University of Notre Dame Reportedly Denies Safe Housing to Transgender Student

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Eve on Notre Dame’s campus

The University of Notre Dame reportedly failed to provide a transgender student with housing, the latest incident as many Catholic colleges and universities grapple with gender identity issues.

Ronan Farrow of NBC’s “Today Show” reported in June about Eve, a transgender Notre Dame student, in a segment following up the show’s 2015 report about her.

Eve, who just finished her junior year at the South Bend, Indiana, school, began transitioning while in college. This positive step in her life has made campus life difficult for her when it comes to housing, restrooms, and other issues.

Regarding housing, Notre Dame has only single-sex dormitories. The news piece claimed the University has not supported Eve as she seeks to move from the all-male dorm in which she had lived to an all-female dorm.

Eve said in the 2015 report that, for the most part, other residents referred to her by her new name and “treated [her] exactly the same as before.” Still, the all-male dorm is not ideal for her. Her former Resident Assistant said compassion is many people’s priority.  Still some residents had come to him with questions about a woman living in their dorm.  Some saw Eve as simply a man dressing as a woman who was living in their dorm. As for the administration’s response, Eve told NBC:

“I expect, honestly, that the University is hoping that as soon as I leave, no one will ever try this again.”

Eve’s mother, Teresa, like many parents of LGBT children, said she simply wants “what’s best for” her child. And an all-female dorm would be significantly safer.

Safety is a question, too, when it comes to restroom use. Eve stated, “I am safer using a women’s restroom.” But beginning to use women’s restrooms has been”really scary,” she told NBC, because if she is reported, she could be expelled. But, Eve said, “people don’t even consider the safety of the [transgender] individuals.”

Eve said socializing is incredibly difficult, and, with no support system on campus, she has caused experienced depression. She told NBC in the 2015 report, “being trans is a small part of who I am” and there is far more to her life.

Eve will be entering her senior year this fall, finishing her degree in math and aspiring to be a teacher. After repeated requests for safer housing were ignored, she will be living off campus. According to NBC, officials at Notre Dame declined to comment,which host Matt Lauer said was a surprising response. But the University of Notre Dame is not the first, nor the only Catholic institution responding to increased transgender visibility and awareness.

A number of Catholic schools refuse to support LGBT students and even oppose protections for them. At least five Catholic schools have sought religious exemptions from federal Title IX protections which ban LGBT discrimination. Colleges approved for exemptions by the Department of Education are  Belmont Abbey College, North Carolina, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, St. Gregory’s University, Oklahoma, and John Paul the Great Catholic University, California. The University of Dallas, Texas, has a pending application.

On the positive side, as Bondings 2.0 has reported in the past, many schools have proactively sought to support transgender students. Gender-neutral housing options have been implemented at some schools, such as the College of the Holy Cross , Massachusetts. Gender-neutral restrooms exist at some schools, such as Fordham University, New York. And transgender student Lexi Dever said that even though the Catholic Church nearly killed her, Georgetown University had saved her.

Greater awareness and more legal protections mean gender identity issues on Catholic campuses will not be going away any time soon. Education officials should not ignore or oppose the well-being of transgender students. All students in Catholic education deserve to feel safe, welcomed, and affirmed.

Know of more news happening for LGBT inclusion in Catholic higher education? Let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below or send a tip to info@newwaysministry.org.

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

7 Responses to University of Notre Dame Reportedly Denies Safe Housing to Transgender Student

  1. miriamtf says:

    Thank you for keeping me informed. That’s the age of my kids and, even it weren’t, all college kids are my kids.

  2. jono113 says:

    I am not at all surprised by the inability of a Catholic college to deal with this in a responsible manner to the student. My heart goes out to Eve. Having said that, I also do not understand why she would stay there. As Jesus said to the disciples: if they do not welcome you shake the dust off your sandals and move on.

  3. Loretta says:

    It seems to me that the interim solution of off campus housing is reasonable, not ideal, but it’s a first step. If all the girls are okay with this student being in the female dorms then that’s the next step. As much as we would like institutions and others to be exactly where we are that is simply not the reality. It took women 144 years to secure the right to vote. I think within ten years transgender accommodations will be the norm as is accommodations for those with disabilities, another long and arduous fight. And our fellow citizens of color are still fighting for respect and equal treatment.

  4. J says:

    Catholic schools shouldn’t be exempted from title IX. That’s not religious freedom. Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion.

  5. concerned says:

    I honestly don’t think the university can do much about this; single sex dorms are all that is currently available, and the only neutral on campus housing is graduate residences. Yes, they could have moved Eve into a girls’ dormitory; however, I guarantee there would have been a huge uproar from many of the residents and Eve would feel even more unsafe. Off campus housing is the most suitable solution.

    • jono113 says:

      To Concerned – No, off campus housing is not the most suitable solution. Forcing Eve to go off campus is not a solution. What about the next trans student, and the ones after that? Building a safe and, dare I say it, Christian atmosphere in the campus so that Eve is not singled out but simply accepted as a child of God is the suitable solution.

  6. Friends says:

    Just to say: I’m so glad my own Jesuit College (Holy Cross) is counted among the “good actors” in this conundrum. One thing which helps is that Holy Cross students, in their third and fourth years, get to choose elective suites — (i.e., residential rooms accommodating four or five students, adjoining a common kitchen and bathroom) — which allows those students to choose the people whom they would like to be with. To the best of my knowledge and information, all of the “out” Holy Cross GLBT students, for the past several years at least, have had no problem whatsoever finding suite mates with whom they are fully compatible and free from emotional conflict. I just wish the other Catholic colleges and universities, especially those in the “Jesuit League”, would get a clue and try to emulate the same social arrangements, clearly rooted in Christian Caritas.

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