The Work Ahead for Trans Student Rights

This summer was big for the LGBTQ community — particularly the transgender community.

Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender and started a documentary series. Another season of “Orange Is the New Black” revealed the very real dangers of transphobia when Sophia, the transgender character, was attacked and then put into solitary confinement for “protective measures.” Every day, the military is getting closer to allowing all transgender service members to serve, free of fear of being discharged because of their gender identity. Yet, despite all this progress, we have so far to go. As of writing this, 11 transgender women have been murdered in the United States since Georgetown’s finals ended.

On campus, we have also seen progress for transgender students. A new policy allows students to change their names in MyAccess. This change means I will start the school year with a GOCard that displays my name, without the need to hide my identification.

However, as a transgender student on campus, I can confidently state that Georgetown, too, still has a long way to go. What I want is simple: I want future transgender students to be able to have a college experience that is not defined by their identity. I need a bathroom policy that allows me to go the bathroom in residential halls, knowing that if I am harassed or attacked, the question will not concern why I was in that bathroom, but rather how the school can prevent future attacks. I want to be able to go swimming at Yates Field House with friends and be able to use the locker room in a way that doesn’t single me out. I need a name-change system so resident assistant rosters, Residence Hall Office information and Hoyamail all consistently show my new name.

Since I arrived on this campus two years ago, I have been told time and time again that Georgetown cares for the whole person. I need an administration that cares more about my whole person than losing a religious donor. I need to be able to feel safe on this campus.

This summer has been a big one for me. I lived with other men in on-campus housing for the first time. I found my new name and changed my name in Georgetown’s system. I came out to the world on Facebook. And I submitted my first bias incident report.

Georgetown has a long way to go.

I was on my way out of the men’s locker room at Yates, after swimming, when an employee stopped me. After he rushed me out of the locker room, he asked if I knew which locker room I was in and why I thought I could be in there. Even after answering those questions, I had to spend the next 45 minutes hearing him tell me that I looked like a “young lady” to him, that I would make others uncomfortable and that there was some policy about my use of the locker room.

As I am heavily involved in activism, I knew that, despite his attempts to intimidate me, Title IX protects my right to enter the locker room of my gender identity without harassment. The manner in which he spoke about the policy, without telling me what the policy was, made it sound like I was in trouble and that I was not allowed to use the men’s locker room. When the director of Yates finally talked to him, the employee admitted he was in the wrong. When I asked him what he would do the next time he encountered a student whose body did not fit what he expected of that gender, though, he said he would still question the student at length.
There are few policies surrounding transgender students and the use of gendered spaces. Where policies do exist, employees are rarely familiar with them, and are allowed to freely violate them multiple times. The employee who violated Yates’ policy by harassing me harassed my friend just a few months before. I still see the employee almost every time I go to Yates.

Georgetown’s lack of protection for transgender students has very real effects on our college experiences. The lack of policies that protect the usage of bathrooms forces transgender students to make decisions based on trying to avoid the issue. Some transgender students avoid Yates to ensure that they will not have to deal with the locker rooms.

Transgender students are on edge, fearful of harassment and forfeiting Georgetown’s potential to remain safe. This is unacceptable. For Georgetown to truly celebrate every Hoya, we must strive to make campus a place safe for all gender identities.


Willem Miller is a junior in the College.

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