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Friday, August 1, 2014

Column: MU needs proactivity, education on gender identity

MU made a botched attempt at inclusivity by putting “transgendered” on its Fall 2013 course evaluations.

Shannon Greenwood

Jan. 22, 2014

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

At the end of last semester, something important caught my eye. You might have noticed it, too, while filling out your course evaluations.

The form sheets were different.

In “Section 1: Student Information,” there was a change so subtle that if you were not aware of its significance, you may have easily overlooked it. The third line read “I am… .” The options were “male," “female," “transgendered” and “prefer not to answer.”

Transgendered.

When I first saw that line, my pencil froze. The second time I saw that line, I crossed out the ‘-ed’ in a silent protest.

Today, I choose to no longer be silent.

The impact of gender identity as an option included on our university’s course evaluation forms is beyond words. It shows us inclusivity is valued at the University of Missouri, but it also shows us that a lack of knowledge currently prevails.

“Transgendered” is not an appropriate term to describe the transgender community in any context. It can be seen as offensive and exclusionary. Its usage puts a strong division between our transgender students and their cisgender counterpart, and not in a way that promotes equality, but in a way that lessens transgender students’ value.

According to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, leaders in promoting accurate representation of the LGBT community in the media, the use of the word “transgendered” is problematic.

“The adjective transgender should never have an extraneous ‘-ed’ tacked onto the end,” GLAAD's media reference guide states. “An ‘–ed’ suffix adds unnecessary length to the word and can cause tense confusion and grammatical errors.”

In choosing this rhetoric, MU has shown an evident lack of education about the LGBT community and the issues it faces.

Despite this, I don’t doubt our university’s commitment to the transgender and queer communities on campus. I have seen it in Josie Herrera, a genderqueer senior who ran for homecoming king this year. I have seen it Shane Stinson, an openly transgender man who was featured on the university’s homepage. I have it seen it in gender-neutral bathrooms, in Black & Gold Drag Shows, in our LGBTQ Resource Center.

But what I haven’t seen is gender identity being included in our university's non-discrimination policy. Instead, all I can see is the crossed-out '–ed' on my course evaluation sheet.

We must demand our university be proactive in its approach, and that does not start or end with altering of evaluation forms. It begins with gender identity being added to the university's non-discrimination policy, and what should follow is a comprehensive education on the transgender community.

In the fight for equality, we can no longer give out A's for effort. We cannot continue to be satisfied with what our university is doing for its LGBT students when not all are benefiting. We must push for more because our transgender students deserve a seat at the table, and better yet, they deserve a guarantee that they are considered equal.

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