By Anna Williams

Last semester, the university released a statement that addressed the mistreatment of the transgender community on campus. This caused the U of L Trans Rights Alliance (ULTRA), the Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), and supporters of the transgender community to rally together and exercise their constitutional rights of free speech and protest.

After the groups’ continuous efforts to express the need for change to not only the student body but to administrative personnel as well, little has taken place to address the monstrosities that this community faces.

From what U of L’s Trans Rights Alliance has stated, all they’ve seen through their protests is action toward simple increases in funding to the Cultural Center. In email correspondence with Dean of Students Michael Mardis, he noted that U of L offers gender-inclusive housing regardless of identity and that there is a themed learning community centered around gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin (which opened in 2012).

While helpful, this is not enough.

The irony is frustrating

This frustrates me. The lack of action from the university to address these problems tells the trans community that their voice does not matter.

As a cisgender, straight woman, I acknowledge that I lack the perspective needed to fully understand the turmoil that this community has faced. I cannot imagine living on a campus that is supposed to be one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly institutions and then facing the horrors that I have heard about.

However, as a disabled black woman, I am no stranger to discrimination and prejudice. As I fight for my own communities’ rights, I will also advocate for these marginalized communities’ rights.

What does the research say?

Through my research on the subject of trans rights, I discovered a professional who has devoted his career to learning how to better support the trans community in higher education. One of his studies led him to develop ten strategies to improve trans inclusiveness on campus.

“…most institutions have been slow to recognize their [transgender students’] specific needs, much less to take steps to create a more trans-supportive campus environment,”  says Brett Genny Beemyn, Ph.D.

“As a result, transgender and other gender-diverse students often encounter hostile classmates, uneducated faculty and Student Affairs staff, insensitive campus health care providers, and school policies and practices that are based on binary gender categories.”

Per Dr. Beemyn’s suggestions, I encourage U of L to consider implementing the following technique:

  • Widely publicize campus trans-inclusive policies.
    • U of L already has policies for gender-inclusive bathrooms, gender-inclusive housing, and even a discriminatory harassment policy that states “Persons found to have violated the provisions outlined in the university’s Discriminatory Harassment Policy will be subject to disciplinary action and penalties as outlined in the University of Louisville Policies and Procedures as outlined in the Redbook, Staff Handbook, and Student Handbook.
      1. These resources need to be highlighted by the university on a public level.

What are other universities doing?

Other universities have made it a priority to protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment.

For example, overseas. The University of Oxford has a specific transgender policy that highlights everything from addressing harassment to creating an inclusive environment. I thought this policy was very thorough and addressed a lot of issues that are prevalent for the trans community. I am confident that those students at that university feel safe, welcomed, and supported.

If other universities can make the effort to better support their transgender community, why can’t U of L?

U of L can — and should — do more

The transgender community has been discriminated against for too long. The LGBT Center is not enough to support these individuals; action needs to be taken in the event of harassment.

Research needs to be read and followed, as the university navigates how to better protect transgender individuals. Education on how to better address and support these individuals needs to be shared campus-wide. Repercussions need to be implemented, per U of L’s harassment policy, for those who harass transgender individuals.

I truly believe that U of L can live up to its title as being one of the most inclusive universities in the country, but it must take the necessary actions to protect one of the most marginalized groups on campus. I sincerely hope that the administration will not only see the prejudice that trans people face, but empathize with them enough to desire to make a change.

Photo Courtesy //  The Louisville Cardinal