Sexual identity’ could be added to NU policy

Amy Hamblin

As the gay rights movement gains momentum, some Northwestern students are concerned that recognition of the transgendered community is lagging behind both at the university and in the state of Illinois.

Without hate crime protection from the state, some students are starting to lobby NU to add “sexual identity and expression” to its nondiscrimination policy. The policy states NU will not discriminate “on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age, disability, or veteran status.”

Adding “sexual identity and expression” would cover transgendered students as well as those who may not identify themselves as transgendered but defy the stereotypes of their sex.

“Universities lead the way,” said Whitney Gretz, diversity chairwoman for Associated Student Government’s Student Services Committee. “If we can adopt (sexual identity and expression) in our nondiscrimination policy, that will hopefully work as a catalyst for state legislation.”

She added that many students don’t realize the issue of “sexual identity and expression” affects more than transgendered people.

Employers may discriminate against women who shun traditional female clothing or who are more assertive in the office, explained Gretz. Conversely, she said, employers may unfairly treat men who appear more effeminate.

“It’s more about stereotypes that come along with gender identity,” she said.

This summer Gretz teamed up with five Rainbow Alliance members to lobby for revisions to NU’s nondiscrimination policy. Gretz, a Weinberg sophomore, said she expects their research of other schools’ changes to be finished in a little more than week, when the subcommittee will seek ASG backing.

Although ASG’s approval isn’t necessary, Gretz said administrators might take the issue more seriously with a student mandate.

“It shouldn’t be a big deal to change since we already have sexual orientation in the policy,” said Gretz, who is optimistic that university officials will approve the proposal. “It helps make sure we are keeping Northwestern up-to-date with tolerance and non-discrimination.”

Twenty-two colleges have adopted sexual identity into their nondiscrimination policies.

Small changes are the key to wider acceptance for transgendered people, said Rainbow Alliance Co-President Leslie Stewart. There tends to be less advocacy for transgendered people because they are fewer in number than gays and lesbians, she said.

According to Stewart, NU’s last openly transgendered student graduated last spring, though there are likely some who are not “out.” NU isn’t as progressive as many schools in accommodating the transgendered community, added Stewart, a Weinberg senior. Oberlin College holds an annual Transgendered Awareness Week, while other schools offer gender neutral bathrooms.

NU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Resource Center opened this January in Norris University Center.

Gretz said she hopes an amended nondiscrimination policy would show NU is responding to the transgendered community.

Kristin Effland, the youth program coordinator for the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition, cautions that a school shouldn’t forget about the transgendered movement after amending its nondiscrimination policy.

“The real work is public education,” Effland said. “We are not going to get as far as we want with just laws and policy.”

Reach Amy Hamblin at [email protected]

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‘Sexual identity’ could be added to NU policy

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