Kaden Trifilio is a freshman. At the beginning of the year, he said he was “full of self-doubt.” But this doubt, he said, was not because of classes.
It was because he, once a female, was considering becoming a male.
For Trifilio, life as a transgender student on campus can sometimes be complicated. “So far people have been respectful. But broader issues do persist, such as housing considerations,” said Kaden, whose legal name is Katherine.
To confront the issues facing transgender students on campus, Transgender Education and Action, a committee of Allied in Pride, is hosting a series of events this month as part of Transgender Awareness Month. Allied is also continuing its campaign to change GW’s housing policy for transgender students and update the University’s anti-sexual harassment policy.
Only the Scholar’s Village residence halls on Mount Vernon are fully gender-neutral, said Seth Weinshel, GW Housing Program’s director of assignments. Additionally, he said there are very few singles available, even for third- and fourth- year students on campus.
For transgender students, questions always arise. Trifilio often wonders which bathroom he should use – and the answer varies.
Safety is the primary concern for transgender students especially on a campus that Trifilio describes as having “a very small trans scene that is not really a community.” Further compounding this is the fact that transgender students are not covered under the provisions of GW’s official anti-sexual harassment policy.
Amy Dorfman, advocacy co-chair for Allied in Pride, the undergraduate student organization for LGBT interests (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), said that even though the policy adheres to the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977, which does cover gender identity, transgender students are not explicitly covered in the GW policy.
The Student Association passed a resolution two years ago that expressed support for a policy change to include protections for transgender students. It supported implementing a priority selection housing system so that transgender students would be more likely to receive single assignments. The proposal also pledged support for any new building on campus to feature gender-neutral, single-stall lockable bathrooms.
These resolutions were not passed onto the Faculty Senate and have essentially fallen victim to inaction. Allied has submitted a proposal to the Socially Responsible Initiatives Commission, a committee within the SA, to review the issue. Dorfman emphasized that these measures are still pending and that Allied is still awaiting responses from the parties involved.
GW’s anti-harassment policy stands in contrast to those of at least 147 other universities, where transgender students are afforded protections. Certain campuses have been deemed “GenderSAFE” by Gender Public Advocacy Coalition, a national human rights organization based in D.C. Most of the Ivy League schools, as well as Georgetown, have been deemed “GenderSafe.” For its purposes, GenderPAC defines transgender as an umbrella term that encompasses cross-dressers, transsexuals and others who “cross gender boundaries in profound ways.”
Britney Hoffman, campus director at GenderPAC, has met with Linda Donnels, dean of students at GW, and despite seeing “some kind of interest,” Hoffman said she “has not seen any movement forward on the GWU campus in regards to more gender-neutral housing options.”
In response to this concern that GW is not moving forward, Weinshel said GW is trying to compensate for the lack of singles currently available by constructing new residence halls with single suite layouts.
Neha Shah, president of Allied in Pride, said the GW community has a long way to go, but Allied is optimistic.
To do so, Allied has planned several events this month. Last week, the committee screened “TransGeneration,” a documentary series that follows the lives of four college students in transition. T.J., a student from Michigan State University, said on screen that since college “is a time of self-discovery,” it seems like the right time to undergo such a change.
As much as being in college helped facilitate Trifilio’s transition, he stressed that anyone contemplating such a fundamental change should remember to “reflect on yourself and how you want to be seen.” Above all, he said, “remember that (this decision) is an intensely personal choice.”
For more information about these events, visit Allied in Pride’s Web site at www.gwu.edu/~allied.