This fall, Ohio University will become the 56th university in the country to offer gender-neutral housing which allows students to live in the same room on campus with any other student regardless of gender or sexuality. While coed dorms have been around for a long time, male and female students were traditionally housed in different halls, different suites, or at least different rooms. Now male and female students can live in the same room. Vice President for Student Affairs at Ohio University Kent Smith has made clear gender-neutral housing (GNH) is not for those in romantic relationships who want to live together. So with romantic relationships forbidden – at least in writing – what is the goal behind GNH?
At Ohio, the GNH plan was championed by the vice commissioner of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender commission. The Office of Student Affairs states the motivation behind the plan is to create a ‘more inclusive environment.’ At Harvey Mudd College, administrators adopted GNH in response to the requests of homosexual, bisexual, and transgender students who wanted a roommate of the opposite gender. However, heterosexual students are free to join in GNH as well with no regulation of behavior. Guy Gerbick, Dean of Residential Life at Harvey Mudd, sums up the attitude of many administrators when he says, “If we are going into a post-gender world, then the regulation of private behavior is just not practical.” Are we going into a post-gender world? The organization pushing colleges to adopt GNH is even named “The National Student Genderblind Campaign.”
The goal of gender-neutral housing is to erase gender distinctions. Male and female categories no longer matter – one is free to have sex with whoever, live with whoever, be whoever, and act however one wants without pesky cultural norms or morals getting in the way. The expansion of GNH beyond homosexual and transgendered students to any and all who want it furthers the blurring of gender distinctions and as those distinctions break down, homosexuality and other ‘alternative lifestyles’ become normal.
This reshaping of gender offers promise for a number of interests. Feminists will finally wash away any suggestion men and women possess different aptitudes. The roles of mother and father will no longer be bound to gender. Homosexual couples will be free to adopt and their families will become a celebrated facet of cultural diversity. When someone shows up with a new gender, no one will think twice about it. Moral judgments about “cohabitation” will disappear as living unmarried with members of the opposite sex becomes normal. Some celebrate these developments. Some are shocked by them. But I am not an alarmist. These are becoming reality and GNH is just another step in the process, strategically positioned at the formative stages of young adults.
Surprisingly, these colleges and universities which have been champions of feminism are now offering women up as sacrificial lambs on the altar of a new agenda. Violence against women is a serious issue on campuses. The National Institute of Justice has found that between one-fifth and one-fourth of women are the victims of attempted or completed rape in college but only five percent are ever reported to law enforcement. Nine out of ten of the offenders were known to the victim. While schools cannot control off-campus behavior, they have now given their blessing to on-campus situations which are statistically dangerous for their female students. But this doesn’t matter to GNH proponents; having respected institutions encourage the reshaping of gender norms is too important.
Gender is not a cultural construct. When the God of the universe created humanity he made them distinctly male and female. Genesis 1:27 says:
So God created man in his own image
In the image of God he created him
Male and female he created them
Thus, male and female categories derive from the design of the Creator. This is evident biologically (beyond reproductive organs and hormones, males have higher metabolic rates, more sweat glands, more lung capacity, larger hearts and faster digestion while women have more nerves in the skin, white blood cells, and longer life expectancy). Psychologically, the differences between men and women have provided comedians endless material because they are so apparent. As Bill Cosby has remarked, “Men and women belong to different species and communication between them is still in its infancy.”
The Bible goes on to celebrate God’s gift of gender by picturing the uniqueness of the virtuous woman (Prov. 31), assigning different but complimentary roles to men and women in the home and church (Eph. 5:23-33, 1 Tim. 2:8-13), and by instructing men and women to conform to cultural distinctions between genders and not to blur them (1 Cor. 11:13-16). Christians accept gender as a good gift from a loving God and strive to live it out in ways that glorify Him. Gender-neutral housing and similar efforts to erase gender emerge out of a humanist worldview that makes man the measure of all things. They are a rebellion against God’s created order, suppressing the truth in favor of a self-serving lie (Rom. 1:21-25). Gender is an annoying restraint on a little god’s right to define his or her own reality.
Those trying to erase gender will only find emptiness and brokenness in their success; but they are increasingly successful as more universities endorse their agenda. In a Los Angeles Times article reporting on GNH at Pitzer College, Lindon Pronto – a heterosexual male living on campus with a female – summarized the attitude of much of his generation when he said:
“I think those old-fashioned ways of thinking are kind of dissipating. . . . Over the years, this division between men and women, which was so big, is slowly closing.”
If that division is about equality, rights, respect, or opportunity than amen; but this is about more. Men and women are completely equal image bearers of God and have been created uniquely as male and female. Will we celebrate and embrace this or let it dissipate in the wake of cultural “progress”?