With the recent addition of gender identity and expression to the university’s anti-discrimination policy, Texas State is working to grow its services for transgender students.
The addition of more gender-neutral bathrooms and counseling services for transgender students are among the steps the university has taken to accommodate them, officials say.
Joanne Smith, vice president of Student Affairs, said it was important to add gender identity and expression to the University Policy and Procedure Statement on anti-discrimination to acknowledge Texas State’s diversity.
Smith said the university is ensuring there are “gender-neutral” bathrooms on campus to accommodate the diverse population. Gender-neutral bathrooms are now included in all new construction and documents as a “campus standard.”
The university is identifying bathrooms in existing buildings that need to be converted to convert gender-neutral facilities, Smith said. Some have already been converted.
A gender-neutral restroom has been added on the third floor of the LBJ Student Center at the request of students, Smith said.
“Obviously, we don’t want anyone to discriminate against any student,” Smith said. “And so if there are issues, then certainly we are prepared to address those situations.”
Previous to the university adding gender-neutral bathrooms, transgender students would use the bathroom they most identified with, Smith said.
Rosanne Proite, director of Housing and Residential Life, said all new residence halls include gender-neutral bathrooms, and they have also been added during renovations of existing halls, such as in Beretta and Laurel Halls. The new gender-neutral bathrooms are “full bathrooms” that include a toilet, sink and shower.
These bathrooms work for transgender students as well as those with medical issues or disabilities, Proite said.
The Department of Housing and Residential Life works one-on-one with transgender students when applying for housing so they can best accommodate them, Proite said.
Placing a student in a dorm may be complicated depending on where a transgender individual is in his or her transition, Proite said.
“So instead of trying to create all kinds of whistles and bells and arrows pointing at students, what we have done is we now work with students individually–students call us and say ‘here’s my situation, I’m in the midst of (transitioning),’” Proite said.
The department has helped students in varying stages of this process, Proite said. They will be walked through the different housing configurations to determine which works best.
“We will begin to identify more completely in terms of where they are from a medical perspective, because there is such a spectrum that we will need to request some medical documentation,” Proite said. “Basically until a student has completed their actual gender reassignment and has changed their gender legally, they’re still legally the gender they were born with.”
Proite said this does not mean students do not have options, but they cannot assign a male-born student who is transitioning with a female student.
The department will look at halls in which there are single rooms and private baths to help students get “as close an ideal situation as possible,” Proite said.
The university also provides counseling services for transgender students through the Counseling Center.
Elizabeth Terrazas-Carrillo, pre-doctoral intern at the Counseling Center , said all counselors at have a “safe place policy,” meaning they are empowering students of different sexual orientations or identities. There is an LGBTQ support group offered at the center led by a counselor.
“It’s a support group, hopefully for them to get some support from other students who might be facing similar situations or concerns,” Terrazas-Carrillo said.
Terrazas-Carrillo said issues transgender students seek help for are similar to other students, but they are compounded by some of the challenges presented by their sexual identity. There are more “layers of stressors” that have to be confronted in addition to the usual stress of being a student and a young adult.
Proite said many universities are “moving in this direction” to accommodate all students in many different ways. Some universities are “much further ahead” than Texas State, but many are “further behind us” in the process.
“I think we’re in the middle,” Proite said. “I think we’ve made good progress.”