The University of South Florida has just done a great thing for its trans students' safety and comfort: gender-neutral housing options.
So, of course, the Tampa Bay Tribune had to go and ruin it all by putting a trans student's picture on the newspaper's front page with "GENDER BENDER" stamped across hir face. As the Transgender Network Tampa observed in its blog,
"Trans issues should not be treated with the sensationalism that they evidenced in putting Taylor on the cover of their paper, with "GENDER BENDER" slapped over it in huge letters... [They] treated Taylor like ze is some kind of freakshow. It has also outed Taylor not only to the entire campus, but to the entire city. Having spoken to hir the past few days, ze is mortified and embarrassed."
The Tampa Bay Times article itself is fairly good, with a few quibbles here and there. Kudos to USF for taking steps to address the needs of trans students, and others who may be better served by gender neutral housing.
"Today the university goes beyond what other universities in Florida typically do with transgender students, by actively offering them the chance to live alone or with a friend of any gender. They can also live with a random roommate without being outed. At other schools, the burden to ask for special treatment is often on the student."
The article goes on to report that, in the spring, the school will launch a pilot program offering several gender-neutral dorm rooms, where anybody of any gender can live with anybody else.
"The test program will offer eight to 10 spots for students who want to live with another student of a different gender." Wait, a different gender? I thought the idea of gender neutral housing is that the housing is, well, gender neutral. Ah well.
"[W]e feel passionately about making USF a complete living and learning environment," said spokesman Michael Hoad. Sadly, this came a bit late to help this student much. McCue, a senior, has five months left on an off-campus apartment.
The article gives some good background on gender neutral housing options at campuses around the country.
Unfortunately, according to McCue, hir experience in the dorms was characterized by "misogyny and homophobia" ensued. When ze complained to a residence hall adviser, nothing changed.
The article correctly notes that trans students have much different challenges from gay and lesbian students. But, uh oh, then it refers to "the transgender lifestyle," as if it's an intense hobby of some sort, like Civil War re-enactors, or gamers.
And this last, ringing sentence, suggesting that trans people are guarding some devastating secret:
"But in the fall, maybe there will be a kid standing in the housing office with a life-changing secret and, for the first time, a box to check."
Still, progress is progress.