Just weeks after The New York Times reported a leaked memo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that defined gender as an immutable biological trait under Title IX law, the Trans Rights Coalition at Yale, a newly formed group of Yale-affiliated organizations, launched a petition calling on University President Peter Salovey to uphold, protect and reinforce trans rights at Yale.

The petition, which has garnered 195 of its 200 signature goal, is a response to a Nov. 1 statement on the University website that reaffirms the University’s commitment to foster a diverse, inclusive and welcoming community for all transgender and gender-nonconforming students, faculty and staff. But the coalition criticized Salovey for failing to send the statement to the student body and questioned why the University did not include it in a Yale News email, which are sent to the Yale community semi-weekly and summarize important announcements and news stories.

Signatories, including Yale-affiliated organizations Trans@Yale, the Association of Native Americans at Yale, the Yale Black Men’s Union, Local 33 and the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, called for Salovey to directly address the Yale community this month. Among other demands, the coalition urged Salovey to lead an inquiry into the experiences of trans and nonbinary people at Yale and develop a clear mechanism for them to address Yale-related concerns, especially pertaining to healthcare at Yale.

“Statements are not enough because trans folx are under material threat and minority stress here in the US,” wrote the co-author of the memo — who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue — in an email to the News. “Responding to a particularly drastic national situation is not enough, Yale needs to act preemptively, especially given how the student schedule and insurance structures here make it near impossible for trans students to seek support outside of Yale.”

Salovey, the Office of LGBTQ Resources and the Office of Gender and Campus Culture did not respond to a request for comment on the demands, and University Spokesman Tom Conroy did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

According to the petition, medical personnel at Yale have not historically interacted with members of the trans and nonbinary community in “a competent and respectful manner,” and Yale affiliates lack a mechanism to voice concerns about healthcare policies to the University administration.

Sasha Carney ’22, a member of the LGBT spoken word group VOKE, which signed the petition, echoed this concern. They urged Yale Health to employ more trans therapists of color and establish trans-specific support in the mental health system since trans people disproportionately experience mental health issues. 

But Carney, who identifies as nonbinary, acknowledged that Yale Health is making some progress in this arena. This month, Yale Health announced that anyone could change their name in the health provider’s system to a preferred name, Carney said. 

According to the Yale Health Student Handbook, the gender-affirmation services currently covered by the Yale Health specialty insurance plan includes counseling, hormone therapy and specific surgical procedures.

In addition to healthcare policy, the petition demanded a general commitment from the administration to make all trans and nonbinary community-related policies transparent and easily accessible. According to Carney, several trans students on campus have expressed their frustration that as first years, they were the only trans person placed in an otherwise cisgender suite, “which feels to them like they’re just being treated as a cisgender girl.”

The petition also demanded that Yale develop and enhance strategies to support trans and nonbinary people of color, a group that is particularly vulnerable to discrimination and harassment.

According to Gabriella Blatt ’21, president of the Association of Native Americans at Yale, backing trans people from minority communities would be a way for the University to demonstrate that it “care[s] about their students.”

“Yale as an institution has been and remains complicit in colonialism and the oppression of people of color in its glorification of colonists, missionaries, and proponents of slavery,” wrote the co-writer of the petition in an email to the News. “Yale is not politically neutral and needs to stop pretending it is … I want support for trans students, but more than that, I want Yale to take responsibility for its own political and material power.”

Transgender Day of Remembrance was commemorated on Nov. 20.

Jever Mariwala | jever.mariwala@yale.edu

Correction, Nov. 29: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Sasha Carney ’22 using the she/her/hers pronouns. Carney’s pronouns are they/them/theirs.