SRJC reaffirms rights for transgender students

SRJC reaffirms rights for transgender students

Simon Isaksson, Co-News Editor

The overhaul of U.S. immigration policy was not the only thing on President Donald Trump’s to-do list last week. On Feb. 22, Trump revoked federal guidelines protecting the rights of transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding to their chosen gender identity.

The rolled-back guidelines were put in place under President Barack Obama and instructed school districts and colleges receiving federal funding to include transgender students in Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education. Instead, Trump shifts the burden of the law’s interpretation to states and districts.

After the decision, protests sparked all across the country, as it opened up the possibility that states or individual school districts can enact discriminatory policies against transgender students.

Sarah Whylly, who teaches philosophy, humanities and religion at Santa Rosa Junior College, sent an e-mail to all SRJC staff Feb. 22 asking the community to reassure students that Trump’s new guidelines will not affect the SRJC campus.

“Our transgender students are likely to have a great deal of anxiety over this and we should act to reassure them as best we can,” Whylly said in her e-mail. “SRJC can and should commit as a body to protecting those rights in an uninterrupted fashion and assure our transgender students that nothing on our campus will change for them.”

SRJC president Dr. Frank Chong reaffirmed that SRJC will continue to maintain gender-neutral bathrooms in an interview with the Oak Leaf Feb. 23.

“Our local response is that we are going to support our transgender community,” he said.

Chong also e-mailed a statement to the entire college community reasserting his commitment to increase the number of any-gender bathrooms as new buildings will be built on campus or existing facilities get renovated.

“I continue to take pride in the culture of inclusion and respect we embrace at SRJC,” Chong said.

In response to Trump’s decision, local activists and community members will march outside Santa Rosa City Hall March 18 in support of transgender students and youth. Everyone is welcome, said organizer and transgender activist Shelby Munsch, who prefers to go by a first name.

“The LGBT++ struggle has always done better with sheer numbers. It’s part of the reason for putting sexual identity with gender identity,” Shelby said. “If we can have five times the numbers because we’re not working in groups, we’re that much stronger and capable of creating change.”

Shelby, a former SRJC student, is deeply concerned that the new policy leaves transgender students around the country even more vulnerable. Transgender and other non-gender conforming people in the United States attempt suicide at nearly ten times the rate of the overall population, according to a 2014 survey by the Williams Institute at UCLA.

“This policy will literally be the death of some people,” Shelby said.