A transgendered student will not be allowed to live in a male dormitory at Southern Utah University (SUU). He also cannot live in a female dormitory. SUU has no mixed dorms. Full story published December 18th, 2007 in the Deseret Morning News. Also aired on KUTV Channel 2 in Salt Lake.
Outwardly, Kourt Osborn (pictured at left) appears to be a male. The 22-year-old looks, dresses and even sounds like a male. But Osborn can't live in a male dormitory at Southern Utah University because, medically, he's still a woman. Osborn says he is undergoing hormone treatment but hasn't had sexual reassignment surgery. And that was a key factor in his recent denial for housing in the spring semester.
"They are really asking too much of people," Osborn said. "Sexual-reassignment surgery is so expensive and so ineffective that many transgender people, like myself, don't get it."
The university says it isn't discriminating and has housed at least one other transgender student in the past in campus housing.
But advocates for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual rights sent out a joint press release Monday under the auspices of the, saying that Osborn's denial is evidence of the need for non-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Lawmakers will consider in the upcoming legislative session whether to extend such policies to the workplace.
"Kourt is living as a man in his day-to-day life," said Will Carlson, spokesman for Equality Utah. "They have the capacity to give him the housing they give every other student. It seems like a reasonable request." Carlson even claimed that Osborn may be able to show sex discrimination because he has changed his driver's license to male but can't get male housing.
But it isn't a case of discrimination because the only reason Osborn was denied is because he didn't meet the school's baseline requirements that he's completed hormone treatment and undergone gender-reassignment surgery, says Michael Carter, assistant attorney general and SUU counsel. Osborn's application will be reconsidered if he can provide proof that he's done both, Carter said. "We have housed another transgender student in the past who has met our baseline criteria. This student has not," Carter said. "We are not in the process of discriminating against transgender students."
The university doesn't have mixed housing, and even though some dormitories have private bedrooms, students still share bathrooms, said Jennifer Burt, SUU spokeswoman. Burt said the said the university deals with transgender housing requests on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the transgender student's needs are met in a way that also meets the needs of other students.
While Burt said she understands that Osborn only applied for male housing, Osborn said he was also told he couldn't live in the female housing. "Because we don't have mixed housing, we have to have some kind of a baseline we can work with for situations beyond obvious classifications," Burt said. "We can't knowingly put a female student in with male students or a male student in with female students."
Commentary: This may appear to be an innocent request for an individual exemption on the surface, but on the joint statement issued by Equality Utah and Utah Pride Center, posted on the Interstateq.com website, Osborn reveals his true agenda:
“I thought it would be easiest to live in on-campus housing. I was wrong. Really wrong,” he [Osborn] said. “I can find other places to live, but I believe this has gone far beyond just me. What about other trans-people that might want to live there?” Despite feeling the pain of being discriminated against, Kourt said he would still consider living in the dorms if he is allowed to do so, but wants to ensure that a university-wide policy change occurs so others do not have to experience this infringement on their rights as students and individuals. “I learned who I was in the dorms through the friendships I made there,” says Kourt. He would also appreciate a public apology from the housing administration.
And sure enough, further investigation reveals that Kourt Osborn is a professional gay activist, having been associated with a group called Soulforce, which traveled about the country deliberately disrupting venues which they believed were anti-gay, particularly those venues with any type of religious connection. In April 2006, 24 of them were arrested for trespassing at BYU; in March 2007, they were ordered not to demonstrate at Temple Square. Osborn even started his own personal blog in which he discusses some of these activities, although he hasn't updated it since April 2007.
Since SUU already accomodates one transgendered student, I don't see how Osborn can claim discrimination. Osborn knows what he has to do to meet the criteria; either he meets the critieria, or he lives off-campus. It should be quite obvious he's allowing himself to be used as a stalking horse to force unnecessary social change on SUU. SUU needs to stand strong and resist this political blackmail.