Eleven days ago, the University released the results of the AAU sexual climate survey, confirming the worst for Yale’s queer community.
The jarring results that one in four women experiences unwanted sexual contact during her time at Yale has forced administrators and students alike to unequivocally accept the epidemic of sexual misconduct at Yale. Acknowledging this is a start, but it is far from sufficient. The disproportionate effect on one group in particular — “other gendered” students — remains largely overlooked in the wake of the findings.
As someone who identifies outside of the traditional gender binary, I was not surprised to discover that students who don’t identify as cisgender faced almost every single form of sexual misconduct at a higher rate than any other demographic. The survey showed that 84.2 percent of students who identified as “other gender” reported experiencing instances of sexual harassment — 10 percentage points higher than that of women and 27 percentage points higher than that of men. Further, over a quarter of gender nonconforming students have experienced sexual assault via force or incapacitation.
The results are disappointing, to say the least, but what concerned me most was the campus response to these numbers. In his email to the Yale community following the report’s release, University President Peter Salovey made no mention of the disproportionate cases of sexual harassment and assault reported by Yale’s queer community, sparing only one line to mention the higher rate of misconduct experienced by women. Nevertheless, the numbers tell a frightening story about what it means to be queer at Yale.
It is time we start actually talking about this as a systematic problem here on campus, something that extends far beyond our sexual climate. The administration is at a complete loss for how to fit genderqueer and transgender students in, so instead they leave us out. Whether it’s the lack of mixed-gender housing for freshmen or it’s not having preferred gender pronoun options in the Yale student system, everyday we face quiet reminders that we don’t belong.
But it is not just on the Yale administration to make these changes. We as a campus must make efforts to become more knowledgeable of the broad range of sexuality and gender spectrums that exist among the student body. We celebrate diversity in various forms — this is no different. At this point, however, being genderqueer or transgender here means a lot of things it shouldn’t.
It’s the cringing every time a professor or classmate misgenders us, frantically searching for gender-neutral bathrooms in campus buildings and hiding our true selves from classmates and friends out of fear of rejection. It is the dread of appointments at Yale Health, where questions and advice related to sexual health are rigidly gendered and the burden falls upon me to explain where my identity fits in. It means having to fight for far too long in order to get the administration to even consider allowing transgender students to transition under the health plan. It should be noted that Yale has made incredible progress in recent years in its inclusion of transgender and genderqueer students, but these incremental steps are not enough.
So it leaves a sour taste in my mouth when the administration devotes colossal sums of money on large capital projects such as that of the Schwarzman Center yet tells marginalized groups that there just isn’t enough room in the budget for their needs. In short, it is clear where Yale’s priorities lie.
But this is not about economics, politics or religion — it is simply a lived reality of members of our community. For me, being genderqueer is only a choice in so far as I actively choose to live my truth. It is a choice to accept myself fully, a choice to find strength in that truth and to resist forces of disempowerment that challenge that truth.
What I am asking for here is that people sacrifice a little bit of their comfort in order to grant us our humanity. One tangible solution can be to include a formal discussion on gender nonconformity and the available resources for these students alongside the other mandatory educational programs in orientation. Faculty and administrators should similarly undergo training about how to best include students that may fall outside the traditional binary of gender and sexuality. These are small steps and won’t solve every challenge we face, but it is the least we can do to acknowledge and respect genderqueerness and transgenderism here at Yale.
So as we begin to digest the results of the AAU survey and consider how to best respond moving forward, let us not forget that campus-wide problems do not exist in isolation. Only once we firmly establish support for students of all identities can we begin to make this a safer campus for all.
Alina Yaman is a junior in Saybrook College. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org .