton, Kanipe was assigned a roommate who he said “ghosted” him and requested reassignment. He was then assigned a new roommate who he said also requested reassignment after communicating that she felt uncomfortable living with a transgender man. 

“It makes me feel invalidated,” he said about his experience finding housing. Kanipe said he has worked hard to feel comfortable about his identity and that his current living situation is negatively impacting his daily well-being.

Kanipe now lives alone in a McClinton corridor-style double room.

University policy and legislation

UNC System Policy mandates students be assigned to a residence hall that coordinates with the sex stated on their official academic record. 

UNC System Policy 700.8.1 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.”

This rule results in some transgender students being placed in suites and rooms with students who do not share the same gender identity.

The UNC Board of Trustees endorsed a measure to implement gender-neutral housing on campus for the 2013-14 school year in November 2012. But, in August of the next year, the  UNC Board of Governors voted unanimously to overturn the proposed measures.

Since 2013, there have been no major changes in UNC’s housing policies regarding transgender and non-binary students. 

Rep. Ray Pickett (R-Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga) is co-chair of the Education Committee in the N.C. House of Representatives. He confirmed in an email statement that no new legislation has been introduced regarding the issue since he became chair for the 2023-24 session.

In order for transgender students to alter their name and sex on their official academic record they must present legal identification to the Office of the Registrar that reflects their desired change. Some transgender students at UNC have described this process as “difficult,” “stressful, and long.”

Community resources and response 

Carolina Housing offers Pride Place, a Residential Learning Program that provides an on-campus housing community in Joyner Residence Hall for LGBTQ+ students. These rooms can serve as a resource for transgender students.

Sophomore Sasha Gold is transgender and said he had a difficult first-year experience with UNC Housing and is now living in Pride Place. 

“So far, Pride Place has been amazing. I definitely feel much more seen. And I feel really, really happy in my dorm,” Gold said.

He took issue with Pride Place’s application process, which involves an essay portion asking students why they should be accepted.

“Why is it that we have to be extraordinary queer people to be accepted to a residential living program in which we could be safe?" Gold said. “Why is that the case? Why don't we deserve just basic safety?” 

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Pride Place currently has a capacity of 32 beds. According to Carolina Housing, it has been able to meet the current demands of students who apply to Pride Place and, if demand increases, it would allocate additional space to the program, UNC Media Relations said in an email statement. There are no current plans to expand the program.

Lucy Henthorn, a transgender sophomore, said she believes there should be more on-campus housing options for transgender students apart from Pride Place. 

Both Kanipe and Henthron said they considered applying to Pride Place but decided not to, in part because they felt the program's capacity was too limited for them to accept any new applicants.

“There shouldn't just be one place designated on all of UNC’s campus for trans student housing,” Henthorn said. “I think the ability to have more options and to let trans students do what they're most comfortable with is the best thing that UNC can do moving forward.”


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