Photo by Benjamin Lachman
For traditional students at George Fox University, living on campus with friends and classmates is a right of passage. This right of passage is looking like it will no longer be a reality for transgender student Jayce M.
Over the last few months, university officials have been in conversation with Jayce to provide support while he has transition from his birth gender as a female to becoming physically, socially, and legally male.
“While the university did not grant his request to live on campus with males, the student was not denied on-campus housing,” a press release from the university said. “He was offered the option of an on-campus single apartment with a commitment from Student Life to ensuring he stayed socially connected to the community.”
On April 4, Attorney Paul Southwick filled a Title IX sex discrimination case with the U.S. Department of Education regarding the university’s recent decision.
“Title IX does not have a religious exemption for housing discrimination,” Southwick said in an email. “It has a religious exemption for admissions, but that is not implicated here. The Oregon Equality Act also protects Jayce from discrimination in housing and public accommodations on the basis of his gender identity.”
Southwick wrote that filing the complaint was necessary after they had reportedly exhausted all avenues of trying to come to a solution with the university.
The university has taken time to research Southwick’s legal claims. The university said that such claims are without merit, given that the university is religiously based.
“The university has made many efforts to provide support and accommodation for the student and remains committed to his academic, physical and spiritual welfare,” said the statement released by university officials.
George Fox is not alone in having to come to this decision. Both secular and non-religious schools are struggling in how to reasonably support transgender students.
“These commitments don’t always lead to easy answers in an increasingly complex world,” the press release said. “But George Fox is very conscious of the need to approach difficult questions with grace, understanding and an abiding love for our students, faculty and staff. This is why we are disappointed in how the situation has escalated.”
Jayce spoke out through his lawyer on his feelings about the denial to live with his male friends on campus.
“The university’s decision makes me feel rejected, misunderstood and punished for something I cannot change,” Southwick wrote in an email on behalf of Jayce. “It also makes me anxious and nervous about where I’ll be able to live next year, and the year after that, especially if their housing policy based on ‘biological birth sex’ goes into effect.’”