When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, does your reflection match the gender with which you identify? Most people do not stop to think about their internal gender identification. For the 700,000 transgender individuals living in the United States, however, the struggle to find a place on the socially constructed binary gender system is apparent with each and every choice they make.
On Tuesday, the Real Education About College Health (REACH) program held a movie screening of the documentary “Trans” in the Mandela Room. The documentary discussed various transgender individuals’ lives and the issues they confront. Even mundane, daily tasks are difficult for the minority group that doesn’t fit into the typical gender roles.
Binghamton University’s campus is not adequately designed to accommodate transgender students. Other universities across the nation are proactively confronting the issue of isolating transgender students. American University, for example, is one of 70 universities covering either gender reassignment surgery, hormone replacement or both within the student health care insurance. In 1992, the University of Massachusetts Amherst pioneered the idea of gender-neutral housing. Twenty-two years later, our campus is still not combatting the problem.
Our University must grow in two key ways to aid the inclusion of transgender students. First, the campus must offer housing options for transgender students. An individual who is struggling because his or her physical anatomy does not match the gender with which he or she identifies will face issues when choosing housing. The binary system we have now forces students to either check off being male or female. However, gender identity is not two separate poles; it is a spectrum on which each person chooses how he or she identifies him or herself.
For example, where should a person who identifies as female, but has male anatomy, choose to live? She is forced to repress her female identity and live in housing designated for a male because our residential life system does not fit her into it.
Secondly, we must have more support on campus for transgender students. There is a lack of recognition of the LGBTQ community as a whole, and transgender students in particular, on campus. On a larger scope, the nation needs to try and support the community more.
There is a severe lack in acceptance of transgender individuals, much of which stems from ignorance. “Trans” delved into the hate crimes committed on transgender individuals, as well as suicide attempts. The 1.6 percent rate of suicide for all of the U.S. rises to an alarming 41 percent for transgender people. Education about the topic and speaking openly about it can help those who are struggling with showing their true identity.
BU is a relatively diverse campus and must be willing to accommodate the student body. Transgender individuals must receive support and proper housing options to receive the respect and acceptance they deserve.