Final Project: Gender Iclusive Housing

“Hi! Do any of you happen to know which hall has the Gender Inclusive Living Experience?” I blurt out, unsure of how to approach the situation.

A cluster of on-duty Resident Advisors is sitting at a desk in the East Quad Community Center. When I approach they stop shuffling their papers and silence their conversation.

One of the girls at the desk raises her head at me. Her eyebrows squiggle upward, and her mouth tightens as if she has to conceal her “yes” before knowing my motive for the question.

“Maybe this wasn’t the right approach,” I think to myself.

Until one of the other RAs responds enthusiastically, “That’s my hall!”

“He’s my in.” I think, more confidently now.

As I explain my project, in hopes of him agreeing to do an interview with me, I try to maintain my composure.

“I researched this. I know what gender inclusive housing is. Avoid any speculative language. Stay objective. Smile.” As I inwardly recite these things to myself, I feel pressure to explain to him what is really darting through my mind.

The truth is, I feel vastly undereducated about gender and sexuality. I have never had to consciously think about my own expression of gender or sexual identity. I’m straight, I have female biological sex, I present myself femininely, and I identify as a woman. These are factors in my life that I never have had to confront or explain to anyone else. Sure, I know what LGBTQ stands for, and I have seen Orange is the New Black, but to claim that gives me a proper understanding of gender or sexuality feels unjust. Now I’m about to interview you about a topic where I can easily come across as insensitive, even though that is definitely not my intention. If I ask anything offensive, I’m sorry, I’m literally just ignorant on this topic.

“Please don’t answer anything you don’t feel comfortable with,” I decide to tell him instead.

Brian Garcia is the RA for the Gender Inclusive Living Experience (GILE) living community within East Quad. He begins talking with me about gender inclusive living and states, “It doesn’t look any different [from other halls] other than the fact that resources are offered.”

I begin to learn that some of the resources that students have access to in gender inclusive housing across campus include gender-neutral bathrooms, the option to have a single dorm room, or the ability pick roommates who also want to live in a gender inclusive environment. Specifically for the GILE community in East Quad students go through an orientation, and are given the option to have peer discussions, but nothing is mandated.

I also spoke with Will Sherry, the Director of the Spectrum Center, and one of the individuals who helps students who are seeking gender inclusive housing. He noted that, “We really don’t formally program a lot, and that is intentional.” Rather, Sherry attributes “informal relationship building” as an important practice for allowing for students who have similar identities to exchange information.

I start to understand that gender inclusive housing helps to give students an outlet to feel comfortable expressing themselves in their campus living situation. However, it does not assume all students who elect this option are the same in how they engage with their identity.

In reference to this, Sherry noted, “Just because people identify in similar ways, doesn’t mean they talk about their identities in similar ways, and it doesn’t mean that they have an understanding of the many other identities that each of them hold.”

I had to process this for a moment. I know that everyone has their own personal struggles, but I assumed that these were part of what drew this community together. That it was because of shared and relatable experiences.

To this note, Garcia shared a comment with me. “What is found with students with marginalized identities is that you’re often doing a lot of education in other spaces… It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen [in GILE] unfortunately, because we don’t live in a vacuum, but there are efforts.”

Throughout my discussions I learned that the real power of gender inclusive housing is driven by the idea that everyone deserves to be safe and comfortable in their own home. Whether that is through engaging with peers, or just by being able to use a restroom without fear, gender inclusive housing is one way to provide students with that security.

I went into this project thinking that I was going to interview someone who chose to live in gender inclusive housing based on specific experiences, or necessity. I was compartmentalizing this community with the idea that it was something different from other living spaces on campus. Though gender inclusive housing options do have certain features, it isn’t built out of an idea that it needs to be anything other than a safe space for students to live.

As I walked out of East Quad I thought back to my own experience of living in a dorm room. I hated my lofted bed, and constantly complained that I didn’t have enough room for my clothes. I know that my concerns were trivial, especially in comparison to other students’ worries. However I am also glad that those are the problems that more students are becoming able to focus on because of gender inclusive housing.




Scene 1: shots from inside East Quad, dorm room w/ voice over: “Your dorm is supposed to be your home away from home in college, so shouldn’t it feel that way?

Scene 2: Student who lives in gender inclusive housing interview “I chose to live here because…”

Scene 3: Shots from the hallway, posters, bathroom signs, etc. w/ Voice Over: “Gender inclusive living at the University of Michigan is one way our university helps to provide a safe environment for students of all gender identities and expressions to live comfortably on campus.”

Scene 4: Interview w/ Will Sherry – talk about the initiative, why it is important as an option for students

Scene 5: Back to student who lives there (inside dorm room) voice over: “___ is a student and resident in gender inclusive housing at the University of Michigan”

Scene 6: Interview shot w/ student talking about experience living there, what it means to them, why it is important, the benefits

Scene 7: some type of transition (voice over?)

Scene 8: Interview w/ RA – what are some of the problems you have identified as an RA in this environment, how have you been able to work through these or help the other students?

Scene 9: Back to original student, their thoughts on the problems, what are some things that should be improved, (doesn’t have to be specifically with the living situation, but for the entire campus to make it a more inclusive space in general?)

Should I put in an interview from a student who doesn’t support it? Or is that too aggressive? 

Scene 10: Back to Will Sherry? “What would you say to a student who doesn’t support gender inclusive living?” Or what would you tell uofm to help make this a better environment?

Scene 11: Conclude with student who is happy and shares a super positive experience about living there, what they have learned, how it has helped their college experience?

Scene 12: closing shots, back around the dorm, students hanging out w/ voice over “I don’t know what I want to say here but it will be profound”


I have never consciously thought about my own expression of gender or sexual identity. I’m straight. I identify as a woman. I present myself femininely. I have female biological sex. Yet there are individuals who do have to consciously think about their own expression of gender and sexual identity.

I can’t pretend to understand that experience. I have never known confusion about who I am or whom I am attracted to. I do know what LGBTQ stands for, and I have seen Orange is the New Black, but to claim that this is a proper understanding of gender and sexuality feels unjust.

Gender and sexuality are concepts that are so deeply personal, yet are forced to be so outwardly conveyed that certain spaces are pervaded by unavoidable discomfort in gender expression and sexual identity, but does one of these spaces have to be within an individual’s own home?

About 10,000 students live in residential housing at the University of Michigan each year.

quotes from student or will sherry

final thoughts


Final Project Ideas

  1. Gender Inclusive Housing at Umich

One Line Story Idea: An inside look at how gender inclusive housing works at the University of Michigan.

Which media: Video and text.

Type of story and style:

  • Video: Feature? Shots from inside East Quad with residents who live in the gender inclusive housing options. Interviews with the students, the RAs, university members who set up gender inclusive housing. How it works, what it is like, why it is important, etc.
  • Text: Feature. Specific look at one student who lives in gender inclusive housing, follow a day in their life, share their particular experience.

Interviewees: Students within gender inclusive housing, Spectrum Center workers/volunteers, Patty Griffin or Will Sherry (the go to umich people who set up gender inclusive housing). Maybe someone who doesn’t agree with it, or a resident within EQ who doesn’t live in the gender inclusive environment?

Main Questions:

  1. What is your experience like in gender inclusive housing, what made you want to live here specifically?
  2. What are the benefits of this environment, what are the drawbacks?
  3. What could the University do to improve this, and why is gender inclusive housing important?

Additional Notes:

Statistics about gender/sexuality at umich?



Beginning: Start with explanation about gender inclusive housing at umich. What it is, how its offered, how you can apply?

Middle: introduce students who live in gender inclusive housing, their experience, RAs, officials

End: Is this enough, what are we missing and where can we go to improve how gender identity is addressed?


Beginning: A single student’s story, how college has impacted their gender experience.

Middle: How living in a gender inclusive environment has helped or hurt their experience

End: What should others know, how can we become a more inclusive university?

Broll/nat sound: sounds from EQ, spectrum center, etc.

2. How UHS handles sexual health

One Line Story Idea: Understand what our university health service does to teach students about healthy relationships – is it enough or should they do more?

Which media: Video and Text?

Type of story/style:

  1. Video: feature, follow a student into a UHS appointment for advice on birth control, STD testing, or another sexual health related issue.
  2. Text: feature, Talk with doctors, medical personnel, or students on  sexpterteam about how our university communicates about healthy relationships.

Interviewees: Student at umich, doctors, nurses, personnel who work at UHS, sexperteam members, student who has benefitted from UHS healthy relationships, student who doesn’t think there’s enough done.

Main Questions:

  1. How effective is our university at promoting relationship and sexual health to its students?
  2. Where are the gaps in the university’s ability to help students with sexual health and relationships?
  3. How does it feel to try to talk to UHS about sexual health?

Additional background/notes:

Stats about sexual health at umich


Beginning: Start with walking in to UHS, going for an appointment about sexual health (birth control, relationship advice, STD testing <– pick one)

Middle: Going through the experience, talking with the doctor, general reaction, advice offered, etc. Back and forth with sexperteam member about their thoughts on the UHS sex/relationship experience.

End: What was it like, reaction, gaps and things that actually helped.


Beginning: Here is what our university does to promote healthy relationships and sexual health

Middle: Experts, students opinions, is it actually helpful, what are other schools doing, should there be more emphasis, and how.

End: What we need as students, why it is important.

Broll/nat sound: going to UHS, sounds of medical equipment, etc.


I don't even really like cats, I just thought this was funny.

I don’t even really like cats, I just thought this was funny.


There’s always time for Starbucks.

The most important thing in this photo is Chipotle.

The most important thing in this photo is Chipotle.

Audio Draft

This is my draft of the audio I will be using for my piece. I realize it’s over double the length allotted for the project, and so I will be cutting chunks of the stories down, but I wanted to keep it all here for the draft to help explain the story arc that I was going for.

I decided to start the piece where the couple first started like “having feelings” for each other, and then grow the story from there. I think I added tension with the part that talks about how all the other dancers told them never to date their partner, and then it gets resolved by them talking about the strengths of their relationship, and how ballroom has helped them in their relationship.

I’m struggling with how to be a narrator within the piece. I am thinking that I can have myself (“in studio”) asking leading questions that allow for their answers to be given, but when the interview was taking place they just started talking and gave me all this great material without me having to interrupt. I also am struggling with how my language should be in the narration parts, I obviously don’t want it to be over formal, but I also don’t want it to be cheesy. I think that with stories like this it is easy to make it cheesy, or over done on the narration side, and I want to avoid that… so any suggestions would be helpful.

Also, I just want to check in to make sure that you all think the sound bites I have chosen are interesting. I thought they were, and I liked the emotions you could hear in their voices, but tell me if you think otherwise.

I can’t wait for feedback… Thanks!