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Support grows for student's housing fight

Rally Sunday urges GFU to reconsider allowing transgender student to live with male roommates


Although sometimes Jaycen, a female-to-male transgender student at George Fox University, wishes things would just fall in to place, he still welcomes the struggle in his fight to obtain on-campus housing with male friends at the Christian school.

He says he’s endured the stares on campus, but been uplifted by the outpouring of support that came after his story was picked up by local and national media outlets April 4.by: GARY ALLEN - Support - Jayce (center) stands with his attorney, Paul Southwick, and besides the thousands of signatures submitted encouraging George Fox University to reconsider banning Jayce from rooming on campus with male friends.

On Sunday afternoon, approximately 50 friends, family and well-wishers gathered at Rotary Centennial Park to support Jayce, as he prefers to be called, and listen to him speak at length publicly for the first time since his mother, Janice, started the online petition to share his story and a federal Title IX complaint was filed on his behalf by his attorney, Paul Southwick.

“I have grown as a leader, a speaker and a person, and I have grown spiritually,” Jayce said at the rally, reading from a handwritten statement in a spiral notebook. “There are not many times in my life when I have felt the presence of God, but on this hard journey I have felt God the whole time.”

There was a jovial feeling on the lawn outside of the Chehalem Cultural Center as Jayce thanked his friends, family and supporters. Gathered around him were 14 boxes, each representing 1,000 signatures gathered from the online petition at the time of the rally.

That total reached the 15,000 mark at 2:31 a.m. Monday morning, which reset the goal to 25,000 signatures.

“When I see all of this public support, it gives me hope that what we are fighting for is right, and that someday there will be equality for everyone,” he said.

Jayce said he came to George Fox, with the help of God and a $40,000 scholarship, in the first place because it offers a great education and is a Christ-centered community.

He also explained why he decided not to transfer to another school with more established transgender policies after his freshman year and why he won’t do so before his junior year in the fall.

“I have no intentions to leave George Fox because I love it here and change does not happen where there has already been change,” he said. “I believe and have faith that the LGBTQ community and the Christ-centered community can be in harmony. Both sides must learn to be in conversation.”

After speaking, Jayce and the crowd marched three blocks down the street to deliver the symbolic tokens of support and call for the university to reconsider its decision. The petitions were collected near the school’s main sign on Meridian Street.

After taking a group photo, he answered questions from the media, including some in response to assertions made by the school in its official statement on the matter, which was also released April 4.

Among other things, it called attention to the fact that school officials have spent many hours with Jayce over the past several months to hear his story and have used masculine pronouns at his request. It noted that he himself has expressed to officials that “he has felt safe, listened to and supported and cared for at George Fox — by students, faculty and Student Life staff.”

Jayce said Sunday that he does appreciate what the school has done, including its offer to live with male friends off campus, the gender-neutral bathroom accommodations made for him and engaging in discussion with him.

“But I do believe that I have the right as any other male to live on campus with males, so I’m going to fight for that,” he said.

When asked about Jayce's housing request via email Monday, GFU director of marketing communications Rob Felton responded that the appeals process is complete, but that the school’s “discussion on a housing policy regarding transgender students will continue.”

The school’s statement released April 4 in response to the petition and legal claim (www.georgefox.edu/transgender) noted that Jayce hadn’t yet legally changed his gender, but that changed Friday when a Multnomah County Judge approved his request. One of the biggest cheers from the crowd Sunday came when he made that announcement.

In the release, the school also asserted that the online petition did not paint a complete picture of what is a complex situation without easy answers, and posited that religious and non-religious universities are struggling to appropriately support transgender students.

“Our administrators do have conversations with their peers at other universities, many of which tell us they would handle the situation in a similar way,” Felton said Monday.

The school stated its residential facilities are single sex due to its theological commitments, and Felton reiterated Monday that the school didn’t deny Jayce on-campus housing, but rather offered him a single on-campus apartment along with a commitment to ensure that he stays socially connected.

Southwick, a George Fox alumnus and co-founder of the alumni LGBTQ support group OneGeorgeFox, has taken on the case pro bono. He organized the event, which drew a variety of people outside of Jayce’s family and social circle.

One Newberg couple with no ties to George Fox brought purple flowers to give to attendees and to set an example for their young children, who assisted with distribution.

Senior Tonya McQuade said after the rally that it was her education at George Fox that led her to attend the rally.

“I came into Fox very, very conservative and I think just being on this campus and meeting people like Jayce and other trans students we have here — it’s just the Christ-like thing to do.”



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