‘Victory’ for transgender community

Marcus Trinidad Associate News Editor

Laying out guidelines to promote inclusion and safety of transgender students, the Oregon Department of Education published a 15-page document that looks to provide support for the transgender community.

The document allows advocates for schools to allow students to use their preferred names on official documents such as transcripts and diplomas, while not requiring any form of verification of someone’s gender or preferred name.

Oregon State University currently provides an option for faculty and staff to use preferred names for work purposes, but a similar option is not yet available to students.

According to Oregon law, it is required that the student’s legal name be used on official documents, but according to the new guidelines, it may be in the transgender student’s best interest to not be identified by their legal name in order to support, protect and avoid ‘outing’ a student.

Outing refers to revealing a part of someone’s identity that the person would rather not have revealed, and it often can put the person in vulnerable and dangerous situations.

Senate Bill 473 has recently been filed to the Oregon Legislature which would make it state law to allow students to use their preferred names on official documents such as diplomas and transcripts. It would also require public universities to record information regarding sexual orientation.

Not tracking that information, according to the assistant director of the Pride Center Cindy Konrad, makes it more difficult to support the transgender community and provide for their needs. She believes that the process of recognizing people’s preferred names and pronouns creates a welcoming environment.

The new guidelines suggest that publishing personal information, such as the legal name of a transgender student with a new preferred name, could jeopardize that student’s safety.

“Transgender and gender nonconforming students form a diverse community, and they may differ in how they present, including differences in comfort level with being out as transgender or gender nonconforming, their transition status, their age, and their gender expression,” the document reads. “School districts should adopt a flexible approach given that transgender students may not feel comfortable or safe being their authentic selves in all contexts.”

According to a survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2013, people who identify as transgender face high rates of violence. Seventy-eight percent of transgender people in K-12 reported being harassed, 35 percent were physically assaulted and 12 percent were sexually assaulted. In certain cases, the level of harassment was so bad that it forced 15 percent of those surveyed to drop out of school.

Konrad said that the world can be a dangerous place for transgender youth when it should not have to be. She believes that the newly published documents is a big step in supporting the transgender community.

“I think anytime we find better ways to support our community, and those things become policy instead of relying on the kindness of each other to do things—I think that is a victory,” Konrad said.

According to Chelsea Shay, a co-lead facilitator for Out N About, one of the biggest barriers to promoting the guidelines in schools is to provide more funding for teachers. The fact that the new documents are only guidelines means it is not required by law to provide the services outlined. According to Shay, there is not enough time in a day, to choose between teaching the required curriculum and to educate about LGBTQ+ history, black history and sex education.

“What we need to do to enforce these rules of basic human respect is to support our school system and support our teachers,” Shay said.

The amount of resources and training for teachers to effectively enforce these guidelines is not currently enough, according to Shay.

The document published is one of many that have been released amid the controversy regarding the recent law passed in North Carolina on March 23, which requires people to go to restrooms that correspond with their assigned gender stated on their birth certificate.

According to Tristen Shay, a co-lead facilitator for Out N About, a support group for transgender youth in Linn-Benton county, the violence against transgender people has increased in North Carolina since the law passed.

They believes that the persecution of transgender people in North Carolina comes from a lack of exposure and a lack of understanding as to how trans identity works. The law stems from fear, anger and confusion, they said. Tristen Shay said that trans people fear bathrooms more than anything else because that is where most of the assaults against trans identifying people occur.

The fear of being attacked in a bathroom as a trans person, according to Tristen Shay, is so intense that giving speeches in front of 5,000 people and not knowing that topic until they are on stage is more preferable than trying to use a bathroom in North Carolina.

Assault against transgender people is not restricted to North Carolina, and it can be found in Linn-Benton county, according to Tristen Shay.

Tristen Shay personally heard stories where someone who was of a non-binary gender had their arm broken, and one instant where a student had been beaten by their peers until blood was coming from their eyes.

“I use the term student, but these are people’s children. These are people’s kids who are being beaten (…) to think that a 14 year-old was beaten to the point where his eyes bleed by other minors because they were threatened because they were wearing a skirt is outlandish,” Tristen Shay said.

There is not a lot of protection in some schools for trans students, Tristen Shay said, and sometimes the danger comes from other teachers. They heard that some teachers have told trans students that they would “burn in hell” because of their identity.

The lack of legality and the lack of oversight the new guidelines have, according to Chelsea Shay, makes it difficult to enforce. Even previous laws, such as the Oregon Safe Schools Act of 2009 to prevent bullying, have not proven to be effective enough, Chelsea Shay said, and have not been able to stop violence against the transgender community.

There are laws currently in place to protect against such discrimination as the Oregon Safe Schools Act of 2009 that already have provisions that make bullying because of someone’s identity, such as gender, already illegal.

Tristen Shay said that there are a lot of people in the trans community and allies who are willing to pick up the slack and help educate what trans identity is while schools try to evolve.

“There really isn’t any excuse anymore not to know about trans identity. Read a book, talk to somebody, turn on the TV—it’s everywhere now,” Tristen Shay said.

[email protected]

Was this article helpful?