USF should protect gender identity

Gender identity is an important part of anyone’s personality. Yet, gender identity and expression has yet to be included within USF’s anti-discrimination policies..

If USF includes race, sexual orientation, religion and even genetic information within its nondiscrimination policy, why shouldn’t one’s thoughts and feelings about gender be protected equally?

Although Tampa adopted an anti-discrimination rule against “gender identity and expression” in housing, employment and public accommodations in 2009, General Counsel Gerard Solis told The Oracle there is no specific state law and the University is not beholden to the City of Tampa’s ruling.

However, five of Florida’s 11 public universities – University of Florida, Florida State University, University of North Florida, University of Central Florida and University of West Florida – specifically note gender identity within their anti-discrimination policies. Orlando, Gainesville and Miami Beach are among the other Florida municipalities that have gender identity discrimination protection, according to USF may not technically have to adopt this gender identity protection, but it should not be an island of closed-minded policies, either.

This stance is even more puzzling considering that, in July, USF became the first state university to allow students to identity themselves as “transitioning” when applying for on-campus housing. While transgender and transitioning students have housing privileges on campus, they do not have general discrimination protection.

USF student Rebecca Cardwell had noted her concerns in finding a convenient, comfortable restroom on campus while transitioning from male to female. This availability of public accommodations is an issue, and transgender or transitioning students are not looking to harass other people in a perverted fashion. Most likely, they just want to use the bathroom in peace.

However, which bathroom a transgender or transitioning student uses is certainly not the only concern stemming from USF’s lack of gender identity discrimination. The possibility of workplace, classroom or other on-campus discrimination is raised, and could be silenced with the addition to the anti-discrimination policies.

While there is a need to avoid trampling on anyone else’s rights, there is a misconception that transgendered and transitioning people are flagrantly bothering people. People with a different gender identity have no sinister intentions inherent in their actions. Let them be treated like the human beings they are.

USF should change its policy on discrimination and join the other fine Florida public universities that protect gender identity. If a public university cannot protect the rights of free expression, how can it create a positive environment for learning? If these students pay the same tuition and take the same classes, they should have similar protection against possible discrimination.