Campus Pride names Ithaca College one of the trans-friendliest schools
As a transgender person, college life comes with a myriad of obstacles — and not ones that a traditionally gendered person would usually ever consider. Do I room with a boy or a girl? What bathrooms do I use on campus? How do I handle changing my name with the school? There are a lot of needs to be met to create a safe and comfortable environment, some obvious and some not.
When I came to Ithaca College as a frightened little freshman, not only was I adjusting to life as a college student, but I was also adjusting to life as a female to male trans identified person. Most of my fears soon dissipated as I began to realize that the school was usually one step ahead of me. When I was worried about what bathrooms to use I quickly learned that there are gender-neutral bathrooms all around campus. When I wanted to change my name with the school, but had not yet done so legally, I learned that Ithaca has a process where one can designate their preferred first name and have processes use it instead of their birth-name until the legal change.
I completely and wholeheartedly agree with Campus Pride’s assessment that IC is one of the trans-friendliest schools in the country. The number of policies they have created in order to meet trans students needs is simply astounding, but getting these standards in place was no easy feat.
A key person in making IC’s LGBT practices superior is LGBT Education, Outreach & Services Program Director Lis Maurer. When speaking with Maurer, I got a real sense of just how much effort and time she has put into getting the transgender friendly polices in place. When the staff in the LGBT center realized that there was no gender-neutral bathroom, they worked to immediately rectify the situation. They created a Velcro sign that says “Gender Neutral” that can be placed over the traditional “Men” and “Women” signs on the door. The staff genuinely cares about the well being of the students and they believe in what they are trying to accomplish. “I wouldn’t work at a place where I didn’t believe in the philosophy. I want to work at a place that I feel proud of and treats everyone with dignity and respect,” Maurer said.
Just because IC was named the most trans friendly school and has solved many issues for students, it does not mean the job is done.
“It’s a student center, it’s student driven and it is about student initiative and student needs,” Maurer said. “I am always interested in any ideas from students of any identity or orientation about ways we can improve services.”
The drive to make sure IC is always on top of the needs of its students comes from Maurer’s own experiences as a college student. “Someone really stood up for me when I was in college, and I take that as a calling. Without that person’s actions, I would not have finished college myself,” said Maurer. “I don’t think things are perfect here, but I think in general people want to do the right thing.”
Our campus is also trans friendly in the sense that it holds events aimed for trans students, being very inclusive of gender non-conforming people. My freshman year, two transgender rappers from Katastrophe and Athens Boys Choir did a show on campus. For me, seeing two transgender men up on stage was comforting in a time that can feel isolating. Will Shishmanian, a senior trans identified student, stated, “There are both events that include the trans community and that are specifically for the trans community, which is where I think other LGBT programs are lacking.”
The college has taken great strides in the last decade toward a completely transgender friendly campus. The next step to creating a fully supportive and safe environment is to educate the student body on what being transgender really means. “The campus does everything possible to accommodate us,” Shishmanian said. “The only problem I face on this campus is on a person to person basis. People not understanding what it means to be trans.” If people on campus could move past just acceptance and take time to educate themselves, IC would be unstoppable.
Alden Lo Bosco is a sophomore cinema and photography major who thinks Ithaca has the power to be unstoppable. Email him at [email protected].