March 31st of each year is the international celebration of Transgender Day of Visibility. At Pacific Lutheran University, it’s important to celebrate by making visible the ways that trans issues come up on campus.
Transgender refers to people whose gender identity doesn’t match the gender they were assigned at birth. Simply put, just because a doctor says, “It’s a girl!” when someone is a baby doesn’t mean that they are a girl.
One way gender happens on campus is through restrooms. For people who don’t fit the gender binary of male/female, or for people who don’t match traditional notions of how men and women look, choosing a public restroom can be daunting.
Amber Jane, a trans woman, described her first experience using a women’s restroom in PLU, “I felt terrified and shook a lot.”
Jane continues, “Whenever someone else was in there I kept quiet and my face down and tried not to cause a scene with them.”
Another way gender comes up for trans students is in class. Every semester, I have to write an email to professors explaining that my gender and name don’t match the official record that PLU has.
This record is hard to change and includes student emails, Banner Web profiles, and Lute Cards.
Chris Erikson, a non-binary student, explains a possible solution, “[Allowing students to edit their gender and name on their student profile] and then the professors who have you in their class will see that instead of the full name you were given at birth.”
Such a change would make transitioning at PLU less of a hassle.
PLU has made positive strides, though. Both the Women’s Center and the Diversity Center are safe spaces for gender exploration. Gender neutral residence hall wings and bathrooms also have made an appearance on campus, though they’re just the start.
Erikson explains, “I personally would love there to be more gender neutral bathrooms […] I always feel very weird when I have to use the female bathroom in [the Hauge Administration building] because I have no clue if there are any gender neutral bathrooms.”
Resources for trans students can be found through places like the Tacoma Rainbow Center online or in person.