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Let’s execute plan to aid transgender students

UMKC has been noted as the 5th Most Gay-Friendly campus in the country by Newsweek. However, does this sentiment reach the same positivity for the transgender atmosphere?

I would say we’re taking steps in the right direction.

The LGBTQIA Partnership Committee, handpicked and led by Assistant Dean of Students Eric Grospitch, has specifically discussed amenities on campus which could benefit students who identify as transgender.

LGBTQIA Resource Coordinator Jonathan Ta-Pryor recently proposed an upgrade to Blackboard that would allow students with a preferred name to submit it through the website.

For example, if I were a female transitioning into a male, I would be able to access a link on Blackboard and request my name be listed as Ross instead of Roze.

By intent, this would alleviate awkward and exploitative situations in the classroom for teachers taking role and addressing students by the incorrect name.

However, lecturers print rosters from several different resources, not just Blackboard.  This name-changing system would not apply to Pathway, which many teachers use due to the accompaniment of student photos with the names.

Again, this would certainly be a positive gesture toward considering concerns for transgender students, assuming faculty would comply.

The harm in calling a transitioning individual the name received at birth could be severely damaging. Those taking steps to physically alter from one gender to another could be triggered by the use of a name they believe should not have been labeled in the first place.

It would be disheartening for a student to be exposed to classmates simply because a lecturer was unaware or ignorant of the student’s status.

The partnership committee voted unanimously that this change should be considered, and ultimately made to Blackboard, but promotion of this resource would need to be made to faculty and staff in order to make them aware of their responsibilities to understand the situation.

This would likely include educating faculty and staff on how to approach students or colleagues appropriately, not assuming the gender of another individual and learning to use alternative gender pronouns such as zie/hir, which are gender-neutral pronouns not associated with male or female identity.

Additionally, some facilities on campus, namely the newer structures, have been constructed to accommodate transgender or gender non-conforming students.  The Student Union offers gender-neutral, single person bathrooms.

Swinney Recreational Center has adopted a policy for allowing students who admittedly require a gender-neutral changing room to use the locker room designated for visiting sports teams.

Director of the Office of Student Involvement Angie Cottrell has expressed her optimism that this is a temporary fix, and permanent accommodations will be considered.

Improvements can always be made. One concern is the lack of gender-neutral housing in the residence halls and campus apartments.  While this may be a matter of addressing the issue with the appropriate administration, some proactivity would be appreciated.  Currently, the residence halls offer the default all-male or female suites, but nothing regarding students who don’t identify under one gender binary or haven’t received gender reassignment surgery.

A map pinpointing the gender-neutral amenities on campus would be another stride. Something that may be currently overlooked is access to contact information for doctors who administer hormone replacement therapy, or even having one positioned or assigned to campus.

A support group for transitioning students, facilitated by a mental health consultant, would be an ideal resource to offer as well.  There is no guarantee how medication can affect each individual, so a campus that focused on monitoring and reaching out to students as they progressed would reflect genuine interest in those students’ success, both academically and conceptually.

Once a preferred name policy is in place, it would ultimately fall on the administration to hold its faculty accountable for respecting the wishes of the students.

The ideas are in place. I feel there is a solid foundation laid out with the existence of a committee that holds LGBTQIA interests at heart, so carrying out the abundance of ideas will simply take time.

rbrooks@unews.com

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