UT to add gender-neutral bathrooms

The University of Texas at Austin will include at least one gender-neutral bathroom in every new campus building and convert some bathrooms in older buildings, according to the UT Daily Campus.

Gender-neutral bathrooms are becoming more common on college campuses around the country, mostly because they are advocated by LGBT groups.

But as the story points out, gender-neutral bathrooms don’t just benefit transgender people. For example, they give people with medical conditions such as diabetes a private place to administer their medication, and allow opposite-sex attendants to accompany disabled people.

Transgender students are a primary focus of the new facilities at UT, though. Students who don’t conform to gender norms might feel uncomfortable or threatened in men’s or women’s bathrooms.

Associate Vice President Linda Millstone of the Office of Institutional Equity and Workforce Diversity is leading the initiative. She said that in many buildings, there are already small bathrooms with only one or two stalls. So the only needed changes would be replacing signs and adding locks.

—  David Taffet

Rutgers to offer co-ed dorms in response to gay student Tyler Clementi’s suicide

Associated Press

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — New Jersey’s flagship state university has decided to allow male and female students to share rooms in three dorms in an effort to make the campus more inclusive for gay students after a highly publicized suicide last year.

Starting this fall, all students — whether gay, lesbian, transgender or heterosexual — can choose either male or female roommates under the pilot program. Men and women will share bathrooms.

A similar, but smaller, pilot program is being launched at the Newark campus.

A number of other schools, including the University of Maryland, New York’s Columbia University and Washington’s George Washington University, offer similar housing options, according to the National Student Genderblind Campaign.

The organization is pressing for more programs like them, saying they’re a way for students to have roommates they’re comfortable with.

Rutgers got wide attention last year after freshman Tyler Clementi killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River. Authorities say that days before, his roommate in a dorm used a webcam to capture Clementi during an intimate encounter with another man.

The roommate and a third freshman have been charged with invasion of privacy in the case. Their lawyers say they’re not guilty of any crimes.

Gay student groups have pushed for Rutgers to be friendlier to gay, lesbian and transgender students — including by offering gender-neutral housing — since Clementi’s death.

—  John Wright

Hate is not an Aggie value

Members of GLBT Aggies were targeted with anti-gay epithets during Midnight Yell earlier this month, and they say it wasn’t an isolated incident.

By Camden Breeding, Vice President, GLBT Aggies

A recognized student organization since 1985, GLBT Aggies are part of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie family, too.

This was the statement we made by attending the Nov. 19 Midnight Yell. As an organization, we proudly displayed rainbow flags and “Hate is Not an Aggie Value” buttons as we joined in the chorus “BTHO Nebraska.” Unfortunately, that chorus was interrupted by the voice of hate as members of GLBT Aggies were harassed for expressing who they are.

“Put the rainbow flags away, faggots,” one Midnight Yell participant shouted across hundreds of people down an exit ramp toward members of GLBT Aggies. Shortly thereafter he continued the harassment by yelling “faggots” multiple times into the same group.

This is not an isolated incident, nor is it even uncommon at Texas A&M. Earlier this semester, in the College of Engineering, I was branded “fudgepacker,” while “fag” bounced across classrooms in the Zachry Building like a game of pong.

Karla Gonzalez, president of GLBT Aggies, experienced similar harassment in the College of Construction Science her freshman year, where she says the first words spoken to her in the college were “fag” and “dyke.”

The reality is, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students feel unsafe and unwelcome at Texas A&M. Some might contend that by wearing GLBT related T-shirts and carrying rainbow flags, we brings the harassment upon ourselves. I would argue that I see people on campus, every day, expressing important parts of their identity by wearing shirts that convey their religious beliefs or affiliations, their cultural identities, and that promote organizations on campus and political ideas. I cannot agree to expect harassment on the campus that I love because I want to express an important part of who I am. I expect more from the Aggie family, and I know your fellow GLBT Aggies deserve more from the Aggie family.

Your fellow Aggies deserve more than the constant threat of verbal and physical harassment. Your fellow Aggies deserve more than to be targeted by bullies on a daily basis. Your fellow Aggies deserve more than to feel unsafe and unwelcome walking across campus. Your fellow Aggies deserve more than to think that suicide is the only option because they are afraid to come out in a hostile environment.

Your fellow Aggies deserve more than your indifference.

The time is NOW to speak up and stand up for the dignity of your Aggie brothers and sisters. Speak out against hate speech on campus, visit the GLBT Resource Center in Cain Hall C-118, become an Aggie Ally by registering for a free workshop at allies.tamu.edu. Speak up, Aggies. Never let them say you weren’t at Texas A&M, never let them say you weren’t there for your family, never let them say hate is an Aggie Value, and remember the Aggie Honor Code:

An Aggie does not lie about who they are, cheat someone out of a positive experience, or steal someone else’s dignity.

—  admin

Another DISD trustee comes out in support of a bullying policy that protects gay, transgender kids

Bernadette Nutall

A second Dallas Independent School District trustee spoke out publicly this week in support of a bullying policy that provides specific protections for gay and transgender students.

Trustee Bernadette Nutall, who represents District 9, said she’s asked DISD staff to draft a proposed policy that protects as many categories of students as possible, including those who may be bullied on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Nutall joins trustee Lew Blackburn among those who’ve publicly stated their support for an LGBT-inclusive bullying policy.

The district has been considering a new bullying policy, but as originally drafted by the DISD administration, the proposal didn’t include specific categories of students that would be protected.

Jon Dahlander, a spokesman for the district, suggested last week that a new bullying policy isn’t necessary because DISD already has an anti-harassment policy that includes sexual orientation.

But Nutall disagreed.

“Harassment is bullying, but how many kids come home and say, ‘Mom, I was harassed today’?” Nutall told Instant Tea on Wednesday, Oct. 27. “Can’t we just keep it simple?

“I think we need to be very clear, if you mistreat someone because they are different or because they’re not like you, there are consequences for your actions,” Nutall said.

Nutall said she was bullied as a child and currently has a daughter in middle school in the district. She also said she’s a devout Baptist but believes people need to set aside their personal beliefs.

“Ultimately you have to protect all people whether you agree with them or not,” Nutall said. “It’s not about that, it’s about you have the right to be who you are.”

Nutall said she’s forwarded to district staff copies of policies from places like Broward County, Fla., and Philadelphia that include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Despite likely opposition from the religious right, which is fighting LGBT-inclusive bullying policies nationally, Nutall is confident her proposal will receive support from a majority of the nine-member DISD board when the policy comes back up for a vote, which is expected to be sometime in November.

“I think I have the five votes,” Nutall said. “I do believe it’s going to pass without a problem.”

LGBT advocates have encouraged people in the community to contact their trustees and urge them to support a fully inclusive police. Contact info for trustees is listed on the DISD website.

—  John Wright

Campus Pride calls for expulsion of 2 Rutgers students for invading Tyler Clementi’s privacy

Tyler Clementi

Campus Pride, an organization of college student leaders and organizations, is calling for the expulsion of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei from Rutgers University for their invasion of privacy that led to the suicide of Tyler Clementi.

In an e-mail to Dallas Voice, the group wrote, “Now is the time to act decisively and send a clear message at Rutgers and at colleges across the country that LGBT harassment and hate will not be tolerated any longer.”

The group said the Rutgers University Code of Student Conduct prohibits “making or attempting to make an audio or video recording of any person(s) on University premises in bathrooms, showers, bedrooms, or other premises where there is an expectation of privacy with respect to nudity and/or sexual activity, without the knowledge and consent of all participants subject to such recordings.”

“Ravi and Wei acted maliciously to secretly tape Tyler Clementi, even posting comments to encourage others to ‘video chat’ and watch. This is an egregious act of invasion of privacy. Both students should be expelled. Period,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director and founder of Campus Pride.

Campus Pride recently issued a report titled, “2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People.” In its survey of more than 5,000 people, Campus Pride found that 23 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning staff, faculty, and students reported experiencing harassment. Among transgender students, faculty and staff, 39 percent reported harassment. The study is available on the website.

—  David Taffet