Gender-neutral housing at Bowdoin is a necessary step to create a more just, equal and free environment for all students. The present system relies upon and upholds assumptions of a heteronormative gender binary, and in the process marginalizes students who do not fit into this limited mold while restricting the freedom of all students.

Why not have gender-neutral housing? The recent arguments against gender-neutral housing presented in these pages have been both intellectually untenable and alarmingly narrow in their understanding of the Bowdoin student population.

In the November 20 issue, Craig Hardt wrote in his op-ed "A gender neutral housing policy is unnecessary and problematic," and some administrators and students in the article, "Gender-neutral housing discussed," put forth the argument that since students who have "valid" reasons (as determined by administrators, of course) to live with someone of another gender may petition to do so, gender-neutral housing is unnecessary.

But does providing exceptions to a restrictive and discriminatory policy change the problematic nature of that policy? Of course not. And the very need for exceptions points to the inadequacy of the policy for numerous current students, although many who would want to live with someone of another gender undoubtedly have not even tried due to the lack of advertising, the extra effort required, and a possible fear of "outing," as noted in the last issue's article.

Furthermore, realize that this policy forces certain students—who feel uncomfortable with living with someone of the same sex, or who don't fit neatly into either gender category—to either live in a situation with which they are uncomfortable, or to do extra work and go through a public process that other students can avoid entirely.

When an administrator at the college "emphasized that ResLife would not place students in a mixed-gender environment, given that not all students would be comfortable with such a living situation," as reported in the Orient, I am deeply disturbed by the narrow-minded assumptions underlying such a statement. What of the students who feel uncomfortable living with someone of the same sex, but are forced to from the very start of their first year? Apparently not all Bowdoin students matter, and administrative opposition to gender-neutral housing makes the college's claim to support LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer) students seem just that—a claim, and nothing more.

This points toward what I feel is the most urgent and convincing claim for the need for gender-neutral housing—the fact that not all students, past, present or future, fit into the gender binary which our present policy assumes.

On the whole, Bowdoin is not a terribly friendly place—institutionally or socially—for transgender or intersex students. The lack of gender-neutral housing (and bathrooms) is a key part of the problem, as it denies the very existence and humanity of students who do not fit the (false) gender binary that administrators and some students would have us uphold by maintaining gender-segregated housing.

The other damaging assumption beneath defenses of the current policy is that all students are heterosexual. It is clear that ResLife's biggest fear in changing the policy is that it would lead to couples rooming together—but this ignores the fact that same-sex couples already can live in the same room. It also relies upon an oversimplified understanding of student sexuality—some sexual relations may occur between any roommates, of any gender, and there is nothing ResLife can or should do about that.

They may quite understandably discourage students in clear sexual relationships from rooming together while at Bowdoin, but ResLife ultimately has no business regulating the sexual lives of students. The current policy also pretends that men and women cannot be friends or roommates without a sexual element—but, again, even if there is a sexual situation, I do not see how the college administration can reasonably attempt to or claim to control that aspect of students' lives.

For these reasons of fairness as well as freedom, Bowdoin should embrace gender-neutral housing for upperclassmen and also begin offering a gender-neutral option to incoming freshmen. ResLife understandably fears the new difficulties and situations that can arise from any change, but when such a change is made for fundamental concerns for justice and equality at Bowdoin, to stop reinforcing damaging assumptions regarding gender and sexuality, and to give all Bowdoin students the freedom to live with whomever they want—without bureaucratic hurdles—the potential difficulties are well worth the definite payoff.

Jimmy Pasch is a member of the Class of 2011.