Navigating the Gender Identity Maze on Campus

Understanding Gender Identity

Posted on 6 August 2015 |

mazeIt can be something as small as locker assignments for a phys ed class. Or something as major as dorm room assignments. But whatever the issue might be, the role of gender identity on campus is now in the forefront of decisions to be made by college administrators and student affairs offices.

Recent changes to Title IX regulations have made it an even more urgent task, as the experiences a student has as a result of their expressed gender identity is now a factor in determining compliance. It's a maze that students and faculty alike are trying to navigate. And it's not easy for anyone.

Beyond Bullying

We all know about the very serious issues with bullying and violence based on gender, and many schools are successfully using staff and student training to help address those problems. But there is so much more than bullying and assaults all colleges now need to consider.

If your school hasn't looked at the many challenges facing the LGBTQ+ population at your institution, now is the time consider all ways in which this could come into play. Here are some areas in which a student who is gender non-traditional could run into problems, and some of the questions you may need to ask before the next academic year begins:

  • Dorm Room Assignments - Where would you place a student who has transitioned but has not changed their gender identity legally? Where would you place a student who is in the process of transitioning? Do you have a policy in place for rooming gay or lesbian students?  Have you created a procedure for working with students uncomfortable with having a LGBTQ+ roommate? 
  • Sports and P.E. Classes - How do you address the issue of locker rooms for gender non-conforming students? Is there sufficient privacy to allow non-surgically transitioned students use the facilities comfortably? What is your school's policy on transgendered or non-binary students and sports teams? 
  • Student Health Care - Can students self-identify their gender on student health records, or is it limited to birth or legally recognized gender? Can they use a name they choose for health records? Is your health staff trained to deal with the unique health care needs of non-conforming students
  • Registration and Student Records - Can a non-binary or transgender student choose the name which will be shown on registration forms, tests, and grade sheets?  How are students in process of transitioning identified in classes, with advisors and on paper? 
  • Dress Code - If your school has a dress code, is it adapted for non-cisgendered students? 
  • Student Organizations - What is your policy with regard to student organizations and LGBTQ+ students? 
  • Restrooms - Do you have a policy on use of men's and women's restrooms? Are there gender-neutral restrooms available? 
  • Graduation and Degrees - Can a transitioned, transitioning or non-binary student designate the name they want on their degree? What is the policy for the name announced at graduation? 

The new openness surrounding non-conforming gender identity is challenging for colleges at every level. Training on diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination is your best tool for raising awareness of the issues these students are facing as they try to find their place on campus, while staying in compliance with new Title IX mandates. 

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