- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - The University of South Dakota plans to offer gender-neutral housing this fall, making it the first college in the state to offer accommodation for transgender students.

Director of University Housing Todd Tucker said the idea is to be more inclusive toward a variety of students, particularly those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.

“Knowing they have this option to be more free in who they are. That’s something that hasn’t really - that’s taken a long time for any person to get to feel comfortable with themselves and comfortable with the people around them,” Tucker said.

Gender-neutral student housing is offered at 159 public and private universities, including three in Minnesota, two in Iowa and one in Nebraska, according to the nonprofit group Campus Pride.

Students are already applying for this option at the University of South Dakota, which will have gender-neutral housing on the fourth floor of the Richardson Hall dormitory. Several apartment-style residence halls will also allow it.

Tucker said the housing options will make things easier for transgender students, who don’t identify with their sex at birth, or for those who doesn’t identify with a gender at all. It allows a transgender female to be able to live with other females, or a transgender male to live with other males, he said.

While on-campus statistics don’t necessarily reflect a bustling LGBT community, many students may just not be comfortable with discussing such personal matters. He said he hopes more options could change that.

Sophomore Rachael Vinzant said she thinks it’s a good idea because it will make the campus more welcoming.

“I think it’s good for those students for that community, because it could just make them feel more accepted,” Vinzant said.

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Information from: KELO-TV, http://www.keloland.com

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