Letter to the Editor: Northwestern must reinforce its letter of support for transgender and gender nonconforming students with concrete action
February 24, 2017
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The following letter is written in response to the recent letter from Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president of student affairs, to the Northwestern community about support for students who are trans* or gender nonconforming.
As a student who very openly identifies as transgender on campus, recent events by the Trump administration and conservatives across the U.S. have been terrifying. President Donald Trump rescinded rules established by the Obama administration for transgender students just last night and already, Republicans in my home state of Wisconsin are considering a law that would require all individuals use the bathroom that correlates with the gender they were assigned at birth.
The letter sent by Northwestern Student Affairs is a start, but the University seems mired in the past, continuing to assume that what they are currently doing for transgender students is enough. NU students and administration should know that as a transgender student, I feel neither “safe” at the university nor supported by upper-level administration.
On multiple occasions, I have been forced to either use the bathroom I don’t gender identify with or hunt for a gender neutral bathroom, which sometimes takes 10-15 minutes out of my class time. At other times, I have been able to use the designated male bathroom, but have had to endure snickers or stares due to the lack of stalls in the restroom.
When a building as large as Tech has only three all-gender bathrooms that I know of, and those provided are extremely difficult to access, that is a sign that the university is not doing a sufficient job of ensuring all students on campus have comfortable access to basic necessities, a basic human right supported by Title IX. Is a supporting campus one where a student does not even have full access to necessities like proper bathroom facilities? How about one where a student is not even able to change their pronouns in CAESAR or their email address?
Although NU is more progressive and may have more all-gender bathrooms than other universities in the country, it still has far to go. Now is the time for the administration to make a change, by ensuring that every building on campus has an accessible all-gender bathroom, preferably with multiple stalls. Students, both non-cisgender and allies, can make a change by contacting the administration and joining me in the fight for a campus that can truly say it is a supportive environment for transgender individuals.
I am optimistic that the university issuing a letter regarding Trump’s action is a positive first step to ensuring a more gender inclusive campus. But a letter does nothing if it is not backed up with real and tangible policy changes. Until NU provides adequate all-gender, accessible bathrooms, it is failing in its very promise to support gender nonconforming students.