In the wake of a massive campus sexual climate survey by the Association of American Universities, national media attention has mainly focused on the high rates of victimization for female college students. But for certain types of sexual misconduct — including sexual assault that meets a criminal standard — another demographic reported even higher rates of victimization: students who identify outside the traditional gender binary.
The discrepancy appears both at Yale and across the 27 universities nationwide that participated in the survey. At Yale, 28.4 percent of undergraduates surveyed who identify as “other genders” — not female or male — have experienced sexual assault via force or incapacitation. This figure is significantly higher than the 18.1 percent reported by undergraduate participants in general, and .3 percent higher than the rate reported by undergraduate females. Additionally, 84.2 percent of undergraduate participants of “other genders” have experienced sexual harassment, compared to 74 percent among females and 57.6 percent among males.
Students and administrators expressed dismay, but not surprise, at the results. But they also pointed to causes for hope in the survey, including the finding that students of “other genders” across the 27 universities were more likely than their peers to report certain experiences of sexual misconduct. Those interviewed also praised the support resources that Yale has in place for these students.
“My reaction [to the results] is not one of surprise,” said Max Goldberg ’17, leader of the Yale College Council’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Resources Task Force. “If you look incredibly broadly at who gets victimized, it’s the people who are different, especially people who are different in a way that breaks down social conventions.”
In the AAU survey, gender categories were divided into male, female and TGNQ: transgender, genderqueer, non-conforming and questioning. On the Yale survey, TGNQ students were included in the “other gender” category.
Students interviewed pointed to the relatively small “other gender” community, as well as persistent societal stigmas against it, as possible factors in the group’s high victimization rate.
“Until societal stigma around gender variance is erased, my community will continue to face discrimination and disproportionately high levels of assault even at an open-minded and relatively liberal institution such as Yale,” said Izzy Amend ’17, who is transgender.
The relatively small size of the “other gender” community can be a vulnerability, Amend said, noting that a better-connected community would result in a more positive environment for students who identify outside the traditional gender binary.
The community’s small size has also made it difficult to gather data around its members’ experiences: Yale’s report on the survey data noted that the small sample size for “other gender” students made it impossible to generate reporting rates for sexual misconduct. Still, University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews said she hopes the limited information the survey does provide will help the University better serve these students’ needs.
“I am grateful that we have better data for students in LGBTQ communities,” she said. “We all knew there were issues, but few studies truly gave us a scope to what is happening in those communities.”
Additionally, data on this demographic may continue to accumulate: students of other genders across the nation surveyed indicated greater willingness than their male and female peers to bring their experiences of sexual misconduct to university authorities. The sample size within the University was too small to determine a Yale-specific trend. Fifteen percent of “other gender” students surveyed across the country said they reported an experience of sexual harassment to their schools, compared to 9.1 percent for females and 5.2 for males.
Yale students praised reporting resources available to “other gender” students. Adrien Gau ’17, who identifies as gender-neutral, spoke positively of the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center at Yale Health, a confidential resource open to all students who have experienced sexual misconduct. Gau described the center as “warm and personal,” adding that the center’s staff can help the student take disciplinary action in serious cases of misconduct.
Yale has other, more informal resources for these students as well. The Office of LGBTQ Resources at Yale hosts a weekly “Beyond the Binary” discussion group, and the Yale Women’s Center noted that its services are available to all students. Maria Trumpler, director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources, also cited the Trans Week that her office hosts, during which a different program on gender identity is run each day.
Amend also described Yale’s trans healthcare system as one of the best in the world. It costs just over $2000 to physically transition at Yale, but such a procedure can cost over $10,000 elsewhere, according to Amend.
But even more important, Amend said, is the role of Yale faculty in making students who identify outside the traditional gender binary feel at home. He emphasized the support provided to him by Sarah Mahurin, the dean of Timothy Dwight, his residential college.
He acknowledged, however that more needs to be done to make students who identify outside the traditional gender binary feel welcome and supported. He said Yale should incorporate workshops on gender variance into current sexual education programs and make gender-neutral housing available for freshmen.
“Yale is in its infant phase of providing resources,” he said.