Gender reassignment and student housing

Gender reassignment and student housing

A student organisation representative asked the Ombudsman for Equality to issue a statement on how account should be taken of gender minorities, and gender reassignment in particular, in the allocation of student housing.

For instance, in a certain case the party in charge of the student housing agency was not prepared to take account of the need, in connection with a student's gender reassignment, to move from one shared apartment to another, or for an individual apartment for the duration of the reassignment process. In the student's old shared apartment, bullying had already begun and other tenants of the shared apartment wished for the student to leave.

The Ombudsman for Equality requested a few parties providing student housing to provide an account of the practices they apply when taking note of gender and gender minorities. According to this account, shared apartments are primarily divided by gender, into apartments for women and for men.

The Equality Act does not prevent the selection of residents, for apartments shared by several students, on the basis of gender in such a way that women and men live in gender-segregated apartments. However, human gender identity and gender expression come in a multitude of forms, and not everyone can be unambiguously defined as a woman or a man. Amongst others, gender minorities include transgender and intersex persons.

The Ombudsman for Equality stated that everyone has the right to live in accordance with their perceived gender identity and to express their gender, without falling victim to gender-based harassment or other discrimination. Members of gender minorities are often more prone than others to becoming victims of this type. To prevent harassment and discrimination, account should be taken of their special situation, even in the arrangement of student housing. Gender reassignment in particular may play a significant role in a person's housing arrangements.

Transgender persons feel their own personal gender to be other than that assigned to them in the population register at birth. They often wish to reassign their gender to match their inner identity. The gender reassignment process is a phase in a transgender person's life where he or she lives within society as a women or man in accordance with their preferred gender identity over a period of several years, receives medical treatment for gender reassignment should he or she so wish, and changes his or her name and legal gender designation (personal identity number). Even during the gender reassignment process, it is important that a person is treated in accordance with the gender role in which he or she is actually living.

When a person is undergoing a gender reassignment process, the best practice when granting student housing is to consider the person to be of their preferred gender. Even in situations where the person begins to live in accordance with the social role of their perceived gender identity while living in student housing, they should be provided with the possibility of moving to a shared apartment compliant with the gender in question, or to a single apartment. It is important to ensure that, in the same way as other students, transgender persons have the right to student housing arrangements in compliance with their personal gender identity.