Katherine Wynne doesn’t think the best roommate is necessarily one of the same gender. Fortunately for her, the University agrees. Wynne is one of many students hoping to live in a gender-neutral room next year, taking advantage of the University’s new housing policy that allows males and females to live together.
“I don’t think you’re a more compatible roommate because of your gender. I never got that,” the freshman said.
Wynne hopes to live in a gender-neutral suite next year with freshmen Alyssa Schaefer, Christian Thomas and Stephanie Anderson as part of the Philanthropic Arts Living and Learning Cohort.
The sole male of the group, Thomas said he chose to live with the girls because they are cleaner than boys. He also added that Anderson is one of his best friends.
“Growing up, my brother was gay. Just the way I was brought up, it didn’t matter if it was a guy or a girl,” Anderson said. “For me, living with a girl was weird.”
Sophomore Nick Santangelo already lives in the Escaping Genders LLC on 22nd and F streets and plans to live there again next year. The LLC that, in Santangelo’s words, “sort of started the gender-neutral housing in the first place,” is currently housing him and three other students: two boys and a girl.
“A lot of my friends at school are girls. I’d rather room with someone I know than someone I’ve never met before,” Santangelo said.
He said he plans to room with his friend, sophomore Sara Schlosser.
“I’m looking forward to living with someone who’s completely opposite to me,” he said.
Schlosser’s own reasons for living in gender-neutral housing are slightly different.
“I hate the lottery system and it’s a way to guarantee I’ll live with all my friends. This year I asked to live with two other people and I got placed in Mitchell with neither one of them,” she said.
Schlosser met Santangelo through mutual friends in Allied in Pride last year. She also sat in on the Student Association meeting when the organization voted in favor of gender-neutral housing last January. She said the new policy gives students who are part of the LGBT community the option for more comfortable living arrangements.
“I’m happy because I know for some people, this is a real need,” she said. “Everyone says GW is such a gay-friendly school, but there is still some of that hate. I don’t think you can fully change the minds of those people with such negativity, but at least you can change the living arrangements.”
She added she knows of people who are currently facing discrimination from roommates who are uncomfortable with their sexual preferences.
“At the very least, you should feel comfortable in your own dorm, and if you’re not, then that’s horrible,” she said.
Wynne said the dynamic in a cross gender room is better for her.
“You interact differently on a girl-guy level… in a completely positive way. I don’t see why you should be limited,” she said.
Wynne and Anderson both agreed that a male roommate would likely be more straightforward than a girl in handling potential suite problems and neither foresees many awkward situations.
“Apart from sexiling… nope,” Anderson said.
For Michael Komo, a graduating senior who has been the leading force behind gender-neutral housing, this success has been a long time coming. As the president of Allied in Pride, he organized Colonials for GNH and sponsored the bill for gender-neutral housing that was passed by the SA last January and ratified by the University in December.
While Komo will be gone from GW for the campus-wide kickoff of the policy, to him, the gender-neutral housing bill is a change with reverberating effects for the LGBT community.
“One of my transgender friends faced discrimination in his housing situation during my sophomore year simply because of who he is,” Komo said. “I knew at that point that I could never let anyone experience what he had. I knew our housing policy had to change.”