LGBT Center strives to improve gender inclusiveness on campus

Jasmine Gallup, Staff Reporter

Recent national controversy over how schools should treat transgender students and national conversations about the rights of transgender people has prompted Case Western Reserve University to plan a University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education (UCITE) session, “Supporting Transgender Students.”

CWRU has a history of supporting the LGBT community, having been named one of the top 25 LGBT-friendly universities in 2013 by Campus Pride. More recently, CWRU is developing Gender Inclusive Housing in the North Residential Village. The UCITE session on supporting transgender students is primarily meant to deal with the question of what further efforts can be made.

CWRU is largely compliant with the Departments of Education and Justice’s “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students” published in May 2016, which outlines how Title IX protects students from discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The letter includes guidance for schools to ensure nondiscrimination towards transgender students by preventing and penalizing sex-based harassment, having “school staff and contractors use pronouns and names consistent with a transgender student’s gender identity” and allowing transgender students to participate in sex-segregated activities and have access to sex-segregated facilities in accordance with their gender identities. The details of how to enact these policies, however, are left to the schools themselves. Still, some faculty and staff have questions on how to implement these federal policies.

“The most common questions we receive regarding supporting transgender students,” said the LGBT Center, “are surrounding names, pronouns and how to navigate those types of conversations. Many faculty want to be able to ask for pronouns without singling a student out in class.”

The LGBT Center’s solution to this problem has been enacted in many classes: Professors pass out note cards on the first day of class and ask students to write down their years, majors, preferred names and gender pronouns.

“Leaving space to share allows individuals to come out if they’d like without forcing them to pick pronouns if they feel uncomfortable,” said the LGBT Center. This is something they recommend to many professors who come in with this question.

While the LGBT Center has an expansive list of resources, it’s tough to educate people who don’t come through their doors. The LGBT Center said, “Sometimes, the toughest part of creating equitable learning environments has to do with addressing unconscious bias on campus…. It’s tough to influence people who literally don’t know what they don’t know.”

“When the burden of explanation continually falls on the transgender students, they become the educator and sometimes have to navigate invasive or inappropriate questions,” said the LGBT Center, speaking of students being misgendered by faculty or staff. “When this happens on a regular basis, the students have less time and energy to commit to academic success and personal growth.”

Other challenges the LGBT Center is trying to resolve include ensuring that a student’s preferred name is consistent throughout the Student Information System, email and class rosters, making gender-inclusive bathrooms available throughout campus and ensuring that surveys or forms students have to fill out consistently include options for gender beyond male or female.