Quaker University in the Middle of Dispute Over How to Provide Housing for Transgendered Male Student

Jaycen, a George Fox University student who identifies as male, wants to live next year with a group of male friends; however, the college considers him a woman and turned down his request. (Thomas Patterson for The New York Times)
Jaycen, a George Fox University student who identifies as male, wants to live next year with a group of male friends; however, the college considers him a woman and turned down his request. (Thomas Patterson for The New York Times)

A growing number of openly transgender students have forced schools around the country to address questions so basic that they were rarely asked just a few years ago, much less answered: What defines a person’s gender, and who gets to decide?

A small Quaker college here, George Fox University, has become the latest front in this fight, refusing to recognize as male a student who was born anatomically female. The student calls himself a man, and as of April 11, when a state circuit court legally changed his sex, the State of Oregon agrees.

But George Fox University sees him as a woman, and it prohibits unwed students from living with anyone of the opposite sex. So when the student asked to live next year with a group of male friends, the university turned him down. Instead, it offered him a single-person apartment on campus, or off-campus housing.

The dispute has drawn attention from two departments of the federal government. It has already broken new legal ground, and it might do so again soon, according to experts on gender identity issues.

At the center of it is Jaycen, a 20-year-old psychology major, who asked that his last name be withheld because he has been harassed and threatened. He is, in some ways, a typical young man — he is an avid basketball player, he is attracted to women and he spends spare hours playing the video game Call of Duty and listening to R&B and hip-hop.

“Living in a female dorm means that each day, the first thoughts I have are about my struggles living in a body that never felt right to me,” he said. Living there while undergoing testosterone therapy has been a particular challenge.

“I’ve got the libido of a 14-year-old boy, and I’m living with a bunch of young women,” he said. “It’s not a good recipe for promoting the kind of behavior that a Christian university expects from its students.”

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SOURCE: JOSHUA HUNT and RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
The New York Times

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