I like girls. I guess it’s not that hard to understand. I am sure many of you have found yourself under the spell of the fairer sex at one point or another. But there is one difference between me and all the men reading this column, regardless of their own feelings towards women.
Yale lets me live with them.
How can this be? The Undergraduate Regulations clearly state that “student housing may contain no provisions that would permit men and women to cohabit.” Has this author subverted Yale’s rabidly enforced, although rapidly outdated, cohabitation policy? How is it that Cyd Cipolla, avowed lover of girls, secured a place in a suite, in fact an entire floor, of Yale women?
The answer is simple. I am one of that lovely cult myself. Yes, it is true — Cyd is a woman; one who likes women. And I get to live with them because I, like all other queer students, have lived my life completely ignored by Yale’s housing provisions. Up until now, that is.
The stirring student movement for cohabitation calls for an end to the ban on co-ed suites. But to queer students, myself included, it is more than a matter of convenience. This is a call for the abolishment of a rule that is, at its heart, discriminatory.
Administrators believe that by separating men from women, the University is eliminating unwanted sexual tension from student living spaces. Students will never have to consider the sexual desire or desirability of their own roommates. Therefore, they argue, this policy exists to protect student privacy.
What is not addressed at all, however, is that there are students out there who must already ask themselves about the possibility of sleeping with their roommates.
For me, and all other non-heterosexual students, desire does not lie so neatly along the lines of gender. When I, as a queer woman, choose to live with other women, I must consider not only how I feel about my roommates, but how they feel when I am in the room. It is, in this effect, the same as putting a straight man in the suite.
In light of this, is it so unthinkable that a woman choosing to live with men does so to avoid unnecessary sexual tension? Yet the University’s policy does not afford queer students the same opportunities that it offers straight students, namely the opportunity to live in a private space free of the sexual gaze, especially if that space involves members of the opposite sex.
It is time to realize that the anti-cohabitation rule is more than a piece of arbitrary rhetoric which the University can wave in the face of disapproving or worried parents. This policy enforces heteronormativity. This rule, and the argument that it exists for the protection of students, tells queer students that their lifestyles are not legitimate and that their privacy is not worthy of protection.
Those concerned with the public face of Yale (and we do not fault them, it is their job) argue that to change the policy signifies a certain mindset, one of permissiveness, perhaps, one that Yale is not ready to claim. But they forget that for the University to continue to hold on to this policy also signifies a certain mindset; mainly one of indifference to the wishes, indeed, to the very existence, of non-heterosexual students.
Critics of cohabitation sometimes suggest that we need to conduct a test case; allow cohabitation in one college, or one wing of a college, and prove to the administration that bad things will not happen. But in reality, this test case exists all around us. Once you understand that sexual desire exists outside of the boundaries of gender, you realize that many students do “cohabit,” and have been doing so in relative ease and safety for years.
So here I am, a student who dates and sleeps with women, and I live with five of them in a suite completely free of sexual tension. Something, perhaps, that straight students take for granted, but I certainly do not. I trust that my roommates are as comfortable around me as I am around them; such was the foundation of our choice to live together. Not all students are so fortunate, nor are all willing to make their sexuality an issue when choosing who they live with. It is time for the University’s housing policy to offer protection and the right to privacy to all of its students. It is time to abolish the ban on co-ed suites.
Cyd Cipolla is a junior in Trumbull College. She is coordinator of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Cooperative.