Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2009.06.14
Brought to you by the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. http://www.lgbtcampus.org
Archives of the QNOC Digest can be found at http://queernewsoncampus.blogspot.com
Reminder: If you come across articles that should be included in the digest, please email a link to the article to email@example.com
1. Washington Blade - Gay Liberty University alum recalls repression at school
2. News-Leader.com - Ex-homeless Central grad headed to college
3. Michigan Messenger - Dueling gay identity events highlight change in Grand Rapids
4. Vanderbilt University’s News Network - Nora Spencer to direct Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center
5. University of Vermont - All in a Name: New Software Benefits Transgender Students
1. Washington Blade, June 5, 2009
529 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20004
Gay Liberty University alum recalls repression at school
By Chris Johnson
He didn’t want to be gay.
That’s what Jud Brown thought when he enrolled as a college student at Liberty University, a Baptist school founded in 1971 by anti-gay pastor Jerry Falwell.
Brown said he enrolled at the school in 1999 because he was a devout Christian and wanted to attend a university that shared his Christian values. But Brown struggled with his sexual orientation as a student at the conservative school — and was eventually asked by the administration to undergo a therapy program in an unsuccessful attempt to change.
Brown, who’s now 29 and works at the legal department for D.C. public schools, detailed his experience at Liberty University in a Blade interview this week. He now considers himself relatively comfortable with his sexual orientation — despite the difficulties in his college years.
Liberty University, based in Lynchburg, Va., recently made headlines after telling its fledgling College Democrats club it could no longer be an official campus group.
The school administration told group leaders last month that it no longer qualified as an official club because, among other things, the Democratic Party violates the school’s principles by supporting the “LGBT agenda,” according to the Associated Press.
Brown, who said he knew he was gay by age 8, said he had a difficult experience at Liberty University from the time he enrolled.
“I was a mess,” he said. “I bought books about [how] to stop being gay … We’d always have church service three times a week, and I would go down and pray and try to ask God to change me.”
Brown said he never experienced a change in his sexual orientation and “was still looking at gay porn, like, the whole time.” He said he would obtain gay porn online and purchase DVDs through the mail.
“[I’d] be like a huge mess waiting and waiting and waiting for it to get there because I thought that maybe if … they didn’t package it right or something like that that they would find it and I’d get into trouble,” he said.
Brown said there were other gay students at Liberty University who were having difficulty coping with their sexual orientation. He said he found gay porn on his roommate’s computer after using it one day.
“I’m not proud of it to this day, but because I was so guilt-ridden about my own sexuality, I was very intolerant toward him and I turned him into my [resident advisers],” he said.
Brown said his roommate was not kicked out of school or even disciplined, but was asked to go into counseling.
Brown said there also was a scandal on campus involving a campus pastor, Eric Lovett, who had allegedly had sex with a male student on campus.
In 2002, the National Enquirer wrote a story about the Lovett scandal, alleging that he was involved a “gay sex ring” on campus. Lovett denied that he was gay in a statement to the paper.
“And he sent out an e-mail to everybody,” Brown said. “He didn’t stipulate what he had done, but he was like, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t live up to what I represented’ and things like that, and he left and kind of disappeared off the face of the planet.”
Brown said some on campus speculated that Lovett was in California attending a “de-gayification-like” program.
Despite the experiences, Brown said he enjoyed his time at Liberty University because the school espoused Christian values that he shares.
“I have Christian values and identify myself as a Christian and there’s a lot of things that I believe that Liberty taught that are right — even though I don’t live up to them sometimes,” he said.
Brown said he doesn’t believe that it’s healthy to be promiscuous, drink to excess or do recreational drugs — values that he said Liberty University teaches.
He also said he enjoyed attending Liberty University because it was controversial and provoked interesting responses when he told people where he attended school. He said a number of big names visited the campus, including conservative commentator Sean Hannity, actor Mel Gibson, Rev. Billy Graham and U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Brown said he enjoyed his experience at Liberty University so much that, after obtaining his undergraduate degree, he went on to work to obtain a master’s degree in education through the school.
But after he started in the graduate program, Brown said he started growing restless. He said he told a few people that he was gay and even posted a public personal ad online. But when the administration discovered that Brown had been telling people he was gay, the leaders at the school asked to meet with him, he said.
At the time, Brown said he held a position as resident adviser and said Liberty University “couldn’t have an R.A. that was OK with being gay because it was considered immoral.”
“And I met with them, and I cried, and I told them I didn’t want to be gay, and I’d been struggling with it for a long time,” he said. “And they were like, ‘Well, as long as you start going to counseling, you can stay on.’ And so I did.”
But Johnnie Moore, a spokesperson for Liberty University, denied that the school has a process for dealing with a student who comes out as gay.
“Some people think that if a student on Liberty University’s campus professes same-sex attraction that a team of pastors and counselors are dispatched from the administration to handle it like an emergency,” he said. “This is not true.”
Moore said Liberty University’s code of conduct “simply forbids all sexual activity outside of marriage.”
He added that Liberty University doesn’t mandate compulsory counseling for students, but does offer “a considerable amount of free, voluntary counseling for its students.”
Nonetheless, Brown said he attended counseling with one of the pastors in the pastoral counseling program about once a week over the course of four months.
But during the course of this counseling, Brown said he experienced no change in his sexual orientation and started accepting that he wasn’t going to change.
Brown said he now accepts that he’s gay — and retains his Christian beliefs.
“I’m very comfortable being gay, but to be honest, I have one foot firmly planted in that past, and one foot firmly planted in being OK with being gay,” he said. “I have to kind of balance or find a neutral territory.”
Brown also said Liberty University shouldn’t be blamed for being intolerant of homosexuality.
“It’s a Christian culture and they have their own traditions, they have their own belief structures and you can’t go into a Christian structure and say, ‘You got to be OK with being gay,’” he said. “They don’t believe it.”
2. News-Leader.com, June 8, 2009
651 Boonville, Springfield, MO 65806
Ex-homeless Central grad headed to college
By Cory De Vera
Linda Thomas remembers the first phone call she got from Zacharias Landry, a teen from Omaha, Ark.
"It was pretty dramatic," said Thomas, a social worker who volunteers with Galagxy, a Springfield support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth. "He was sitting in his car in the front yard, and his mom wouldn't let him in the house. He was completely devastated and he didn't know what to do."
Thomas talked to him for quite a while, then passed the phone to other teens who let him know he wasn't alone.
He got back in, that night.
During the next two years Landry --who says he had always been an A student -- would move to Springfield, watch his grades skid, end up homeless, drop out of school and scramble to find jobs.
But he also found a sense of purpose in working for gay rights, a boyfriend to love and a supportive circle of friends and mentors.
Last month, the 19-year-old became a graduate of Central High, and earlier this year he was selected for a full-tuition scholarship to Drury University. He is also a finalist for one of the national Point Foundation scholarships.
Since 2001, Point scholarships have provided support to students who have been marginalized due to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
In addition to money to support their schooling, Point Scholars receive mentoring and leadership training in return for community service. The average Point award is $13,600.
Thomas said it isn't unusual for gay teens to have strained family relationships. In larger cities, she said, studies have shown 25 to 45 percent of homeless teens self-identify themselves as GLBT.
It was several months after the call to Galagxy that Landry said he was kicked out by his mom's boyfriend. He headed toward friends in Springfield, where he was able to finish out his junior year at Parkview High.
Landry said he had set his sights on attending MIT or the Air Force Academy. But moving from Arkansas to Springfield in the middle of the year -- and trying to live on his own at 17 --took a toll.
He watched his grades skid to B's and one F.
Landry also learned a hard lesson about living on his own: read the lease and follow it. A few weeks into his senior year, he said, he was kicked out of his apartment for breaking the lease by letting his boyfriend move in and having a cat. Though he was only homeless about a month, he couldn't keep up in school, and he dropped out.
Landry was depressed, knowing he'd probably lost his chance to go to MIT.
But once settled in a new apartment, Landry busied himself with jobs to support himself, like doing phone surveys, working at Sonic, or at Wal-Mart.
And, along with boyfriend and fellow gay-rights activist Charles Abernathy, he got more involved in organizing gay youth.
The couple gave out literature and condoms with the AIDS Project of the Ozarks and raised money to help send students to gay rights conferences.
Landry organized a candlelight vigil in support of Lawrence King, a 15-year-old transgendered student who was shot and killed at a California school. He also invited the Soulforce Equality Riders to Springfield to stage a non-violent demonstration in favor of gay rights.
"He's very civic-minded, very politically minded," said Jim House, director of the AIDS Project of the Ozarks.
Though Landry considered just getting a GED that year, he decided against it.
"I didn't want anyone to say my education wasn't as good," he said.
During his time out of school he also realized how much he liked political field work and helping other people.
He discovered that despite his grade slide junior year, his GPA was still above a 3.6.
Along with a good ACT score, he qualified to compete for the Trustee's Scholarship at Drury. Drury, he found out, was one of the highest-rated schools for pre-law studies.
When fall came around, he enrolled at Central High, a school that prides itself as being diverse.
"All in all, Central is the most gay-friendly school I've seen," said Landry. "I've not met one homophobic teacher at Central. Everyone was so nice."
After an intense, competitive interview process at Drury in February, Landry found out he was selected for the full-tuition award.
In April, he flew to San Francisco to interview with the Point Foundation. It gave him another chance to meet leaders and future leaders in the movement.
Landry said he knows his mom has had difficulties in her own life, and he's not bitter about the struggle it took to graduate. The life experience he gained living on his own is probably what made his scholarship applications stand out, he said.
He should find out this month if he'll be selected as a Point Scholar.
Either way, Landry looks forward to the future. He plans to go to law school, and wants to work for civil rights of GLBT people.
"I plan to start off in gay rights for sure," he said. "I want to give my dues back to the community I grew up in."
Sunday is the 2009 Pridefest, a celebration of the GLBT community. Festivities run 1-9 p.m. east of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of the Ozarks, 518 E. Commercial St.
For more information about other Pridefest activities leading up to the celebration, see www.glocenter.org.
To find out more about the Point Foundation and the scholars it supports, go to www.thepointfoundation.org.
3. Michigan Messenger, June 10, 2009
Dueling gay identity events highlight change in Grand Rapids
By Ed Brayton
When Love Won Out, an ex-gay ministry that teaches that people can overcome their homosexuality through prayer and therapy, scheduled a one-day conference at Sunshine Community Church in Grand Rapids for this Saturday, it’s likely that few were surprised. The Grand Rapids area has traditionally been a conservative and deeply religious community that has never been considered terribly friendly to gay rights advocates and their supporters.
But organizers of a competing one-day event at Grand Valley State University, “Religion and Homophobia: Spiritual Violence in our Community,” say that sentiments are changing quickly in Grand Rapids and they wanted to offer a different voice — one that tells gays and lesbians that it’s OK to be who they are.
The Grand Rapids area is currently in the middle of an “ongoing conversation” about gay identity and gay rights, according to Colette Seguin Beighley, assistant director of the LGBT Resource Center at GVSU. “We learned that the Love Won Out conference was coming to town and wanted to offer another part of the conversation,” she told Michigan Messenger in an interview.
GVSU has had a troubled history on gay rights and equality issues. In 2000, when the university first considered offering benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian couples as most universities do, religious conservatives in the community killed the plan. The efforts to oppose those benefits was led by Amway co-founder Rich DeVos, a major contributor and former board member at the university.
Ironically, it is DeVos that sparked the current dialogue on gay rights issues in the Grand Rapids area when he gave an interview to The Grand Rapids Press a few weeks ago where the issue of same-sex marriage came up. In that interview, DeVos underscored his opposition to same-sex marriage and warned the gay community: “Don’t ask for a concession on the marriage issue,” DeVos continued, saying marriage isn’t “vital to them” the way it is to straight people.
That statement sparked a huge flood of comments on the newspaper’s website. The response from readers was so overwhelming that The Press published a second article the next day just to highlight some of the comments and to look at DeVos’ history of supporting groups against same-sex marriage. DeVos has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations fighting same-sex marriage in Michigan and around the country.
Beighley said the dialogue within the Grand Rapids community sparked by DeVos’ comments highlights the importance of this week’s events. “This is an ongoing conversation in Grand Rapids and on our campus,” she said. “Certainly, the LGBT community has not found a welcome home in Grand Rapids, however the tide is changing. The conversation volume has been turned up recently.”
Public opinion on gay rights issues such as same-sex marriage have shifted tremendously in the last few years. Although Michigan passed a referendum banning same-sex marriage and civil unions in 2004 with 59 percent of the vote, a recent poll showed that only five years later, 64 percent of Michigan voters now support either same-sex marriage or civil unions for gays and lesbians.
Only a small percentage of the population now supports the position of Focus on the Family, the Colorado-based group sponsoring the Love Won Out event that rejects both same-sex marriage and civil unions for gays and lesbians.
Beighley said that her organization had not received any significant backlash to the event so far, but the office of Jeanne Arnold, GVSU’s vice president for inclusion and equity, was inundated with phone calls Tuesday morning after Focus on the Family sent out an “action alert” urging their members to call her office and demand that they add one of the Love Won Out speakers to the Thursday night event.
Because the GVSU panel discussion was scheduled specifically to counter the Love Won Out conference at the local church, the messages heard at the two events could scarcely be more different.
Melissa Fryrear, director of the gender issues department for Focus on the Family, said in an interview that her organization’s event is aimed at the parents of gays and lesbians who do not approve of their child’s homosexuality and that they try to counter messages of gay approval.
“Our attendees are inundated in the culture with a predominately only gay-affirming perspective and their religious beliefs don’t condone homosexual behavior,” said Fryrear, “so that’s why they’re especially interested in a conservative, Biblically orthodox perspective on issues related to homosexuality.”
Many of the speakers at the Love Won Out event claim to be former homosexuals themselves and they advocate what is often called “gay reversion therapy” to help people who feel “trapped by their same-sex attractions” to conform to what Fryrear calls the “Biblical sexual ethic” which only condones “sexual behavior between a man and a woman within marriage.”
The GVSU event, on the other hand, will feature Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, an organization that seeks to counter the message of the ex-gay movement and educate the public about gay life. Besen’s group argues that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation are “patently offensive, discriminatory by definition, theologically shaky, uniformly unsuccessful and medically unsound.”
While Fryrear said that Love Won Out focuses on helping parents “understand how to uphold their Biblical convictions about homosexual behavior while having a loving relationship with their sons and daughters,” Besen said Focus on the Family’s real agenda is primarily about convincing gay people that being gay is an abomination and that they must suppress who they are.
“Love Won Out uses fear and guilt to shame people into trying to pray away the gay,” said Besen. “Their methods are dangerous and rejected by every respected medical and mental health organization in the nation.” He said Focus on the Family “refuses to show healthy, happy gay people who lead rich and fulfilling lives. Instead they falsely portray gay people as uniformly miserable, sexually broken rejects. What they do is dishonest, unethical and presents a skewed view of gay and lesbian people.”
4. Vanderbilt University’s News Network, June 12, 2009
Baker Building, 110 21st Ave. S., Suite 802, Nashville, TN 37203
Nora Spencer to direct Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center
Contact: Princine Lewis
Nora Spencer has been named the new director of the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center at Vanderbilt, a year after she joined Vanderbilt as the director of the first full-time office to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community at Vanderbilt University. The appointment is effective July 1.
In addition to her new responsibilities, Spencer will continue her leadership of the Office of LGBTQI Life, Provost Richard McCarty said.
“Nora Spencer will bring focus, energy and the ability to form important partnerships between the women’s center and various parts of campus and beyond in the Nashville community,” McCarty said. “The women’s center is a tremendous resource on campus, and I am confident it will thrive under Nora’s leadership and vision.”
With Spencer’s appointment, the women’s center will move administratively under the Dean of Students Office, where the Office of LGBTQI Life is located. The women’s center will remain a separate entity focused on women’s and gender issues.
Spencer plans to create faculty and student advisory boards to help steer the direction of the women’s center.
“I am truly honored to serve Vanderbilt in this role and build upon the tenacious history of the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center,” Spencer said.
Spencer received a master’s in fine arts from the University of Florida with additional coursework in queer, feminist and race theory and cultural criticism. She came to Vanderbilt in June 2008 from the University of Florida, where she oversaw support services, programming, strategic planning, marketing and fundraising for LGBTQI affairs and served as a resource and advocate regarding LGBTQI issues for students, staff, faculty and alumni.
She also has held various related positions and been a leader in advocacy for women throughout the past decade at Creighton University, St. Norbert College, Planned Parenthood of Nebraska-Council Bluffs and elsewhere.
Spencer succeeds Linda Manning, who moved to Vanderbilt’s Center for Integrated Health last October. Pat Helland, assistant dean and director of strategic initiatives in the Dean of Student’s Office, has served as interim director.
The women’s center was established in 1978 and named in honor of Margaret Cuninggim, the last dean of women at Vanderbilt and the first woman to serve as dean of student services.
With programs and services open to students, faculty and staff, as well as interested members of the local community, the women’s center works to advance equity at Vanderbilt and in the larger community through advocacy, education and empowerment.
Contact: Princine Lewis, (615) 322-NEWS
5. University of Vermont, June 12, 2009
University Communications, 86 S. Williams St., Burlington, VT 05401
All in a Name: New Software Benefits Transgender Students
By Jeffrey R. Wakefield
In addition to buying books, making last minute changes to his course schedule, and stocking up on three-ring binders, senior art history major Davin Sokup's pre-semester to-do list always included one more task: emailing his professors to tell them that, when classes started, he preferred not to be called the name on their class rosters or the pronouns it implied.
Sokup, a transgender student born female, asked professors to address him as Davin, not the feminine name on the class list, and to use the pronouns "he" and "his."
The effect of these communiqués was mixed at best. While only one professor outright refused to comply — Sokup dropped his class — many bumbled through with well meaning intent that was nevertheless embarrassing and ultimately threatened his safety.
"When I was in class, the professor would look down the roster and be calling roll and say the wrong name and then correct themselves in front of the whole class," Sokup says. Pronoun mistakes — followed by corrections — were also a problem.
"I'm 'out' on campus, but it's still very uncomfortable to walk around the next day and wonder who's seeing me and telling their friend, 'Oh, like, that's the kid.'"
Dot Brauer, UVM's director of Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Questioning, and Ally (LGBTQA) Services, puts it more starkly. "They look around the room and think, OK, which of these 40 to 60 people might be the kind of person who will decide to get a gang of people to beat me up one day?"
Thanks to innovative new software developed by the university last fall that is being hailed by colleges and universities around the country, the classroom embarrassment and potentially threatening consequences experienced by Sokup and other transgender students at UVM, a steadily growing community here and at other schools, has been greatly alleviated.
The new software, created as an adjunct to the Banner student information system, allows students to fill out a form specifying their preferred name and pronoun. The information appears on all paperwork seen by faculty, so petitioning professors individually, a process that gave students no choice but to out themselves, is a thing of the past.
But the program also allows students to retain their legal names, so financial aid checks keep coming and health insurance doesn't lapse — a key feature.
The software's dual nature — preferred name for internal purposes and legal name for external ones — proved devilishly complicated to create and program and has been met with jubilation by LGBT directors across the country.
"I'm frankly in awe of it," says Nancy Jean Tubbs, director of the LGBT Resource Center at the University of California, Riverside, one of a number of schools considering using the software or a variant of it.
There's no doubt that, today, UVM is a best-practices institution for students who are transgender, a loose term covering a spectrum of identities and expression, from those who develop a psychological and emotional gender identity different from their biological sex to those whose internal experience of gender doesn't fit neatly into the either of the traditional gender roles. Transgender people may or may not take hormones or undergo surgery.
Since the new software was introduced, the university's campus climate score has risen from 4.5 stars to elite 5-star status on the LGBT website Campus Pride, a distinction it shares with schools like Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania, Oberlin College, and Carlton College. UVM also hosts the annual Translating Identity Conference, organized by trans activist students on campus like Sokup, which attracts participants from around the country.
But things were considerably less rosy seven years ago.
At that time a transgender graduate student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program named Ed Garton devoted his comprehensive exam for his masters degree to outlining the specific issues facing marginalized trans students at UVM and recommending a series of solutions.
With encouragement from UVM's then new president, Daniel Mark Fogel, UVM began a program of reform. The university added more than 40 gender neutral bathrooms to campus, addressing one of the key issues raised in Garton's paper, expanded LGBTQ-friendly housing, and allowed students to use a preferred name on their campus ID cards.
Garton reserved special criticism for Banner — the computerized repository of all student-related academic and financial aid information, which generates class rosters, advisee lists, and hundreds of other reports. So the university sought to address that issue, too.
In a change of policy, UVM began allowing students to use a preferred name in Banner. But it clearly advertised that the new name would be used both internally and externally, so financial aid and health insurance would be jeopardized if students didn't devote the significant time and expense needed for a legal name change.
Not surprisingly, few trans students chose that option.
Meanwhile, reports of experiences like the ones Sokup describes continued to reach Brauer, who reached out to senior administrators for help with the problem.
Within a year, the budgetary stars were aligned, and a comprehensive Banner fix was underway.
What seems to the untutored eye to be a relatively simple project — activating an already existing but non-functional preferred-name field in Banner — proved to be anything but.
Creating and programming a user-friendly form that allowed students to input information required deliberation and skill. But it was clearing software pathways to the hundreds of reports on campus where the preferred name would appear — from academic warning letters to a student's degree audit — and considering the consequences of each change that made the project so time-consuming.
"You don't know how much your name touches everything you do; it was like peeling off onion layers," says Emma Kennedy, a transgender student member of the working group that took on the project, which also included Brauer, registrar Keith Williams, associate registrar Gail Starks, faculty member Kathy Manning, Kennedy's sister Georgia, who worked in the registrar's office, her father, Keith, a manager in ETS, and programmers Warren Van Wyck and Judi Schwartz.
The group slogged through countless decisions — whether preferred or legal names would be listed in the online directory, for example, or how email addresses and aliases would be handled.
A topic it debated at length was whether to give students the option of requesting gender-neutral pronouns — "zee" for "he" and "she;" "here" for "his" and "her" — on the preferred name form because their unfamiliarity risked alienating faculty.
The group ultimately decided it was better to offer the choices rather than exclude students whose identity didn't conform to what the transgender community calls the "gender binary."
"Here we were trying to be inclusive," Brauer says, "and we were going to work with assimilative folks but not the gender variant ones, for whom neither one of the gender boxes fit."
But all the "maddening detail," as Brauer described it, had a paradoxical effect: the group bonded tightly.
The software went live for the spring semester, with a positive response from trans students — there have been 348 requests for a preferred name to date (although the vast majority were requests from students asking be called by a nickname — Bob for Robert, for example) and no negative feedback from faculty, who appreciate being spared the embarrassment of using the wrong name and pronoun almost as much as students, Manning says.
While a software solution similar to UVM's was recently developed by the University of Michigan for PeopleSoft, the other major student information system used in higher education, no like software fix existed for the 1,100 schools using Banner.
Recognizing a clear need, UVM decided to design its software in such a way that any of the Banner schools could adopt it — and to give the software away at no cost.
"We wanted to make sure that, while there might be political barriers to adopting the software, there wouldn't be financial ones," says Williams, who served as project manager for the initiative.
In March both UVM's software and the PeopleSoft version were touted during a conference call hosted by the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resources Centers that drew about 40 participants. Brauer received a flurry of emails from schools seeking more information.
One of them, Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater, Mass., is currently examining UVM's software code and hopes to have its own system in place for the fall of 2010. Williams expects more schools to follow. SunGard, Banner's parent company, is also considering folding UVM's software into the basic package it offers schools, Williams says.
The software solutions could be arriving just in time; students who identify as transgender are growing in number on campuses across the country.
Part of the impetus for the rise is that more students feel comfortable being openly transgender as social norms change, says UC Riverside's Tubbs, "particularly at those schools with established LGBT Centers," where they feel "safer making a connection with their peers or with staff in the center." Some 150 schools have LGBT centers, she said.
It also helps that many institutions have broadened their non-discrimination policies to include gender identity/expression — 267 to date, according to the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.
But it's not simply a matter of more trans people being willing to come out, says Brett-Genny Janiczek Beemyn, director of LGBT services at UMass Amherst, outgoing co-chair of the Consortium of Higher Education LBGT Resources Centers, and a board member of the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, who has published extensively on the topic.
"I think more people are identifying as transgender because they see it as an option" at a younger age, Janiczek Beemyn says, rather than coming to terms with their gender identify in midlife, as Janiczek Beemyn did, after years of denial.
Consequently, "you have a sort of first generation of people coming to college who identify as being transgender who are open about that and want to have services." Janiczek Beemyn says peers at LGBT resource centers around the country all report seeing "more students coming to college identifying as transgender."
Colleges have much more to do to meet the needs of these students, Janiczek Beemyn says, from offering better healthcare access and care, to providing gender neutral bathrooms and housing, to educating faculty and staff, to wrestling with thorny issues created by gender-segregated activities and organizations like athletics and sororities and fraternities.
But there's no disputing the contribution UVM has made or the leadership role it is taking.
"It's one thing for a department chair to say, 'We really want you to support transgender students,'" says Manning, who describes the activism of the trans community as a civil rights movement. "But to actually have it institutionalized speaks to the commitment of UVM to create a safe environment."
Sokup, for one, is grateful.
"I'd go to class on the first day and apprehensively wait for my name to be called, and if there was a mistake, I'd know my classmates were putting a face to the name, and that never felt completely safe," he said in an email. "That awkward and anxiety-filled experience isn't one that has to be felt by trans students anymore."
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