I grew up in a small town. Everyone knew everyone, and I liked living there. I didn’t think about college often, but that changed when I got older. I heard so many great things about the local junior college that I decided to register for my first semester. I came to learn that this great college did not live up to what I was hoping for.
Before my first semester, I considered living in a dorm. I contacted my school’s administration to check if they offered any gender inclusive housing options that would accommodate me as a transgender student. “Inclusive dorms? We don’t do that here,” the housing advisor explained. My school provided female and male dorm rooms and, unfortunately, inclusive dorm rooms, where students can have roommates of any gender, were not provided. I also met with the Dean of Students, who would later tell me “they will come to it later” when it was needed. I was so angry. I provided information, and I felt like I was being reasonable with my request to the administration. I felt put down and mistreated by the school staff.
Luckily, I had been involved with LGBTQ advocacy, so I knew what had to be done from a practical perspective. I developed a document, which provided information about discrimination laws, as well as my rights as a student. I called the administration’s attention to The Education Act of 1972, which states that any person in the United States cannot be denied benefits, education programs, or activities because of their sex. While my research and advocacy did not lead to the school creating gender inclusive housing, and I ended up living off campus, it did raise awareness of my situation and my rights as a transgender student. It also led to me to feeling more supported and respected as a result.
When I started my first semester, I became involved with a local LGBTQ support group called The Dandelion Project. It felt great to be an active member of this organization because I had emotional support outside of school. Now, I have professors who respect my preferred name and pronouns, which helps makes my college experience safer, and comfortable. My professors were overall understanding and there wasn’t much conflict. Once, my instructor had printed out a new roster, but had forgotten to use my preferred name. It was awkward at first, but the mistake was resolved in a timely and respectful manner.
I believe that everyone should defend their rights, regardless of who they may be. When faced with an obstacle similar to mine, it is important to do your research and seek out support. Educate yourself about your own rights as an LGBTQ student, and most importantly, utilize your resources. There are many organizations such as the Transgender Law Center, who provide information to help you make your college experience safe.
Name has been changed
For more information about laws that protect your rights as a student
Transgender Law Center
Safe Schools Coalition
Transgender Law & Policy Institute
Campus Pride Trans Policy Clearinghouse
This story was produced in collaboration with GSA Network with support from California voter-approved Proposition 63 funds, as an initiative to develop mental health resources for LGBTQ youth in California. See the funding statement below for details.
This program is funded by counties through the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63). It is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of California counties working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. CalMHSA encourages the use of materials contained herein, as they are explained in our licensing agreements. To view the agreements, please visit: calmhsa.org