RUSA passes bill on transgender preferred name use
If the pronouns “he” and “she” were glossed over by Rutgers’ faculty and students before, Trans*Mission aims to make them, and other transgender issues, more visible to the University community.
Trans*Mission is the first ever Rutgers transgender group. Founders Jamie DiNicola, president of Trans*Mission, and Natasha Payano, treasurer, presented a bill to the Rutgers University Student Assembly yesterday to implement a preferred name option for transgender students. It was passed unanimously.
“I teach a first-year interest group, and let’s say I want to post an announcement on Sakai,” said DiNicola, School of Arts and Sciences senior. “It attaches my birth name to the entire email even though all my students know me as Jamie.”
His birth name appears in chat rooms and discussion boards on Sakai, which he finds so problematic he refuses to participate.
According to the “Preferred Name Accommodations for Trans* Identifying Students” bill, Rutgers students cannot replace their birth names with a preferred alias on Sakai, Blackboard and University learning interface systems unless its been legally changed.
“It’s not necessarily discrimination as it is ignorance, and they offend without meaning to,” DiNicola said. “We’re conditioned from birth to say that you have this high-pitched voice, you’re female, and you wear these clothes so you’re female.”
The bill pushes a policy to simplify and protect the often-misunderstood preferred name and pronoun process in the University. Trans*mission wants the student body to become more active and aware of the concerns transgender communities face, said Payano, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
“People have to realize that it takes decades to get up to this point of self-acceptance and all you have to do is not mess up a pronoun,” DiNicola said.
According to the bill, transgender individuals are discriminated against both inside and outside Rutgers by policies that hinder individuals from presenting their identified genders.
“Transgender students should not have to jeopardize their safety and comfort by exposing their transgender identity to faculty or to other students during roll call, and other business within the class,” the bill said.
Pavel Solokov, president of RUSA, said if it makes students’ lives easier, he is all for it.
Solokov, a Rutgers Business School senior, said this policy is one of the best he had ever seen. If a group on campus believes the University has marginalized them, he said he would fully support their cause, help them further their bill and assist new problems that may emerge.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities can be the targets of violence. A total of 2,016 LGBTQ and HIV-related homicides were committed in 2012. Fifty-three percent of them were against transgender individuals, according to a 2012 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.
Transgender people within higher education continue to be an invisible, often forgotten community, according to “The Top 10 Trans-Friendly Colleges and Universities” article on advocate.com, an LGBTQ website. Only about 10 percent of colleges and universities have trans-inclusive nondiscrimination statements.
“Being LGB and Q have to do with sexual orientation, but being Trans or the T is gender identity,” Payano said.