This year, it is imperative that this University step up to the plate and add "gender identity and expression" to our nondiscrimination policy. Students have been waging this battle for years, but the administration continues to ignore the issue and insists on placing students' needs on the backburner. The University has a legal and ethical duty to explicitly recognize and support the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students.
Last week, the Student Association took a commendable stand and unanimously passed the Non-Discrimination Compliance Act. This bill states that the SA supports the inclusion of "actual or perceived ..." and "... gender identity and expression ..." in our nondiscrimination policy. The support of our student leaders demonstrates that this is no longer an issue confined only to the interest of transgender students.
It is simply not enough for the University to passively state that it complies with anything covered by the D.C. Human Rights Act, which includes gender identity and expression. There have been multiple cases of discrimination against transgender students on this campus, despite this "compliance." Clearly, the nondiscrimination policy is not working. Furthermore, the GW community in Virginia must be given the same protection as the rest of the school. We need to be loud and clear that all students, gender-variant or not, are protected by this university.
There are transgender students on this campus. We are in your classes, your student organizations and working to get through college, just as everyone else is. We are asking the University to finally ensure that we are able to express our gender free from fear of harassment or discrimination.
What is GW waiting for? Nationwide, 225 campuses, including Georgetown, American, Stanford and the entire Ivy League, have already moved to include these phrases in their nondiscrimination policies. We are behind the times on this issue, and if GW wants to continue to be a campus that promotes equality, the nondiscrimination policy must be amended. If the administration does so, they will not only protect their students, but also improve the University's reputation as one of tolerance and diversity.
The entire GW community would benefit from this move. Including "gender identity and expression" protects all students, not just those who are transgender. It tells a student that GW supports and protects you, no matter how masculine or feminine you appear or what gender stereotypes you adhere to or not. And the truth is, every single one of us in this community has a gender identity and expression, no matter our sex, race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or social or political background. In the end, this is for all of us.
I urge everyone to take a stand on this issue. E-mail the administration, write a letter, call them, do whatever it takes to demand that they do the right thing and put "gender identity and expression" into the nondiscrimination policy.
The writer, a sophomore majoring in anthropology, is a member of Transgender Education and Action.