Transgender rights bill leaves campus divided


Many view the passing of the Josephine Tittsworth act as a convergence of a myriad of differing ideologies, ethnicities and creeds. Though there was dissent about the language of the bill, UH administrators will put it on their agenda for review. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

For most, listening for their names to be called from the roster is a simple, if not mundane, reality of being a college student. Few would associate it as anything more than that, and even fewer would ever think of roll call as something that could potentially put their life in danger.

Viewing the world from the lens of a transgender man or woman paints a much different picture than most ever see, though. To a trans man, having no choice but to correct his professor and ask to be called Jason instead of Julie outs him as a transgender man to all who are present. Such a scenario not only places Jason in immense psychological turmoil but also makes him vulnerable to students who harbor negative sentiments toward the LGBT community.

On Wednesday, the Student Government Association acted for those students.

The Josephine Tittsworth Act, which allows students, faculty and staff “to apply their preferred first name, title and personally discerned gender in all standard forms of documentation or record keeping,” passed in an 11-4 vote in the SGA Senate Chambers. Throughout its brief lifespan, the bill has managed to become one of the University’s most controversial pieces of legislation.

The bill has garnered considerable outcry from pockets of the student body. Some have expressed concern with how the bill will impact residential life, while others have been unsettled with the implications the bill would have on Greek life. Both concerns were addressed in a town hall meeting held on April 9.

The bill will soon make its way to the UH administration. Despite the controversy in its earlier days, most students and faculty seem to be in favor of the Josephine Tittsworth Act — or at least empathize with the sentiments of the bill. Greek-affiliated students are no exception.

“I think the bill being passed is a huge stepping stone for our campus,” said Ava Sonleitner, a hotel and restaurant management freshman and member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority. “The LGBT community has overcome so many obstacles in the last few years, and this is just another example of that.”

Despite the town hall meeting held to address such questions, a misunderstanding of the semantics of the bill seems to be at the root of the Greek-affiliated students’ concerns. Marketing junior and Delta Gamma member Carly Blevins said she feels that there is a disconnect in communication between proponents of the bill and UH’s Greek community.

“I’m kind of in the dark Greek-wise,” Blevins said. “I think everyone is (in the dark in) …  knowing how (the bill) will affect Greek life.”

Though the bill was passed less than a week ago, it’s already begun addressing the concerns with roll call for transgender students. Even now, the real-world implications for UH’s present and future transgender community have been starting to take hold, and LGBT Resource Center Director Lorraine Schroeder said she feels “very pleased” with the impact it will have in both sustaining and expanding UH’s diversity.

“I just got an email today from an incoming freshman for the fall who identifies as a trans man. He was asking me what the procedure is for getting his preferred name on his Cougar card, and he was concerned with having to come out to professors,” Schroeder said.

“Being able to change the gender just makes sense … (The bill) is a really a positive step for UH in making transgender people feel more welcome and safer on campus,” Schroeder said.

While the bill certainly addresses the long suffering of UH’s transgender community, it has also raised questions regarding its implications. Many have vocalized concerns with how the bill will affect gender-segregated organizations and gender-specific areas, like restrooms, locker rooms and Greek organizations.

“I think letting trans people (change their name and preferred gender on UH documents is) great for class purposes to make them more comfortable, but I think it becomes tricky when it comes to gender-based clubs,” Blevins said.

SGA Undergraduate-at-large Senator Alan Garza, a vocal opponent of the bill, spoke on his belief that the bill will force all students, not just trans-friendly ones, to comply with measures they aren’t comfortable with.

“Moody Towers has the communal restrooms, and (proponents of the bill) have said that they will only pair (transgender students) up with a student that’s trans-friendly — but what about the communal restrooms?” said Garza. “We have to consider the rights and make sure that transgender students are comfortable students, but we also have to be fair and ask ‘what about everyone else as well?’”

Garza also said he feels there was a double standard with how the bill’s opponents were perceived by the public. Despite taking every measure to approach the bill in a “reasonable, open-minded way,” Garza expressed his “disappointment” with students assuming he has closed-minded ideologies simply because he disagrees with the semantics of the bill.

“I’ve spoken with my constituents, and I’ve spoken with people on both sides,” said Garza. “I’ve spoken with people that are transgender to try and understand what it’s like, trying to see where they’re coming from. … People were quick to assume that just because I disagree, I was … intolerant and closed-minded.”

Though there will rarely be a unified consensus on LGBT issues, the bill was passed by an organization that “exists to serve as the official voice through which student opinion may be expressed and empowered” in UH policy and in services offered by the University, according to the SGA website. As an organization that exists to serve and implement the will of the students, SGA’s core purpose — student advocacy — remains unaltered in the midst of controversy and conflict.

Schroeder said she sees the passing of the Josephine Tittsworth Act as one that illustrates the changing nature of the student body — a myriad of differing ideologies, ethnicities and creeds, linked together by an empathy toward the needs of their fellow students.

“I do (think that SGA) represented the student body well. There’s still prejudice on campus from students, but I think that it’s more than a 50-50 split,” Schroeder said. “I think that most people lean on the side of a more welcoming, more LGBT-friendly environment.”

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  • Honestly, I’m just tired of having to change my way of life to make way for someone else’s. I have NO problem with anything LGBT. But stop asking me to bend over backwards to support it.

    • This is the same thing your ancestors said about integration. Well, here’s a bit of news for you: We don’t care whether you support these things. As long as we are treated with the same deference and respect that heteros and white people across this country have demanded for centuries, you can keep your backwards, bigoted views. Your generation will die off soon enough and the children (who are always more enlightened than the generations before them) will have no problem seeing why these measures are the ethical and moral way of handling the people who are affected by bigotry.

      • Very unlikely. Considering most of the world does not favor these pro-transgender policies, our massive immigration from the third world will eventually lead to a society very similar to the third world where there is less liberal utopia

        • The majority of the world does not have the Western gender binary or it’s essentialist philosophy that is the basis for transantagonism like this. So, the less Western this country becomes, the less likely we are to see this form of bigotry.

      • Wow, bintalshamsa, you couldn’t show your racism any stronger. Why are you making racist generalizations against White people? Its no different than when people(of any race) make stupid generalizations about Jews being greedy, Blacks being common criminals, and Muslims being terrorists. You are a disgusting person, and I hope one day, you will seek forgiveness for your racism.

  • “Honestly, I’m just tired of having to change my way of life to make way for someone else’s.”
    …because non-religious people have neeeeeeeeeever had to alter their way of life to accommodate churches.

    • The strawman caricature of the “overbearing, bible-thumping evangelist oppressor” grows more and more absurd every time it is used, and yet morons still use it to avoid having to comprehend why anyone could possibly disagree with them. Truly a cancer upon the modern discourse.

  • I was at that senate meeting and it was packed with supporters of the bill. Not a single student showed up to speak against it. I wouldn’t say the campus was divided. The campus is clearly in favor of this. It was a small group of opponents who made a big fuss about it, spreading misinformation, lies, and overexagerated the opposition to this bill.

    • Students who dare to dissent in the modern university risk poor treatment by professors and faculty with a Progressive axe to grind. Hell, they risk outright expulsion. What sane student (aside from the most angry and bold) would dare go against the grain?

      Of COURSE the little circlejerk meeting about the new policy is going to be packed with supporters. But there’s no reason to believe that would be indicative of the campus population as a whole.

      • >Students who dare to dissent in the modern university risk poor treatment by professors and faculty with a Progressive axe to grind.

        Not quite. There are conservative professors, too. None of them are out on a conservative witch hunt.

        >Hell, they risk outright expulsion.

        Are you kidding me?

        >What sane student (aside from the most angry and bold) would dare go against the grain?

        The ones proposing the bill are going quite against the grain.

        >Of COURSE the little circlejerk meeting about the new policy is going to be packed with supporters.

        It ‘seems’ as a ‘little circlejerk’ because the opposition couldn’t organize anything because they had no support.

        >But there’s no reason to believe that would be indicative of the campus population as a whole.

        Again, if there were no people speaking against the bill except for those three or four senators, then there are not people who care enough about the bill passing for it to not be passed.

        • The pro-“transgender” students aren’t going against the grain. This is not Iran. This is liberal UH. It is very risky to be deemed a “bigot” by professors and other students at the university. Universities are not places where people can freely and openly engage in other points of views or opinions. There is alot of pressure and self censorship going on. You may not see that, because more than likely someone with a point of view that is ostracized will never tell you what they truly think.

          • I’m deeply conservative, but I’m not an asshole to people (unlike a few people on this thread), so I don’t get called a bigot.

            • Sure, censorship through fear and submission. Whatever means necessary. Great way to have a society where people can openly express their views. Political correctness is terrible, and no person I would consider a “conservative” would be for it.

      • Too many students opposed are afraid of political correctness. Today, being seen as a “bigot” is worse than being a murderer or rapist in the eyes of liberals and academia. Such fake “liberals” love to tolerate anything that is not Christian or “conservative”. However they aren’t very tolerant if someone has a different opinion. Atheist governments killed more people in the last century than any theocracy ever has.

    • Of course it was packed with supporters. The people who had spoken out against the bill had been publicly and privately bashed and slandered. Some of the things that have been said by former Senator Guillermo Lopez and President Charles Haston would be viewed as harassment and bullying in the eyes of the law.

      • You’re an idiot, Shelby. Maybe you ought to get informed about what ACTUALLY happened, and maybe enroll in UH so that your opinions could be taken at least semi-seriously. Shame on you for being such a salty person.

        • Why does someone have to be a student at UH in order for their opinions to be valued? Would you not be showing the same discrimination to people that the opposition is being accused of? Furthermore, one of the ladies who spoke at the last Senate meeting was not speaking as a student or for students but with the hope that her children would one day be Cougars. It’s not about whether or not someone is a student at a school. These are social issues that effect the world around us. Get over yourself.

  • Welp, sure glad I’m not at a university like that one. Taking serious the task of drafting in-house policy to officially mandate enabling mentally ill trannies by helping them play pretend?

    I swear, the modern university needs to get its feet back on the ground, fast. And people wonder why these expensive degrees are getting more and more worthless…

    • Why don’t you go read up on the biological causes of transgender conditions before you come on here and run your mouth?

      • is it due to illness? or is it a normal healthy behavior? If transgenders are full accepted in society, would they(as a whole) still have a higher suicide rate? Definitely. I suffered from gender-identity disorder. Even after having a “sex-change” I still suffered from suicidal attempts. This was because I knew I would never really be a normal healthy woman, like my mother or sister. Sex-change operations do not really change your sex. I will always have a Y chromosome that will easily show my real sex when a karyotype is performed. The cis-people who have depression and attempt to kill themselves are not healty either. They have underlying mental illness that needs to be addressed, just like we do.

        • I say again, read. If you really think the mere presence of a Y chromosome says everything in 100% of cases, it shows you didn’t read up on it.

          Suicide rates don’t go to zero for treated people, sure, but what segment of the population has a zero suicide rate other than the dead? The fact that the rate drops is enough to tell us the treatment works for most people.

          I’m sorry you had a bad experience, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong for others.

          • Transgender will still have a higher suicide rate than the general population. That is not the same as zero, which would be a false comparison and strawman argument.

            Genetically, the Y chromosome determines sex. Sexual organs are secondary, and in a healthy person, determined by the chromosomes. Anything that is contrary to the chromosomes is a medical pathology.

            • But, the suicide rates drop, showing that the treatment saves lives. It probably doesn’t drop to average levels due to societal mistreatment and/or psychological problems like PTSD which are common in trans people.

              Were you really chromosome tested? It’s a pretty hard test to order and very expensive.

              • Yes, I was tested. As I said in my first post, even if transgenders are accepted or even favored by the general population, suicide rates will still be higher than in the general population. My family and neighborhood had been amazing in SF. I was encouraged to go through with the sex change surgeries. After having the multiple surgeries, I still attempted suicide. It had nothing to do with any pressure from other people. It was self hatred. I reverted to a male identity. After going back to a male identity, I actually lost friends. It was after that point that I was treated by the LGBTQ community as a mentally ill person. This was despite the fact I never discouraged anyone from having sex change operations.

                • I don’t think we can know for sure whether trans people fully accepted would have a normal suicide rate or not because it doesn’t happen fully. Transitioning children who missed out on the childhood trauma might be good test cases in the future, but we’ll have to wait and see.
                  Either way YMMV. Everybody’s does.

                  • You have a point that it hasn’t been demonstrated in a large enough population. However hopeful thinking that in a tolerant society where all transgender people are fully tolerated(even favored) would lead to a suicide rate comparable with the general population would exclude the reality of the great deal of pain and anguish self hate and stress plays that is separate from societal pressure and norms. There is great reason to believe the suicide rates would still be higher for transgender people than the general population. I am not basing this only on my experience.

                    • You’re right that the transition doesn’t magically fix those other issues. People need help with self-hate they were taught as kids, shame, trauma, depression, and other things. Anybody who says transition magically disappeared those other problems are kidding themselves.

                      There’s a reason they recommend counseling before, during and after transition.

                    • The point is, regardless of what the current medical community say, being transgender is having a mental illness. No different from the cis-people that suffer mental illness. By taking it out of the DSM, they have made it a political issue. It would be very similar to taking PTSD out of the DSM, because of the stigma many War Veterans and others face.

            • @ I am not a woman – An interesting, yet totally misinformed viewpoint.

              How would you then explain the existence of people like myself, born with an extra female chromosome (47XXY)? There are many other variations that exist as well that do not always result in a perfect binary of gender identity.

              Some of us (myself included) are born with ambiguous genitals as well. In the past, doctors often surgically altered infants born that – even without the consent of parents. So to say that all transgender persons with a ‘Y’ chromosome are male sounds rather

              Sorry you had a bad experience in transition, but you really should try not to let your own, highly personal experiences color your opinion so much.

                • Klinefelter’s is a genetic anomaly. It’s never really affected me that much except when I went through puberty (both times) and my doctors believe it may be the original source of my GID. I was also born with ambiguous sexual organs. The term for that condition is “Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis”

                  Most of the problem is that you just don’t fit what society expects of you due to the gender binary that so many people seem to be convinced is “the truth”. Simply put, it’s not even close to the truth. There is a wide variety of genetic variation within the human genome, and sex, gender identity, sexual preference all fall along a spectrum (like the LGBT rainbow) instead of being a set binary identity.

                  • I don’t get what you are trying to argue. I already said in a previous post that anything contrary to the sex chromosomes is a medical pathology, which is a medical fact. That doesn’t negate the real mental illness resulting from genetic/biological pathology. This problem was not caused by society. If society full accepted transgender people the way they accept right-handed people, Klinefelters would still be a pathology, not a healthy variation of the sex/gender identity rainbow. The problem is a medical condition that causes psychological/psychiatric issues. When people deny the mental illness involved in transgender people directly related to biological/medical/genetic pathology, or absurdly use an underlying medical/genetic pathology to portray being transgender as a healthy condition/lifestyle they are misleading the real issues that directly cause people to be transgender in the first place. I’ve heard many of these arguments, but they always ignore the evident pathologies involved. These arguments are very similar to someone saying Post partum depression is healthy and due to society rather than a mental health condition caused by an underlying pathology during pregnancy.

    • So Edward, when did you make the choice to be a straight, white bigot?

      #1- We’re not mentally ill.
      #2 – We’re not playing pretend.
      #3 – We are NOT “trannies”

      But then, you probably think Gays and Lesbians are mentally ill as well.

      • Get with the program Toni. No one is mentally ill. Only bigots would say such a thing. You need to be more tolerant to people labeled “Schizophrenics”, “Alcoholics” “Drug addicts” “Sadists” and “Clinically Depressed people”. Everyone is special, and no one is mentally ill. All thoughts and behaviors should be tolerated and even promoted.

        • I appreciate your tolerance for others. However sometimes, tolerance can be dangerous. My roommate suffers from obesity, and was constantly told that she should be happy with her weight. She eventually progressed with an unhealthy diet and now has type 2 diabetes. None of the people who reassured her about her weight were intentionally hurting her. They were trying to make her feel better. But now she feels even worse, since she has to lose even more weight which is a constant struggle, now that she has grown into the habit of eating so much. I love my roommate and wish there was a way to help her with her weight issues, without risking any loss to her self esteem.

        • @ Anti-bigot – Sorry, but you’re totally misunderstanding me. I myself suffer from depression and panic/anxiety attacks.

          I said we were NOT mentally ill in response to the bigot above insisting that we are “mentally ill trannies”.

          Please read and attempt to comprehend other peoples’ comments before posting an uninformed response.

      • Technically, it is a mental illness. It’s a condition that solely lies in the way you mentally feel. Your body is completely functional and has no issue, your mind does. There is nothing wrong with having a mental illness, and it is not an insult as some use it and perceive it. Mental illness is something to deal with, not be offended by.

        • Sorry q, but you couldn’t be more wrong. The APA (American Psychiatry Association) and the WHO (World Health Organization), completely de-pathologized GID (gender identity dysphoria – what transgender people suffer from) almost two years ago. It’s no longer considered a mental illness, and it never should have been in the first place. We can go directly to a medical doctor now to begin hormone treatment if we suffer from GID and wish to transition.

          I am transgender. The reason I am transgender is because I was born with a condition medically termed as “Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis”. In other words I was born with both sets of sex organs. Doctors (in 1961) played God on me and surgically removed my female parts so I would ‘fit in better’ with society. I was an orphan, my birth records were sealed and my adoptive mother and father were never informed of the surgical details surrounding my birth. The worst part about it was that they chose wrongly. Personally, I would have been *much* happier and felt like I was my true self if they had left my sexual organs intact as I was born. At least I would be my complete self. Genetically I am also a bit of an anomaly, as my chromosomes are 47XXY instead of the more typical 46XX and 46 XY karyotypes. I have an extra female chromosome

          I am not mentally ill. I never have been, and I never will be. However, I am constantly and consistently persecuted by morons and ignorant people like you who think that they know everything about medical science.

          Here’s a clue: You DON’T.

          There are many and varied reasons that people are BORN transgender. Some, such as mine, have been discovered. Others are still being researched, but time and further understanding of the human genome and all of it’s variety will one day make the anti-transgender bigots look like fools. Just like the people who used the same “less than human”, eugenics-based argument about the African race back in the 60’s.

  • Can someone explain why we are bending over backwards to accommodate people who MADE A VOLUNTARY CHOICE to mutilate their bodies? Actions have consequences, people. If they don’t want to face the consequences, perhaps they shouldn’t undertake the action in the first place.

    • Yeah, why in the world should we accommodate people who “MADE A VOLUNTARY CHOICE to mutilate their bodies”? Is it my fault if someone got cancer and chose to get a limb chopped off in order to avoid dying? Is it my fault if some cisgender girl chose to get their ears pierced because it made them feel pretty? Why should a person who has mutilated their body be given rights?! Perhaps they should have thought about that before they decided to alter their bodies.

      By the way, not all trans people alter their bodies, so this ridiculous post of yours doesn’t even address why they shouldn’t be accommodated.

      • Integration was a terrible idea. Now, we Blacks are dependent on the white man for an education. We built spaceships and traveled the stars. Our children will never learn that going to a school run by Whites. Even sadder, is the fact that many rich Blacks don’t want to put their kids in a predominantly Black public school and rather put them in a school full of Whites and Asians. We need less Uncle Toms if we ever want to be free.

        • As a woman from Kenya, I can say first hand that integration was misguided. First of all, in Kenya where schools are typically full of Black children there is no problem with learning. Why? The children will get corporal punishment or kicked out if they behave like animals. In the American public school system, children can throw things at teachers, use profanity, and even attack teachers. This is very common in inner city schools where Black children dominate. Some people blame the teachers, others the parents, or both. The American system is terrible. If children have no guidance from parents or teachers, send them to a boot camp or work. Otherwise they will end up criminals raping and murdering people. So many Africans come to America and become doctors and scientists while too many American Blacks complain without doing anything about it.

          • Thank you sister! Its humiliating that as African Americans, we beg to go to white schools. Why do progressive areas implement busing, which is forced integration? Are the whites racist segregationists, when we as African Americans don’t want to send our kids to the same schools? How many of the rich progressives on MSNBC send their children to inner city public schools? Obama’s daughters? Generally, all races prefer to send their children to schools full of white kids, not black kids. Obama did not go to an inner city school full of Black children. He went to private schools for rich kids(mostly white). He became the President of the United States. What would he have become if he went to a school where most kids don’t graduate and end up in gangs? It doesn’t say anything good about our race, when we cannot make a public school full our our race’s next generation, an appealing place for other races to get a good education.

    • they have gender dysphoria which is a mental condition. Succumbing to their desires of being another sex/gender does not cure their illness. There are still many issues that they have to deal with.

    • Don’t worry, universities are not really for educating students. They are there to indoctrinate students into whatever is the current pc ideologies. China and India aren’t wasting their time on bull like this. They are preparing engineers to replace ours when US based companies outsource, and steal any technology we make and undercut our products.

  • Does not surprise me Alan Garza vocally opposed this legislation. I have seen him numerous times use anti-gay, anti-trans slurs on his Facebook, including “faggot” and “queer.” However, he has since deleted these posts, probably because he is now in SGA. Well, at least he’s not afraid to be honest in his discomfort and bias towards GLBT students.

    • correction: these posts were made as comments on a mutual friend’s posts, and that mutual friend deleted several of his rather embarrassing posts on his profile after receiving backlash over the last few months

    • It takes a special type of person to not only defame someone’s character but do so anonymously. Glad you’re a former SGA member and not a current one.

  • Guillermo, or should I say “former SGA member, I have seen you publicly as privately bash people and name call. You have called Ashley David-Nelson a bigot and John Garcia a closet case. You are a disgusting person. You are hiding behind a cloak of “tolerance” while being intolerant. Why would people stand in a room full of LGBTQ supporters and oppose something that they will be bullied for. You can say whatever you want but what you have done is the textbook definition of bullying. This is coming from, what Alan Garza would call, a “faggot.” Alan has been nothing but respectful to me and has never made me feel uncomfortable. That is not something the LGBTQ community has done. You are the bigot along with Mr. Haston. You are wrong and that will be proven. Actions that have bad intentions will result in negative implications.

    • For the record… I am not behind the Alan Garza comment. I have never witnessed him say the word “faggot” and I didn’t become his Facebook friend until after he was on SGA so I couldn’t have possibly seen anything he posted before he was a senator… And Shelby…. Get a hobby. Do you even go here?

      • Lol you can go back on anyone’s timeline and see what they have posted. You get a hobby Guillermo. You have done nothing but try to bash those that oppose this bill and it will come to an end. You will no longer be allowed to behave this way. You think I’m playing? Please ask your little SGA friends Brianna and Clement who I am and who my family is. And yes I am class of 2017. But I don’t believe the 2 little children who were drug into the last senate meeting were students, now were they? Please sit down little boy. I assure you that you are not ready to play with the grown men.

        • Shelby, as much as I know you’d like for me to stick around and have a pointless back and forth on a comment thread, I actually have a graduation to prepare for and a life after college to plan. I don’t have patience for useless things. I look forward to contributing to this University in a positive manner as an alumni.

          I do however, wish you the best in your future endeavors. Whatever those may be. God bless!

    • When you start your opposition to the Tittsworth Act as Ashley did in that town hall with throwing discredited ‘sexual predator’ shade, a line we have heard far too many times from conservatives across the country over the last few years in opposing trans human rights measures, yeah, you’re going to open yourself up to being called a bigot.,

      • Why stereotype Conservatives as bigots? Are you suggesting that there is statistical evidence that they are more likely to be “bigots” than trans people or liberals?

  • If you make bigoted statements, transphobically label the Tittsworth Act as ‘The He/She Bill’ and launch long discredited ‘bathroom predator’ attacks as your main argument to opposing a simple policy change that will benefit a marginalized group, don’t be surprised if
    that marginalized group sees you as a bigot or oppressor

  • Kudos to the Student Government. I also commend the University of Houston. It is obviously a school that promotes tolerance. i would like to add that we must also be understanding of the people who are uncomfortable with this act. They are not necessarily bigoted – change (any kind of change) is difficult for a lot of people.

    • When you call transpeople ‘sexual predators’ as your primary opposition argument to a policy change, yeah, you ARE a bigot and I don’t have to tolerate their intolerance. .

  • This bill doesn’t do enough for the otherkin community. We need to be able to urinate and defecate outside on the lawns like other animals do. I’m so sick of the intolerant people that wont accept me as a furry friend. There is no such thing as a species. There is a species spectrum where we are free to identify with whatever species we feel we are.

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