All-gender housing holds open house

By Lauryn Gutierrez

The all-gender housing community held their first open house on March 7. Guests talked with current residents about community life and had the opportunity to tour the living space, eat sandwiches, “dress their gender” in a photo booth and pick up housing applications and information relevant to the community.All-gender housing, which allows members of different genders to share a living space on campus, is the newest addition to Macalester’s specialty housing options. The process began last year when a number of students expressed interest in an all-gender living space. The task was passed on to the current residents, who ultimately created the community.

“I’m really surprised that it only started this year because Macalester is such a liberal community and there is lots of talk about gender equality,” resident Jenny Grinblo ’11 said.

Students who apply and are accepted in the all-gender housing option live in a section of Kirk. Residents share a gender-neutral bathroom and participate in activities and discussions focused on gender related issues.

“It’s good to be part of such an up and coming thing on campus,” said resident Sophia Slote ’11. Although the all-gender bathroom took a little time to get used to, “day to day living has been incredibly smooth.”

Grinblo also commented on how comfortable she and her ‘house-mates’ feel in their living space.

“It’s nice not to be worried constantly about how much you can talk about gender and sexuality and all of these issues because everyone is here for the same reason,” she said.

While its residents emphasize the successful aspects of the new option, establishing an entirely new program has not come without a few bumps.

Since the beginning of the school year, all-gender housing has been trying to get established as a student organization in order to receive the funding they need to run programming on campus. Residential Life has been supportive, but finding an adviser for the group has been challenging. There have been interested individuals, but because it is a new position some felt they didn’t have enough time to commit to the community on top of their current obligations.

Slote said they are still searching, and in the meantime they are brainstorming ways to improve their community and make it more accessible to the rest of campus.

This year, Grinblo said, residents have really focused on getting the mentality of the community in place so that future residents can use what they have established to begin programming. They also want to work with the community outside of Macalester by volunteering with HIV/AIDS organizations and communicating with other all-gender communities such as the University of Minnesota’s Lavender House.

Slote said that long-term goals include opening up more gender-neutral housing across campus. Up to 30 people are expected to apply to live in the 2009-10 community and there are only 10 spaces available.

Grinblo voiced concern that all-gender housing is only available after one’s freshman year.

“We hope that Res Life will make this type of housing available to incoming first-years,” Grinblo said. “If somebody doesn’t want to identify, or went through a sex change, it is ridiculous for them to have to spend one year living uncomfortably and only once you’ve gotten that initiation then you can move on to other things.”

Current residents hope that eventually a gender-neutral floor for freshman and a house for upperclassmen will be available to better accommodate the student body.

Applications to live in the All-Gender House are due on March 20 and can be completed online at