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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


UW Regents Pass Resolution to Protect Transgender Students

[SEATTLE, WA] - The Undergraduate Student Senate at the University of Washington is making its voice heard on Transgender rights. Its "Resolution R-8-24 - A Resolution to Support Transgender Rights," which was created to urge school officials to add gender expression, gender and gender identity to the school's non-discrimination policy, passed after brief discussion on Tuesday, May 14.

"I think this small step is a good one because it not only shows that the UW Student Senate is working to protect all parts of its community, the resolution also creates a foundation for Transgender folks to possibly gain true equality at the university for years to come," said Malena F. Pinkham, director of Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian, Transgender Commission of the Associated Students of the University of Washington. "I applaud the efforts of those students who worked hard to create and support this resolution, and their concern for detail within the UW institution serves as a source of inspiration to all that wish to be anti-oppressive."

The resolution was authored a little over a month ago by student Meg Maurus with the assistance of Marsha Botzer, noted Transgender activist and founder of Ingersoll Gender Center. The issue now goes before the university's Board of Regents after careful review by members of the UW administration.

"Meg has put a ton of research into this," said ASUW Student Vice President Sam Castic, who said he has two friends who are Transgender. "Meg hopes to work with the administration to get this incorporated into the non-discrimination policy. She will meet with administrators and perhaps the Board of Regents. The student Senate will be there to help her if need be."

The time is right, believes Castic. The school enjoys several LGBT student organizations and now offers the Gender Club, a support and discussion group on transgender issues. Heather Brister, a UW student, cites a decline in rigid gender norms for the progress. She thinks adding Trangender persons to the list of protected classes is long overdue. Brister said she knows several people who could benefit if the school administration and Board of Regents agree to adopt the recommendation.

However, Pinkham says that although this is a good first step, much more work needs to be done. "I will have to admit that even though this resolution will mean a great deal to the Queer community at the UW, I doubt it will have any real and important impact on UW policy," she said. "The University of Washington does not currently take serious its commitment to protect Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual students, as well as women, people of color and non-Christian students. So, I don't feel much hope for Transgender students either. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the non-discrimination policy is one that has much pull or influence on the UW faculty, staff, administration, student government or students."

Language prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation was first added on December 5, 1983 by Executive Order of the UW president. In February 2001, the President's Task Force on GBLT Issues published its report, "Affirming Diversity: Moving from Tolerance to Acceptance and Beyond." In the document, the Task Force provides candid criticisms.

"...the UW administration appears to conceptualize 'diversity' narrowly, restricting it largely to concepts of race and ethnicity. Other disadvantaged groups, such as women and sexual minorities are rarely included in discussions of diversity," the report states. "We believe the UW has turned its attention to these issues relatively 'late in the game.' There is a substantial list of universities, including many UW peer institutions, which have permanent GBLT advisory committees, resource centers, academic activities and other affirming activities. The University of Washington lags substantially behind, and it should take decisive action to promptly rectify the situation."

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