Saturday, December 4, 2021
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Gender-neutral housing is more than just a housing issue

In the upcoming weeks, UMKC has a chance to further contribute to this generation’s civil rights movement.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans still are denied basic, fundamental rights because of an innate, uncontrollable, harmless facet of their identity. In what many call the greatest nation in the world, society is actively marginalizing your fellow citizens.

We cannot allow this to continue any longer.

LGBT citizens are told day in and day out that they are different, immoral and disgusting. That we are causing the downfall of this nation and the unraveling of families.

It still is socially acceptable in many circles to express hateful, discriminatory, even violent sentiments about us in polite conversation. In fact, we live in a state where regular citizens feel comfortable spouting toxic hostility and contempt for LGBT people in the public forum of a city council meeting.

We can be fired, denied housing, kept from adopting children, banned from teaching, barred from basic tax and inheritance rights and denied validation of their relationships from the state. We still face daily discrimination, harassment, violence and murder. LGBT individuals are often driven to suicide.

Continually, we are denied protections in Missouri, PROMO (Missouri’s LGBT Advocacy Group) year after year introduces the Missouri Non-Discrimination Law (MONA) and year after year it fails. Former Republican Presidential Nominee  Rick Santorum compared the love of LGBT individuals to pedophilia and bestiality.

We are relegated to second-class status, easily denied acknowledgement and basic rights, on the basis of who they have sex with and what gender traits they feel comfortable expressing.

LGBT Americans face the very real, everyday threats of isolation, bigotry and hate. It is ridiculous that we are still debating civil rights, that there still is so much stubborn opposition to the proposition that all — those you like and those you don’t — are created equal. It is backward, unacceptable and, frankly, insane.

It is time for change. UMKC now has one small, symbolic but effective way to challenge that reality. Roos cannot afford to play it safe.

The gender-neutral housing option being presented to the University would give students the choice to live with students of any gender. This is an important right for all UMKC students, but it is particularly important for LGBT students because it provides a safe home on campus — something many do not have.

Gender-neutral housing means the choice to live with someone whom students know will be supportive of their sexuality or gender identity. It means freedom from discomfort, discrimination, harassment and fear.

It means the choice to live with those who are most comfortable with them, and, in turn, to live in the environment they find most comfortable — a right taken for granted by students at UMKC.

It means one small step toward equal treatment for LGBT citizens. It means a step into the 21st century for UMKC and for Missouri. It means UMKC being a true leader.

It means equality.

This is something UMKC must do. It is only a little step, but every little step is important. Roos may not be able to change the world today, but we certainly can change UMKC.

So this is not just about providing a new housing option for one group of students. This is about ensuring every American has access to the American Dream, to the equality of rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

This policy is a message to every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender member of the UMKC community that they are worthy of acknowledgment, protection, support and safety.

This issue affects us all. Equality isn’t a special interest. Americans have a responsibility to demand the promises of our founding be fulfilled and to fight so their fellow citizens may be recognized as human beings worthy of the same regard, the same respect, the same basic dignity.

This country has struggled to answer that demand and win that fight for a long time. It’s still struggling. We are calling on our fellow Roos and the University of Missouri – Kansas City to join that struggle and take this simple, powerful step to reject repression and affirm freedom for all.

And that’s why it’s more than a housing issue.

cfiles@unews.com

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