Matthew Archbold

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Catholic Gonzaga University considers instituting transgender bathrooms

Matthew Archbold

SPOKANE, WA, January 30, 2014 (CardinalNewmanSociety.org) - Gonzaga University is considering an official policy on transgendered students that could include gender-neutral bathrooms and the option to live with students of the gender of their choice, according to the Gonzaga Bulletin.

Jaime Hollis, the coordinator for special populations at Gonzaga, reportedly told the student newspaper that Georgetown University is the top example of what Jesuit universities should be striving for when dealing with the gay and transgender community.

Hollis pointed to Washington state law—which defines sexual identities as a protected class—as a reason for the University seeking to change its own policies.  In 2006, the state legislature passed and Catholic Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a law protecting people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We really want to be intentional in alignment with those policies and making sure that we are protecting them just like we would any racial minority, or sexual orientation or any other class of diversity,” Hollis reportedly said.

Hollis reportedly said that not having an official policy could lead to negative consequences for transgender students.  She used an example of a teacher calling a transgendered student by their old name.  “An unintentional outing can cause a situation of hostility if other students aren’t accepting and understanding because a roster was read wrong,” Hollis reportedly said.  “Because Mike was said instead of Michelle, we’ve created a situation in that moment.”

Hollis said she believes that universities will likely see an increase in transgendered students in the future, the Bulletin reports.

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But Anna Olson, vice president of HERO, a gay-straight alliance group at Gonzaga University, told the Bulletin that she does not know of any transgender students in the club or on campus.  But she reportedly believes that shouldn’t stop the University from being more inclusive toward them.

HERO even plans to host a candlelight vigil on a “Trans Day of Remembrance” for transgender people who died in the past year from violence. 

Olson reportedly said the reason that she doesn’t know any transgendered students is that perhaps they may not feel comfortable coming out.  “GU is one of those weird campuses where you really don’t know what to expect,” Olson said.  “It’s Catholic, but it’s Jesuit.  It’s Washington, but it’s Eastern Washington.”

The student newspaper interviewed one transgender graduate student who said, “For me, personally, I haven’t had very many problems on campus.”

The student does recall being “uncomfortable” going through the process of name changing at the registrar’s office.

“It was really uncomfortable having to change my name and gender through the registrar’s office,” the student said.  “Although they weren’t particularly nasty to me, it was just kind of an odd feeling... I felt they could have been more accepting of what that process is all about.”

“What we want to do here is remove barriers for them,” Hollis said of transgendered students. “If we don’t, it could result in them not staying here or thinking college, anywhere, isn’t for them.”

Reprinted with permission from CardinalNewmanSociety.org.

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