“College sophomore Jayce Marcus wants to live in the dorm with his buddies” doesn’t sound like much of a headline. It’s the norm for young men across the world. But George Fox University, a small Christian liberal-arts school in rural Oregon, doesn’t see it so plainly. AWAB board member Robin Knauerhase attended an April rally in Newberg, Oregon, to express her personal support for Mr. Marcus and to represent AWAB in the community. Participants in the rally silently marched from a city park to the entrance of the university, delivering 14 large cardboard boxes representing 14,000 signatures on a change.org petition asking the University to reconsider its policy.
At issue: Jayce is a transman. He was assigned female at birth, but now identifies as a male in all aspects of daily life. The GFU administration has determined that he is not allowed to live in a male dorm, citing the school’s “theological and philosophical statements.” Their press release states “George Fox strives to be a Christ-centered community and our residential facilities are single sex because of our theological commitments”, while missing the point that Jayce is – in his own eyes and in the eyes of the Lord – a man.
The university has offered some accommodation, including a one-year waiver (“conditional, subject to change at any time”) which would allow Jayce to live with “opposite-sex” students in private off-campus housing. The conditions originally included that he and officials meet with potential roommates to “affirm [the roommates] understand his story and are willing to live with him” and that roommates have “informed their parents of this living arrangement.” GFU Student Life has also offered to let him inhabit “a single apartment in on-campus housing” separate from the communal dorms.
After not reaching satisfactory accommodation with the administration, Jayce and his attorney (GFU alumnus Paul Southwick) have filed a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Precedent has some exemptions for religious institutions for questions of discrimination about admissions, but requires that institutions “treat their students without discrimination on the basis of sex with respect to non-admissions decisions, including student housing.”
Thankfully, God has given Jayce a positive attitude, as well as the support of friends and the campus’ unofficial LGBT student group. KATU news quotes Jayce as saying “It's been great, the amount of people that have signed my petition. The amount of people that have messaged me over Facebook and emailed me showing support and standing behind me. It lifts me up when I have a bad day.”
While the situation is unfolding, we can take time to view it as an exemplar of injustice resulting from friction between some segments of Christianity and contemporary social issues. And, at the same time, to be thankful for groups like AWAB which espouse the love of Christ in the affirmation of LGBT people worldwide.
In His Service,
(With explicit thanks both to Portland’s PQ Monthly (www.pqmonthly.com) and to KATU News (www.katu.com) as resources for verification of facts and quotes.)