Last year, Phillips Exeter Academy and Phillips Academy Andover established all-gender dorms on their campuses. This fall, Northfield Mount Hermon and Hotchkiss School began to use all-gender dorms. As stated by Ms. Creagh, administrators at the aforementioned schools have said that the dorms have been “a huge success.” What’s more, Choate Rosemary Hall is going to add one or more such dorms to its campus next year. The Loomis Chaffee School is also discussing this idea and is very committed to having all-gender dorms. However, according to Dr. Curtis, Deerfield’s Board of Trustees has not yet expressed an opinion on all-gender dorms, though the idea was presented to them in the past.
As both a member of and an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, I feel that it is essential for Deerfield to add an all-gender dorm to its campus. Male and female are not the only genders that exist. Discovering one’s gender identity can be a long and terrifying process, and oftentimes can be harmful to a person’s mental health.
Some people experience high levels of gender dysphoria because of the uncertainty surrounding their gender identity, and that can be worsened when they are forced to live in a gendered dorm. Deerfield needs to add an all-gender dorm to its campus to provide a safe and accepting living environment for students who are questioning their gender identity and who don’t identify within the gender binary.
In order to accommodate non-binary and transgender students at Deerfield, there should be a discussion process separate from the housing lottery. The discussions would serve several purposes: First, they would accommodate people who might be questioning their gender identity, be experiencing gender dysphoria, or do not feel comfortable living in a gendered dorm. Second, they would filter out people who might want to use the all-gender dorm inappropriately. Third, they would be a space to talk to students who want to live in a dorm that doesn’t pressure its occupants to be in a romantic or sexual relationship.
At the discussions, I think that at least one Gender and Sexuality Alliance student leader should be present, as well as people with connections to the housing process and office of inclusion. Second, having a proctor or peer counselor in the all-gender dorm is important, as they would be a valuable and confidential resource for students to confide in. Next, the faculty member or members that would live in the all-gender dorm would need to fit the following requirements. First, they need to feel comfortable living in a dorm will students of all genders. Second, they should meet at least two of these qualifications: a) they identify with the LGBTQ+ community, b) they are an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, or c) they have experience with issues related to the LGBTQ+ community. Finally, I think that students who want to live in the all-gender dorm should have attended Deerfield for at least one year. The one-year minimum would allow new students to integrate into Deerfield’s social life, and it would provide time for students consider why they might or might not want to live in the all-gender dorm.
Another reason Deerfield should add all-gender dorm to its campus is to help normalize friendships across all genders. Having an all-gender dorm would positively impact the social dynamic between all genders, according to an article from SeattlePI. In an all-gender dorm, people with different gender identities living in the same dorm have the opportunity to learn more about each other’s living habits, personalities, and more without being encouraged to be in a romantic or sexual relationship. At a school like Deerfield, where there is a confusing hookup culture and very few couples on its campus, an all-gender dorm would help build healthier, happier, and more comfortable relationships. This in turn would separate the divide between groups of students on campus.
Now, one might argue that Deerfield is not ready or accepting enough to have an all-gender dorm on its campus. I disagree. Ms. Grimm, a former faculty member at Deerfield, transitioned while also teaching at Deerfield. When she announced her transition at school meeting, the entire audience clapped, cheered, and gave her a standing ovation. During my first two years at Deerfield, none of my teachers asked about their students’ preferred pronouns on the first day of school. This year, two out of five of my teachers asked their students’ pronouns on the first day of school, and I am confident that that number will increase next fall. Furthermore, there was an all-gender meeting offered this fall in addition to the boys’ and girls’ meetings. Deerfield also has at least eight all-gender bathrooms on its campus. This is all evidence of Deerfield’s dedication to become more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community.
Deerfield was one of the last boarding schools in recent decades to become co-ed. I don’t want that to be repeated with all-gender dorms. As one of the most prestigious boarding schools in America, Deerfield needs to be a role model for other schools by creating a safe and accepting environment across its entire campus. Being one of the next boarding schools to establish an all-gender dorm on its campus would be a tremendous demonstration of that. Instead of being the last school to create an all-gender dorm on its campus, why can’t we be the fourth or fifth? Exeter, Hotchkiss, Andover, and NMH have all-gender dorms. Let’s be the next school to do so—or, at the very least, let’s beat Choate to the punch.