NEWBERG, Ore. – A transgender student at George Fox University is speaking out after the Christian college denied him the opportunity to live with his male friends on campus.
Jayce, a 20-year-old female-to-male transgender student from Portland, filed a complaint against the university in April after officials said he couldn’t live with other men on campus during his junior year.
Although Jayce has finished his transition process and is, in the eyes of the U.S. government -- on his birth certificate, driver’s license and Social Security card – a male, George Fox lobbied to obtain a religious exemption allowing the Quaker college to deny Jayce’s housing request.
On Friday, George Fox spokesman Rob Felton confirmed the university was granted that religious exemption by the U.S. Department of Education on May 23. A complaint against the exemption was denied Friday.
"The university sought this exemption to preserve its right to draw on its religious convictions to handle situations related to students experiencing gender identity issues. Other colleges have received similar Title IX exemptions in the past," George Fox said in a statement Friday. "Providing appropriate housing for transgender students continues to be a challenge at religious and non-religious institutions across the country."
Jayce’s lawyer, Paul Southwick, said George Fox requested the exemption without telling him or Jayce.
“To my knowledge, this is the first Christian college to ask the federal government for a permission slip to discriminate against transgender students,” Southwick said.
Jayce said he feels he should have the right to live with other men, and needs the support of his friends.
"I feel like I have the right to live with other males," he said. "As a person who is transgender, there is a lot of anxiety, depression that comes along with that and I don’t feel like that would be right for me to live by myself due to those things."
While Jayce said he wasn't surprised by the university's stance, he doesn't think the school should be able to deny his housing request.
“I’m shocked and disappointed that the federal government has given George Fox permission to discriminate against me and is allowing it to do so with federal funds,” Jayce said. “The university is operating under the doctrine of ‘separate but equal,’ and the religious exemption they received now gives the government’s stamp of approval to what they are doing. My own tax dollars will fund the university’s discrimination against me.”
Still, he said he plans to stay at George Fox, despite the university's decision.
"I actually do like George Fox. It's a great school, and has some great people. Leaving is not an option for me."
Felton did say that George Fox offered Jayce the option to live on campus in a single apartment.
“He’s been given until next week to decide if he will accept or reject that offer,” he said.
For Jayce, that's not good enough. After the university's decision, he and four of his friends found an off-campus house for his junior year.
Still, he says he won't give up fighting the decision, and plans to appeal the Department of Education ruling.
"This is bigger than me," Jayce said. "I need and want a larger scale change."
Southwick said the Department of Justice is also considering a formal investigation into the situation, but that outcome likely won't be decided before the start of the school year.