An African-American transgender student–who’ll be a junior at George Fox University next year–has been denied on-campus housing at the Oregon college. Jayce M., from Portland, Ore., has medically and socially transitioned and has started his legal transition. Jayce’s attorney, Portlander Paul Southwick, filed a Title IX discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Friday morning.
In a letter obtained by PQ Monthly, Mark Pothoff, Dean of Community Life, who partnered with Brad Lau, Vice-President for Student Life, along with four members of the Board of Trustees before making the decision, outlined the institution’s denial–and their rationale. The school is in the process of adding to their housing policy that they will house students by his/her biological birth sex–which, according to college officials, needs more time to be developed, and to “coincide with a theological and philosophical statement.”
In lieu of on-campus housing, college officials offered “conditional” approval for Jayce–to live off-campus with male students for the 2014-15 school year. The conditional approval, according to the letter from college officials, is a “one-year exception”–and subject to change at any time. In order to receive “full approval” to live off-campus with male students, Jayce must meet a variety of requirements before June 1–including legally changing his name and gender for the following items: his driver’s license, his social security card, and his birth certificate. (The demand about his birth certificate was later rescinded.)
Additionally, school officials–at first–insisted they “must meet with” all of Jayce’s potential roommates in order to “affirm they understand his story, are willing to live with him,” and that his roommates “have informed their parents about this living arrangement.”
Pothoff did present another option: “If you desire to only live on-campus, we may be able to provide a single room for you, although we agreed this was not a good option (though we would certainly do our best to connect you with the larger community if you were in a single room).”
“I recognize this decision may be controversial to some people in our community,” Pothoff writes. “However, I think you’ve provided good rationale that caused us to reconsider the initial decision. […] Jayce, I’m glad you’re at Fox and I want to continue to see you be successful here.”
George Fox, who on Thursday denied Jayce’s last appeal on the matter, refused to meet with Southwick and Jayce to resolve his housing situation informally. Despite pleas from Jayce and his mother–including a direct appeal to the President–the university continued to deny Jayce’s request for on-campus housing. The school did, eventually–and after meetings with Jayce and his mother–remove the off-campus requirement that Jayce’s friends inform their parents that they are living with a transgender student, since that would have been a violation of Jayce’s privacy rights, and that he change the sex listed on his birth certificate, according to Southwick. (He was born in Tennessee, which remains one of the few states that makes it impossible for transgender people to change their sex on their birth certificate.)
In a bright spot, Jayce’s mother–who’s been incredibly supportive–has started an online petition at change.org. “I am speaking out for my African-American, transgender son, Jayce,” she writes. “Jayce wants to live with his male friends in on-campus housing next year, but George Fox University refused to allow it because Jayce is transgender.” You can find her petition here.