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Transgender Student Who Was Denied Housing

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Transgender Student Who Was Denied Housing

A transgender Southern Utah University student has been denied housing in a male dorm next semester because he has yet to undergo gender-reassignment surgery.

A transgender Southern Utah University student has been denied housing in a male dorm next semester because he has yet to undergo gender-reassignment surgery.

Kourt Osborn, 22, is undergoing hormone therapy but has not had the permanent surgery, the Deseret Morning News reported Tuesday.

"They are really asking too much of people," Osborn said in the article. "Sexual-reassignment surgery is so expensive and so ineffective that many transgender people, like myself, don't get it."

Osborn lived on campus in the women's dorms for the 2004-2005 school year. Since then, he has lived as a man and explained the change in his application to live in the men's dorms in spring 2008. After he submitted his housing application on December 1, he was asked to meet with Neuman Duncan, the director of university housing 12 days later.

"Duncan told me that a sociology professor on campus believed I am 'not truly a transsexual' because I do not seek sexual-reassignment surgery," Osborn said in a statement released by Equality Utah. "Duncan refused to identify this professor, or the 'team' of people Duncan allegedly met with about my housing request. I don't believe Duncan consulted with any experts on transgender issues either."

Equality Utah spokesman Will Carlson said in a statement that Osborn's request to live on campus is reasonable.

"SUU is out of line," says Carlson. "The university's demands are very intrusive, and even if Kourt gave the school all those documents, it would be in no better of a position to protect him or any other student than it was after Kourt explained his situation."

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C., is quoted in the release as saying the school is "way behind the times with regard to discrimination and old stereotypes of what a transgender person is. Most every university in the country has already thought through this issue and come to the obvious understanding that all students need and deserve a safe and accepting campus. That a public university funded with public money would discriminate against a student this way should be troubling to all Utahans."

Osborn is currently barred from living on campus, even though two of the four dormitories feature private bedrooms and private, lockable bathrooms.

Carlson said that the student may be able to show discrimination based on gender, which is illegal in Utah, because he has changed the gender listed on his driver's license to male. Michael Carter, an attorney representing the school, says that because Osborn is unable to prove that he has had gender-reassignment surgery, he cannot live in a male dorm.

"We have housed another transgender student in the past who has met our baseline criteria. This student has not," Carter told the Morning News. "We are not in the process of discriminating against transgender students."

SUU does not provide mixed housing. While some dormitories have private bedrooms, students still share bathrooms, a spokeswoman said to the Morning News. She also said that the university deals with transgender housing requests on a case-by-case basis to evaluate the student's needs. She said that there must be a clear classification because administrators "can't knowingly put a female student in with male students or a male student in with female students."

Osborn said that if the situation were resolved and he was granted a room on campus, he would still accept the offer. (The Advocate)

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