Last week Mount Holyoke College, a liberal arts women’s college in South Hadley, Massachusetts, announced it will begin admitting any student who identifies as a woman, a slight but impactful change in admissions.
Mount Holyoke joins the ranks of institutions such as Yale and New York University by pioneering trans-positive initiatives in an attempt to promote human rights. More recently, lesbian and gay issues have been the focus of attention while transgender advocacy has often been treated as a separate movement, going unnoticed despite the efforts that have been made.
Title IX, passed in 1972, a law “that requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding was extended in 2010 to include protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students from sexual discrimination. The original 1972 law exempts religious institutions, however, allowing them to discriminate against LGBT students.
In April of this year, George Fox University prohibited a transgender student from living in single-sex housing on the basis of religious exemption. Spring Arbor University in Michigan and Simpson University in California have also used Title IX exemptions to legally punish transgender students, going as far as expulsion according to Inside Higher Ed.
Rates of transgender discrimination are alarming as, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 14 percent of Floridians who identify as a non-conforming gender reported harassment so severe they decided to leave school, while 47 percent reported being harassed in a public place of accommodation or service.
Though institutions are discriminating against transgender students, many are going out of their way to ensure that students feel they are part of a community of individuals and are making the effort to bring transgender issues to light.
Earlier this year, the University of Pennsylvania permitted students to use their ‘preferred name’ instead of their legal name if they feel it does not represent their gender identity. The Preferred Name Initiative is UPenn’s attempt at providing a safe and inclusive environment for transgender students.
In 2011, USF announced it would accommodate transgender students, becoming one of three Florida institutions to offer housing for transgender students by allowing them to select their housing based on which gender they identify with.
LGBT individuals are grouped together because of the adversity they face every day. While progress has been made in the lesbian and gay community throughout the years, transgender issues are still alarmingly prevalent. Transgender advocacy needs to extend past the social justice blogs and permeate through mass media if any sort of headway is to be made in the coming years. It’s time to stop acting as though the “T” in LGBT is silent.
Brandon Shaik is a senior majoring in psychology.