LGBT community works toward a more inclusive Iowa State


Michael Rowley/IowaStateDaily

Adam Guenther, senior in animal science and president of the LGBTA Alliance, is advocating for gender-neutral housing at Iowa State. 

Morgan Kelly

Gender-neutral housing is just one way Iowa State can be even more inclusive for its students.

Gender-neutral housing, in this sense is mainly for transgender people, gender queer people, non-gender conforming people and maybe those who just feel uncomfortable living with the same sex in a dorm setting, said Adam Guenther, senior in animal science and president of the LGBTA Alliance.

“Technically, in some liberal interpretations, Iowa State already has gender-neutral housing, but when it comes down to it not many universities have the kind of neutral housing we are talking about,” Guenther said.

While there have been numerous meetings between LGBT Student Services, Student Government and the Department of Residence, Guenther said meetings are often productive, but they’ve always fizzled out.

“We like to say it takes an army to create change, and it does,” said Dan Carney, a social justice and equity educator for the LGBTSS center and a graduate assistant.

There has been support from all sides it seems, said Caitlin Strand, senior in religious studies and anthropology, who sat in the LGBTSS Safe Space. She said the Department of Residence has been nothing but cooperative with the project.

“Being a person of the LGBT community, I would have been all over this. I would’ve loved to live with a person of the opposite sex as me,” said Wayne Glass, the coordinator, intern and volunteer for the LGBTSS center.

There have been discussions about the pilot plan for the gender-neutral housing to be modeled after Maple, though it wouldn’t necessarily take place in Maple, Guenther said, as it as an ideal setup for more private bathrooms and handicap accessibility.

“I think it’s a great thing, particularly something that the department of residence should be supporting and the fact that there will be a pilot soon is exciting,” Strand said.

The pilot program would be an opt-in style program. A student would apply for a room in a residence hall house. Then the Department of Residence would decide, based on some kind of explanation each student has written as to why they need/want to be in gender-neutral housing.

Certain students would then be selected based on whom it would better benefit for who gets into the housing, Guenther said.

“It sucks that it will probably have to be done subjectively but otherwise there may just be people who want to live with their boyfriend/girlfriend who get it, while a trans person feels unsafe in their traditional dorm,” Guenther said.

Carney said he spoke with a student who was very uncomfortable living in the dorm. He said this kind of housing could create more dialogue and community for these students.

In the past, students who have felt this way living in a traditional dorm, and they couldn’t secure a single room, had to make the decision to live in the traditional dorm, in either apartments or SUV housing through school, Guenther said. 

It’s important to create more spaces on campus where students feel safe, so they can be their authentic selves in their home environment, Strand said.

“Students fall through the cracks because they don’t feel included,” Guenther said. “And I hope this makes them feel more included.”