When we saw this week’s Collegian sitting on the stack in Jordan Hall, we were unsettled. We were unsettled, and we were angry.
For the last year, TRANSform – A group of trans, agender, non-binary people and allies on campus – has been working tirelessly to try and make this campus safer for trans people. We have been excluded in classroom discussions; told by professors that our identities didn’t matter; forced to live in gendered dorms that don’t match our gender; been belittled by campus police officers; had to walk up to 20 minutes to find a bathroom we can use; been harassed and threatened both on and off of social media; and so much more. We fought because we had to, and because we needed to be heard.
The past two articles that you have published about gender-inclusive restrooms and “gender issues” in housing policy have both failed to recognize the work of our organization. The most recent article about housing barely talks about transgender, agender, and non-binary people whatsoever. The term “both men and women” was used throughout, which gives the impression that the only issue here was that people with binary genders couldn’t live together. This is false. In fact, this policy most likely would not have been changed if we hadn’t spoken up and sat through meeting after meeting self-advocating because no one would do it for us. In both articles, the credit to these changes has been given to the administration. For the record, we had to push and push to get some of these same people to hear what we were saying. We organized; we sacrificed our mental health and our schoolwork; and we put ourselves in vulnerable situations, all to get the things we need to be able to live and learn in a safe, healthy environment. Such an environment has still not been cultivated.
Our main concern with this week’s article is its narrative of false progress. In TRANSform’s demands last year, we stressed the need for non-gendered housing that did not depend on one’s ability to find a large group of people to live with. Just as there are random housing options for gendered housing, the same should be afforded to those who desire or need non-gendered housing. Some people – first year students for example – may not have a friend group yet, and therefore would be forced into gendered housing that corresponds with their legal gender, which is something that can be traumatic and highly uncomfortable for trans/non-binary/agender students.
In addition, the front cover of this week’s Collegian displayed the gender symbols that only represent the binary genders, implying that this article is only about men and women being able to live together. As stated previously, gender inclusive housing is a predominantly trans, agender, and non-binary concern. This article and symbol does not serve our community. The narrative that the housing problem has been corrected is false, as was the bathroom claim from last week’s article. This makes it increasingly difficult for our organization to make any strides towards the things that we need, because the Butler community is under the impression that these needs have been taken care of.
We have displayed our inclusive transgender symbol all over campus in the past year, in addition to our demands. If your goal is to represent the transgender community in the Collegian, please make sure that you have your facts straight, and that at the very least you reach out to transgender people for comment, if not that you have a transgender person write the article. You have used our story as the front page of your paper without asking transgender people for input, without mentioning TRANSform whatsoever, while also misrepresenting our experiences.
Frustrated with these issues, we went around campus and corrected your mistake, particularly the binary gender symbol used. Miseducation is hurting our community, and it was urgent that we addressed the error before it reached the hands of people who might accept it as truth. The time for a dialogue in the place of this action passed the moment you approved this article for print.
We hope that in the future you will take the necessary steps to accurately represent marginalized groups on campus by doing additional research, and by consulting the people most affected by the issues you are representing.