Life + Arts

Transgender community still needs help from UH

UH is not only diverse racially, but it is also diverse in the sexuality of its students. Thanks to the tireless efforts of a few and the growing confidence of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community as a whole, our school has seen progress in areas that last year looked unrealistic.

First and foremost, campus activists, both student and faculty, have pursued the refinement of the University’s longstanding non-discrimination policy for years.  While gays and lesbians have been protected for well over a decade, the policy had, until recently, no provisions whatsoever protecting transgender individuals.  

As a minority within a minority, these men and women are often marginalized even within the gay community.  Thanks to Dona Cornell, the vice chancellor of UH System Affairs and the system’s general counsel, that is no longer the case. Citing precedence from the 2008 case of Lopez v. River Oaks Imaging and Diagnostic Group, Cornell has implemented a new interpretation of existing language within UH’s current non-discrimination policy. In the case, Izza Lopez filed suit after experiencing discrimination because of her transgender status. Lopez won the case on the basis that discrimination based on sex was unlawful, thereby folding transgender into a broad interpretation of the word sex.

While there are other court rulings such as Price Waterhouse v. Hopkings that could be used against this claim, Cornell assures transgender individuals that so long as she holds her position, the Lopez ruling will be observed. In that vein, campus officials have already begun to make subtle alterations to bathrooms and locker rooms across UH campuses for transgender individuals.

Another step UH has taken recently to meet the needs and concerns of the GLBT community is the actualization of a specially tailored resource center within the new Women’s Resource Center on the top floor of the University Center.  Stocked with magazines, pamphlets and other educational materials, all free to the public, the room is brightly decorated and inviting to visitors.  

While it may not have been fought for as strongly as the non-discrimination language change, the new resource center is a definite boom. A budding adult’s college experience is, after all, a time of growth and self-reflection, and such acceptance on the school’s part will undoubtedly make it easier for students questioning their sexual orientation.

Accompanying these two changes on behalf of the administration is the blossoming of the University’s GLBT community. Within the last two years GLOBAL, UH’s primary GLBT student organization, has seen an enormous upward spike in membership. Weekly meetings that were a dozen or so students are now up to 40 or 50, and their newfound strength has even earned them a new office in the UC Underground. In addition, a new lesbian sorority has already been established, and there is talk of a possible gay fraternity as well.

For many students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, these recent developments may be both pleasant and unexpected. Let us not forget though that they are the results of great effort on the part of a few who continue to fight even now.

The University has really carried the ball recently, but we can’t let these victories breed idleness. We should take these triumphs to heart and use them to inspire further action. As Maine and California have proven, victories are fleeting, and even battles won must be defended.

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