Students Identifying as Transgender
In the fall semester of 2013, a transgender student made the unprecedented request to move from female on-campus housing to male on-campus housing the following school year. George Fox asked for time to study the issue and offered the student a single apartment within an on-campus apartment complex or the option of living off campus. The majority of George Fox juniors and seniors live off campus. The student - who was entering his junior year - chose to live off campus for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.
As the university considered the issue, a local attorney informed the university of his intent to file a complaint with the Department of Education. In response, George Fox - a private Christian university affiliated with the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quaker) Church - sought a limited exemption from Title IX as it applies to housing and bathrooms to protect its ability to set policies in a manner consistent with the religious convictions of the university and the university's denomination. That exemption was granted in May 2014. The Department of Education complaint was subsequently dismissed.
During the 2013-14 academic year, a committee of board members, administrators and faculty met more than a dozen times to develop a university position statement on gender identity issues. Several pastors and transgender individuals - including the student who requested the housing change - came before the group to share their experiences and views. Providing safe and appropriate housing for transgender students is a complex issue for all colleges. George Fox University is a private Christian university. Because of its values surrounding modesty, sexual purity and safety, the university has had a single-sex housing policy for undergraduates since the 1800s. To clarify that policy in a changing cultural landscape, the George Fox Board of Trustees has accepted the following position statement.
George Fox University Position Statement:
Students Identifying as Transgender
George Fox University, in accordance with our evangelical Quaker and Christian ethos, believes that all persons are created by God and in the image of God. The foundation of our understanding of God's work in the world is that God loves all people and attributes great worth and value to each person. Preserving human dignity, honoring others above oneself, and pursuing both grace and truth are essential to living in a Christ-centered community.
We believe that each individual person is created with gifts designed to bring glory to God and edification to the world. Our bodies are among those gifts, and are to be offered as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, as an act of worship. Therefore, all aspects of our bodies and identities should seek first to exalt Christ, recognizing God's deep love for each person.
As we humbly reflect on biblical and theological implications for our understanding of gender identity, several considerations follow.
- God created humans in the Divine image: male and female.
- As a result of the fall, complete physical and emotional wholeness for humanity will never fully occur on earth. Humans' experience of sex and gender (and many other things in our world) may not always be as the Creator originally designed.
- God cares deeply about every person, including their pain and suffering. Hope and contentment in life rely on the knowledge of God's love, compassion and redemption. Our full identities are to be found in God alone.
As George Fox University works diligently to fully care for and love students as they journey through questions of gender identity, we simultaneously adhere to our theological commitments grounded in Scripture and expressed in our statement of faith and lifestyle covenant. We also value the expertise of our professional staff, faculty and advisors as we consider the needs of the student community at large.
Knowing that each and every one of us struggles with brokenness, we seek to foster a healthy and life-producing community, rooted in loving concern for one another and seeking to live in ways pleasing to God as informed by Scripture and wisdom. Understanding that one's gender identity might not conform to his or her birth sex, we want all students to feel embraced within our faith-imbued community of learning. Believing also that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free person, male nor female, we believe that God does not show favoritism between persons or genders. God loves all persons equally and calls us to do the same. Therefore, we seek to foster a loving and nurturing environment for all of our students, reflecting Christ according to God's love and purpose as best we understand it.
As for all of our students, our desire is to provide a campus environment that furthers spiritual, academic, and personal development and growth. Given the varying circumstances of students identifying as transgender, addressing their particular needs will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, prioritizing the well-being of the individual and community alike. As an example, care is thus given to ensure that gender-neutral bathrooms are provided in academic and other facilities when possible.
Since the university's founding, our convictions around sexual purity and modesty have led us to provide separate housing for each sex. We intend to maintain our same-sex housing, although the realities of transgender processes may require special considerations. To ensure the privacy and well-being of all George Fox students, housing units with private restrooms and living spaces will be provided for students identifying as transgender where possible. With approval and consistent with housing policy, this may include living in a room in a shared house (or appropriate apartment) on campus with a student's legally-recognized gender, provided housemates/apartment mates have agreed to such an arrangement. A guiding consideration will always be ensuring that students remain connected to community.
In terms of athletic participation (intercollegiate and intramural), the university will follow standards outlined by the NCAA. Student organizations, student leadership, and the arts, among other opportunities, will be available to students identifying as transgender, though appropriate arrangements may need to be made depending on the circumstances. In each situation, we encourage students to communicate with student life staff and/or other appropriate university faculty and staff regarding their concerns and needs, as we endeavor to support all students at George Fox University with love and care.