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Transgender Student Denied Housing in Men’s Dorm

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Dec 18, 2007
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A Southern Utah University student looking for placement in a men’s dorm has been turned away because, his gender identity aside, he is physiologically female.

The Deseret Morning News posted a story today (deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,5143,695237023,00.html) detailing how Kourt Osborn, who appears to be a man in his male clothing and has what sounds like a male voice, has been informed that he may not live in the mens’ dorm.

The article said that Osborn has been receiving hormone treatment, but has yet to undergo the necessary surgery to alter his physical gender from female to male.

But, Osborn can’t live in a male dormitory at Southern Utah University because, medically, he’s still a woman.

Osborn was quoted by the Morning News item as saying, "They are really asking too much of people."

Continued Osborn, "Sexual-reassignment surgery is so expensive and so ineffective that many transgender people, like myself, don’t get it."

School officials, however, see it as their duty to keep the students housed according to physical gender.

Said a school spokesperson, Jennifer Burt, "Because we don’t have mixed housing, we have to have some kind of a baseline we can work with for situations beyond obvious classifications."

Added Burt, "We can’t knowingly put a female student in with male students or a male student in with female students."

The article said that, according to Burt, student housing is segregated according to gender; and even where there are private rooms in some dorms, the bathroom facilities are still shared space that needs to be kept restricted to use by students of one gender.

The article also cited Burt as saying that transgender student housing needs are addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Burt also said that Osborn had only applied for housing in the male dorm.

Osborne, though, said that he had been informed that he would not be able to live in the female dorms, the story said.

Assistant attorney general Michael Carter, who is also a lawyer for the university, said that before Osborn could be permitted to live in the men’s dorm, he would need to have completed gender reassignment surgery as well as hormone therapy.

The article cited Carter as saying that should Osborn turn in evidence of having met those criteria, his application to the men’s dorm would be looked over once again.

Said Carter, "We have housed another transgender student in the past who has met our baseline criteria. This student has not."

Added Carter, "We are not in the process of discriminating against transgender students."

GLBT equality activists do not agree. A press release on Osborn’s situation was sent out on Dec. 17, citing Osborn’s rejected application and saying that the state needs comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.

The article said that Utak legislators will take up GLBT anti-discrimination proposals that deal with employment issues in the next legislative session.

Said a spokesman for Equality Utah, Will Carlson, "Kourt is living as a man in his day-to-day life."

Continued Carlson, "They have the capacity to give him the housing they give every other student. It seems like a reasonable request."

It was Carlson’s contention that Osborn’s having changed his gender on his driver’s license to reflect his status as a man might be enough to qualify his complaint as a case of discrimination, the story said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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