Gender identity and how it affects a student’s inclusivity is not an issue many face while attending traditional colleges or universities. Many feel their gender is one of the few things considered for anything besides who their freshman roommate is or what dorm they are placed in. However, for the transgender student there are great obstacles to being included and living a “normal” student life. Some questions that arise are not easily answered, and from what research I have done, neither North Dakota State University, Minnesota State University Moorhead, nor Concordia College have solid contingency plans to change their policies to reflect the needs of transgender students.
Some argue there is no need to have these sorts of plans in place because of the small number of people who identify as transgender within each school’s population. But the reality is that no students, however few there may be, should feel excluded from college life because they are different. And colleges need to realize that issues presented by trans college students are complicated.
Arguably one of the most pressing issues for most transgender students is that of living spaces. Roommates, bathrooms, and dorm selection are all important points of consideration for the transgender student. The way the school interacts with the student can either legitimize or completely delegitimize the student’s transition from one gender to another. For example, let’s say there is a male transitioning to be a female, but the school insists that this student must live in the male dorms, with male roommates, and use male bathrooms. How can a school honor and support a student’s transition if they are in essence saying “We know you are exercising your human rights, but we still considered you a man.”
Furthermore, how do trans-students deal with bi-gendered visitation policies such as Concordia College’s? (Concordia’s current policy is that men and women cannot be on the opposite gender’s floors after a certain time at night or before a certain time in the morning excluding the campus apartments.) Clearly when such rigid and narrow policies exist in colleges, there is no consideration of inclusion for transgender students within them.
Another key component of trans-inclusivity takes place in the classroom and involves campus language. Here’s a hypothetical: Joshua was born female, is transitioning to be male; however in his classes the professors still refer to Josh as a “she” and use his female name Janet. This will often lead to callous responses like “I’m just going by what is on my roll call sheet.” This type of insensitivity in defining the identity of trans people by professors undermines the struggle that transgender people undergo and invites disrespect from other students.
Medical facilities, trained counselors, confidentiality, and ease of paperwork changes (name, gender, etc) are all areas that most schools still have no protocol for. Of course, those are just some of the issues transgender students face regularly.
But, there is hope. Transgender students and their fellow advocates are speaking up to push their schools to action. Transgender students are transitioning openly and with confidence without the same stigma and hushed tones of the past, and they are demanding to experience college life as others do. Tri-state Transgender, a local transgender support, activism, and education group, is compiling a book of resources with esteemed leaders in the community. A good portion of those resources will directly affect and be read by students in the F-M area. NDSU, MSUM, and Concordia are all going to need to proactively come up with policies that honor transgender students and increase their inclusivity on their campuses. Otherwise, the student resource books for our college institutions might just say “Campus Resources for Trans-students: None”.
I don’t think any of us want that.
I’m a warm, redhead, transfemme genderqueer, traveler who enjoys photography, sarcasm, and fine wine (In Europe because I am not 21). I love watching cartoons in just an over sized t-shirt eating kill-a-diabetic cereal. Likewise, I often engage in ridiculous conversations about existentialism and objectivism. Of course during these conversations I will be wondering why the chai tea I am sipping is overpriced and I will also secretly be questioning why I never dropped out of college to become a stripper or bartender. Kay’s Jewelers commercials make me cry yet needles do not even make me flinch. I will do anything once and most things twice and I find sushi carousel pretty amusing.