I wasn’t planning on doing two posts today, but I just got an email that upset me quite a bit and I think it’s rather applicable to the topics for both today (willingly going into a hostile work/school environment) as well as for my post on Friday about divisiveness. Last week I tried to get in contact with the department of student living at the university in order to cover my bases regarding restroom use and my right to protect myself in the event that I am attacked. They gave me the email for the associate vice president for the department because there were no set policies in place. I got a reply back last night, responded to it this morning, and got another response back. I’m including copies of the emails below, edited to protect identities, and then will discuss.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
“I am a transgender student transferring in this coming fall, and I had a few questions regarding school policies about this. The first question involves situations such as dormitory living and restroom use, areas that are controversial when it comes to transgender students. I identify as female, I currently live as a female in all areas except for work, and I have been undergoing medical procedures to have my body outwardly reflect my inner identity as a woman. However, by Texas state law, I am still considered legally male due to not having undergone certain surgical procedures that are highly expensive and currently unavailable to me for other reasons.
“I didn’t see any unisex restrooms when I was up on campus recently, thus I wonder what the policy is regarding restroom usage. I do not feel comfortable using men’s rooms as a woman, but I am still visibly identifiable as transgender and thus might make some uncomfortable in the women’s room. Likewise with dorm situations should I choose to move into the dorms; I would feel uncomfortable in a men’s dorm and I feel others would be uncomfortable with me in a women’s dorm. How does the school handle such situations?
“Also, as a trans woman, I am well aware of the risks to my safety, and often carry self-defense devices such as pepper spray or a stun gun on my person. However, I am aware that many schools are more strict on weapon possession than the surrounding areas off campus. What are [the school]’s policies in regards to the carrying of self-defense specific weapons on campus, as well as their use in self-defense?
“Thank you for your time.
Monday, June 18, 2012
“I apologize for the delay in replying to your email. I had four days of orientation and put quite a bit on hold.
“First, let me say welcome to [the university]. We are excited you have chosen [this school] to study. It is my hope you will find us a welcoming place!
“Regarding staying on campus, we currently do not have enough space to accommodate all students. So we encourage upperclassman and students over the age of 21 to look for appropriate housing off-campus. We do have off-campus apartments that the university leases and if you are an upperclassman or over the age of 21 then this might be a viable option. You could contact [the head of housing] for specific information about availability.
“Regarding restrooms, I believe this is an accurate list of newly created unisex restrooms that used to have different designations.
[Insert list of 9 unisex restrooms across the entire campus]
“Should you choose to carry pepper spray on campus, please ensure that you use it in a lawful manner.
“I hope this helps to answer your questions and again, we look forward to working with you. I hope I answered your questions. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
“Thank you for your response but I’m not sure you fully answered my question regarding restrooms. Are you saying that I’m restricted to using just those 9 unisex restrooms, or am I also authorized to use women’s rooms. In the event that I did use a women’s room and someone raised issue with it (calling me a man in the ladies room as often happens, much as the case with the other transgender vet in Dallas a month ago), on whose side would the administration fall? Would I be cited for “being a man in the women’s room,” or would she be told that I am a woman and am allowed to use the restroom?
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
“At this point of time, you are legally a male. I cannot authorize you to use the women’s restrooms. I am suggesting you use the unisex restrooms if it is possible. If you have no options, then I am suggesting you use the men’s room while you are legally a male.
“I hope this helps to answer your questions.”
For those unfamiliar, Texas state law is basically that one is legally the gender they were assigned at birth. Getting the gender marker changed can be easy or difficult depending on the county and the judge, some requiring proof of post-op, others just needing a letter from therapist and endo confirming that one is on HRT. Dallas county (where I live) tends to be one of the more liberal and more consistent with giving gender marker changes, but it depends on the judge and the time of day.
So basically, I ask about on-campus housing and am “advised” (i.e. told) not to live on-campus because I’m an upperclassman (I’m not) and/or over 21 (I am), not told what to do should I not take the advice and try to live on campus. I’m a sophomore because most of my credits don’t transfer as anything but electives, world history and international government mean nothing, and I have to take American history and American government and Texas government instead. I ask about if I’ll get in trouble for carrying a weapon that is purely for self-defense purposes, and am told not to use it on anyone except in a legal manner, answering my question indirectly (I can carry pepper spray, nothing said about a stun gun) while also assuming I plan on just using it on anyone who gets too close. I ask about the restrooms, am directed to all of 9 restrooms on the entire campus, and when pressed about sex-segregated restrooms, am called a man and told to go use the men’s room.
Now, maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but the feeling I got from her emails was that, while maintaining politeness and professionalism, her underlying message was “f**k off, tr*nny!” There is no policy regarding transgender students, but the school does have a GLBT student group (that I have yet to check and see if they’re really GLBT or just GLB), as well as a number of documents in PDF format on their site regarding GLBT and transgender specifically. They have a few professors in the psychology department who have covered trans issues in their doctoral writings. The women’s studies undergraduate department has a class on identities and sexualities, specifically listed at being a study of GLBT, and in the graduate level has a course with a required and recommended reading list that includes Nobody Passes and Whipping Girl. One would think that there are set policies in a school this otherwise liberal, and that they’d be in the favor of trans individuals. Instead, no policies and the policy maker gets to enforce her own biases.
What are your thoughts? Am I being overly sensitive? Am I right in my observations?