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Campus News

Warren Wilson College Students Create Trans Advocacy Task Force

by Nathan Gower, staff writer

A Trans Advocacy Task Force has been created with the intention of addressing and resolving policy and procedures that discriminate against the trans community on campus.

Though largely unintentional, many practices on campus can be seen as disrespectful of trans lifestyles. Gendered bathrooms, gender selection on forms, and a general lack of trans education are some of the problems facing the newly-created advocacy group. The creators of the group would like to see revisions made to the college’s anti-discrimination policy that include awareness of people identifying as trans.

The task force was created by students Beau Ohlgren, Ilinca Popescu, and Rex Leonowicz. They began discussing its creation at the end of the 2010 spring semester.

The creation of the task force comes two years after a failed implementation of a similar group.

“In 2009, they tried to pass a bunch of resolutions in caucus, but caucus was not open to them and smooshed them all, so the task force died,” said Ohlgren.

Two weeks ago, these three brought students together for a meeting in the Empower Center to discuss where this group could go. That meeting saw the group split into informal subsets to tackle specific issues, which at this point are still being discussed.

One target area for change is in creating de-gendered restrooms. Per North Carolina building codes, however, any multi-fixture, or multi-stall, restroom must be gendered. Single-fixture restrooms are not subject to this stipulation, and the task force met with Supervisor of Design and Construction Steve Farrell to find all single-fixture bathrooms on campus. The task force will propose to the administration that these bathrooms be made gender-neutral.

Furthermore, they are planning training for faculty and staff.

“Me personally, I’m a trans guy, I go by male pronouns, and I’m mis-gendered all the time. I’m never sure which professors are going to be OK with it and which are going to squash it, so I never bring it up. It’s really uncomfortable,” Ohlgren stressed.

The task force would like to see diversity training for faculty to makes them aware of gender-neutral language and trans awareness, so that this awkward misattribution of pronouns is avoided. In addition, they would like to see a more developed inclusion of trans awareness into diversity training for resident directors and resident assistants.

The task force is also targeting housing forms in particular, as well as any documentation that requests gender. Per Ohlgren, the current physical housing forms have changed to a fill-in-the-blank gender question, while the online form asks specifically to select from male, female, and other.

“The current policy right now is if you identify with the binary, you’re going to be put with whoever identifies with the binary. If you define yourself as gender neutral or ambiguous, you usually get stuck together with the same people,” said Ohlgren. “For freshmen it would be great to have something that introduces them to the idea because a lot of them come from communities that don’t have anything related to trans.”

A seemingly innocent gesture, the practice of rooming trans students together has had repercussions in the past.

“Two trans students were put together because they were trans, even though they didn’t have anything else in common,” Ohlgren said.

The task force intends on being heavily involved with Trans Awareness Week to be held Nov. 14 through 18.

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