Open letter to President Haynes calls for increased support for gender-nonconforming students on campus

Cory Kay, News Editor

Fourth-year communication major and The Cougar Chronicle Managing Editor Jasmine Demers, led a forum on May 10 to discuss an open letter to President Haynes regarding further development of gender-inclusive restrooms.

The open letter originated in Dr. Kendra Rivera’s Communication and Gender class in fall 2015. Because the class did not make the letter public, Demers and Rivera decided to include transgender support as part of her research in Rivera’s Research Methods class.

Demers and Rivera held the discussion in the ASI Gender Equity Center to inform students of the push for increased accommodation for gender-nonconforming students and to gather signatures for the letter.

Demers began the forum by reading the introduction of the letter, which explained the reasoning behind the push for gender-inclusive restrooms.

“We request that Trans* policies and accommodations be implemented so that students, staff and faculty do not have to feel isolated, discriminated against or in fear for living their authentic identities on our campus,” she read.

Going beyond the issue of gender-inclusive restrooms, Demers and Rivera discussed the request outlined in the letter, which is to allow all members of the campus community to be addressed by the name and pronouns of their choosing.

Demers read from the open letter, “For many in the Trans* community, choosing a name that represents their identity is a liberating and empowering process.”

“It would be … a big step forward if we could  normalize the use of various pronouns without calling attention to it [and] just assume that it’s normal language,” added Women’s Studies professor Dr. Sheryl Lutjens, who was in attendance.

Demers then discussed the second request within the open letter, which is for more frequent and easily-available trainings to support LGBTQIA campus community members. The letter also asks that the trainings be more publicized and incentivized.

“We also suggest working with our Title IX coordinator, so that our campus might explore the option of including such training alongside our sexual harassment trainings,” said Demers, reading from the letter.

The third request called for expansion of gender-inclusive restroom development; the letter asks that all first-floor women’s restrooms and all single-stall restrooms on campus to be gender-inclusive.

“President Haynes has indicated that all new buildings will contain gender-inclusive restrooms, but currently … if a student was in Markstein … they would have to walk all the way to library, which is the closest [gender-inclusive restroom],” said Demers.

The final request in the letter suggested that there be equitable policies regarding sports teams and gender-inclusive housing, and these policies be clearly outlined on the CSUSM website and in all support centers on campus.

Rivera and Demers said they are looking to gather signatures and encourage students to sign in support of the open letter, which they hope to deliver to President Haynes in the upcoming weeks. Campus community members who would like to sign the letter can either contact Demers at [email protected] or visit the Gender Equity Center.