Approximately one year ago I came out to the University as transgender in a column that proposed seven policy changes to improve the lives of gender-variant students on campus. Since then I have begun a regimen of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) involving weekly testosterone injections; my mood has substantially lifted after 365 days of navigating email aliases, pronoun adjustments and deeper vocal chords.
Despite these personal advances, however, the reality of transgenderism is still riddled with adversity. While publications such as Time Magazine and Rolling Stone declared 2015 a pivotal year for transgender progress, the U.S.’ transgender population experienced a 13 percent rise in hate-motivated violence and a shocking 238 murders. Both at home and abroad, activists are confronting a paradox: Countries with progressive social policy agendas are nonetheless seeing hate-crimes spike.
In spite of Yale’s prevailing liberal ethos, gender-variant students continue to brave a world of complicated and unique emotions as a result of their gender identity. Intimate thoughts that challenge a flawed cisgender binary are not dealt with early on; most of us instead struggle with mind-bending questions in young adulthood while also grappling with GPAs, club meetings and minor existential crises.
The administration cannot manage this internal struggle for us. But it can introduce some concrete steps to ease the burden of this struggle. Last year the gender-variant population arguably saw the most marked two semesters of policy change in the University’s entire history. Nevertheless, these three steps should be taken to further improve our campus wellbeing:
First and foremost, the administration must solidify a blanket identification policy that ensures that gender-variant students receive their preferred name and picture on school documents. Last year, members of our community experienced varying degrees of success at the Student Financial and Administrative Services Office; new pictures sporadically came with a $25 fee, and new preferred names matching our correct gender identity were declined across the board.
Second, the University must continue to construct gender-neutral bathrooms until every building on campus has one. They should then post signs that avoid strictly male or female body figures in order to represent the diverse array of identities on the gender spectrum. Signs that broadcast “ALL GENDER” should suffice.
Third, the University must integrate the needs of transgender students into campus housing policy through two means: incoming freshman surveys and mixed-gender living arrangements. Optional questions that ask freshmen about sexual and gender orientation would provide useful data to general administrators and the Office of LGBTQ Resources. Additionally, incoming freshmen should be able to opt out of binary-gender housing if it negatively impacts their mental health. This latter policy should be standardized instead of occurring on an irregular case-by-case basis.
Working in tandem, these proposals will mitigate transgender life on campus. And once again, these proposals are not just a matter of convenience. They inhabit a sweeping and nuanced emotional context and represent a public recognition of our identity.
I wish I could end this column on a cheerful note, spewing hyperbolic language about how our futures are full of hyacinths and fields of gold.
They’re not. I sometimes go to bed fearful of the day to come, fearful that the emotional weight of stigmatization will leave me too hollowed out to conduct even the most quotidian of school tasks. And so do others. Leading a transgender life in the 21st century is uncomfortably novel and difficult beyond belief. So when we ask for IDs and comfortable housing and bathrooms, we’re asking for more than just plastic cards and appropriate toilets. We’re asking for due respect and compassion.
My three items of change constitute the external process of transgenderism — the process that outside forces can control. The internal process, rife with overcoming depression and anxiety, will likely not change. But if we can better the external process of grappling with a transgender identity, we can ease the burden of the internal process. It would pain me to know that, in one decade, a cadre of students walking this neo-Gothic campus would brave the same fixable problems we face today.
This column of words summons a stanza I came across by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “Not enjoyment, and not sorrow / is our destined end or way/but to act, that each tomorrow / find us farther than today”.
On we go.
Isaac Amend is a senior in Timothy Dwight College. His column usually runs on alternate Mondays. Contact him at email@example.com .