Transgender students safeguard civil rights

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Illustration by Estefania B. Alonso

College administration and SAC Cares commit to providing a safe environment for all students.

By Maria Gardner

sacranger@alamo.edu

If Texas Senate Bill 6, the “bathroom bill,” passes, this college would comply but will not roll back the protections afforded to transgender individuals, Richard Farias, interim dean of student success, said March 24 during an interview.

The transgender community and some businesses have declared the bill discriminatory and oppose it because it would require individuals to use the restroom designated by the sex on their birth certificate instead of the gender they prefer, according to an article published March 7 by the Associated Press.

“We don’t monitor the bathrooms,” said Jacob-Aidan Martinez, director of student conduct and Title IX, March 23 during an interview.

He said the SAC Cares office has not received a complaint about individuals’ access to restrooms.

How SB6, if it becomes law, would be enforced and affect the college is uncertain, Martinez said.

“Whatever the law is, no matter what happens, we want our students to feel safe to express themselves as they see fit,” Farias said.

The college executive team — the president, vice president and deans who lead the governing structure of the college — are committed to provide a learning environment free of bullying and discrimination so all students, including transgender students, feel safe, Farias said.

“I feel very strongly about this, and I know that the whole executive team feels strongly about this, too,” Farias said.

SB6 passed the Senate 21-10 March 15 and moved on to the House of Representatives, the Associated Press reported March 15.

Speaker of the House Joe Strauss, R-San Antonio, who opposes the bill, has averted a vote on the House floor by ruling against three amendments similar to the “bathroom bill” from being attached to currently debated measures, the Texas Tribune reported March 28.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, proponent of the bill, said the focus is to protect women from assault, according to an article published March 24 by Reuters.

“This is a manufactured controversy,” Farias said.

He said on campus there has not been a case where a man dressed up as a woman to enter a women’s restroom for the intention of harm.

Entering a restroom for transgender individuals can be stressful for fear of facing negative comments and treatment, Farias said.

“As a member of the LGBTQ community, it breaks my heart,” Farias said. “They are a group that needs the most compassion.”

In 2010, the Alamo Colleges board of trustees adapted language protecting the rights of all students, faculty, and staff based on sexual orientation, he said.

Under the Obama administration, Title IX was expanded to include gender as a protected category in the definition of sex discrimination.

Title IX bans sex discrimination in any educational institutional receiving federal funding and creates guidelines institutions must follow.

The expansion made by the Department of Education in May 2016 drove the Alamo Colleges board to include gender identity and gender expression in the policy on civil rights protections, Farias said.

Farias, an English instructor prior to being interim dean, said gender identity refers to how a person identifies, which may or may not correspond to the sex at birth. Gender expression refers to how individuals dress or behave that demonstrates their chosen gender, he said.

The Department of Education in the Trump administration withdrew the guidelines for transgender students in Title IX and left it to the states to determine, according to an article published Feb. 22 by the Associated Press.

“Even with the change, under Title IX, transgender students still have a right to come to school and be free from harassment and be treated as equals,” Martinez said.

In the two years that Martinez has served in the role of Title IX director, he has not received complaints of harassment or bullying of transgender students, Martinez said.

He attributes this to a welcoming and accepting community on campus.

GALA, a group here for LGBTQ students and allies, educates and brings awareness to the campus about the LGBTQ issues especially with Coming Out Week in the fall, he said.

If issues do arise, the SAC Cares office has advocates to support transgender students, Martinez said.

SAC Cares can be reached at 210-486-0920 and is located in Room 101 of the nursing complex.

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