Gender identity and expression will now be included in the university’s anti-discrimination policy to provide “comfort” to all students, according to administrators.
The university discrimination policy, which was revised in mid-February, now protects transgender faculty, staff and students against gender expression and identity discrimination. Previously, they were not included in the policy because administrators wanted to ensure practices were in place to protect them, said Robert Gratz, special assistant to President Denise Trauth.
“For many years, Texas State has been committed to making the campus a comfortable and safe environment for all students, faculty and staff,” Gratz said.
Transgender students, faculty and staff know if an incident were to happen, they would have legal protection, said Brandon Beck, a doctoral candidate.
Beck was born female and transitioned while on campus.
Publicizing the new policy will make a difference in encouraging people to speak up if they have experienced discrimination, Beck said.
Potential candidates for university positions will now have a “comfort level” knowing the school recognizes gender identity and expression are important issues, said Joanne Smith, vice president of Student Affairs.
“We’re a very diverse campus, not only ethnically, but it makes a statement that we are aware of the fact that our diversity is very inclusive,” Smith said. “It’s important for people to know that we recognize that.”
Changing the anti-discrimination policy is “highlighting” initiatives already being pursued on campus, Smith said. New construction projects and buildings being renovated on campus will include gender-neutral bathrooms.
Feeling safe to be oneself on campus is a large part of being successful, Beck said.
“I will say, in the early stages of my transition, I looked like a ‘he-she,’ is the best way to describe it,” Beck said. “I looked male, but I had breasts—I got strange looks, especially on the bus.”
Beck was often avoided in female bathrooms during his transition. Although no direct discrimination happened, whispers regarding his gender and sexual orientation followed him.
A specific “triggering incident” was not what caused the change and no formal recommendation was made, Gratz said.
“We had an awareness that this was an issue that it was timely to act,” Gratz said. “It’s an issue that the institution has been aware of and eager to respond to.”
A number of programs and activities related to gender identity and expression have available on campus, such as ACT Ally and Safe Office, Gratz said.
Trans*cend is a new group for students who identify as transgender, Beck said. “Transgender” is often dropped off of “LGBT,” creating a need for Trans*cend.
“It’s very difficult to be inclusive because ‘T’ is about gender, not sexuality, and those are two different ball games,” Beck said.
Starting Trans*cend was important because now students who are transgender can know it is safe to be themselves at the university, Beck said.
“We’re certainly committed to transgender students’ opportunities for success,” Gratz said. “We thought, rather than waiting to be responsive, it was time for us to take an action that we thought we were ready to take.”