Thursday was a kick-ass day. It was a very, very long day. Between classes I met with a study group. After classes, I attended the meeting of the Regents and after that I had a make-up class (from 6-7 PM, if you can imagine). Following that class, I attended the initial meeting of the search committee to hire two assistant directors for the University's LGBT affairs office. That got done a bit after 9:30 when I raced home, got out of the suit I had worn all day and into jeans and went bowling (where I bowled my highest game of the season thus far - a 164). And, finally, after that, I went out for a few drinks with some of the bowlers (now, that is a story in its own right (I swear I normally don't drink like that!) but I'm not going to share it here -- hey my kids and my mother read this site!). I didn't get to bed until 3.
But, the title of this post suggests the highlight of the day. As I reported earlier, we had 6 people(the maximum allowed) speak to the Regents about amending the University's by-laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression (I will post later about the significance of that distinction). I believe we had a positive influence. I don't think they will be moved to action on the strength of this single presentation, but I do think we caught their attention. Two of the Regents spoke with me afterward and thanked me for coming. I spoke also with the Provost who told me he believed the message and the format and the tone where all precisely on point. I also spoke briefly afterward with President Mary Sue Coleman who thanked me for coming (but offered no input on the topic).
Speaker summaries are below the fold.
Our first speaker, identified himself as 'transgendered' who felt no need to modify his body with either hormones or surgery but also recognized that he did not fit well into society's definition of what a man was or what a woman was. He told a couple of anecdotes about how his gender ambiguity has resulted in verbal as well as physical harassment. It was quite moving and quite compelling.
Next, came Andre, my co-founder of TransForUM. Andre always tells a compelling story and this time was no exception. His transition from female to male, his identity as a transsexual, and the challenges those things have presented him with in trying to navigate our University systems are legion.
An MSW alumna of the School of Social Work was next and told her story of gender harassment, despite not identifying as transgendered. She was once accosted by a group of young males and told that she should grow her hair out and wear make-up and that they were going to show her what it meant to be a real woman (she is a beautiful gay woman). She managed to escape, but not without some trauma. She also handed out a packet of materials to the Regents, including a recent (though no longer comprehensive) list of of the other universities, cities and states with laws protecting gender identity and expression and a stack of petitions calling on the Regents to amend the by-laws.
Our next speaker was a young woman, co-chair of the Stonewall Democrats, who also does not identify as as transgendered, but spoke eloquently about the pervasiveness of gender identity discrimination and the ignorance surrounding the subject. She called upon the Regents to take this first most important step to recognizing the humanity of us all.
Andre's sister, a professor at another university, then spoke and told her story of witnessing Andre's struggles and learning of the dearth of protections available to trans-folk and then finally coming to the broader understanding that what we are doing is policing how we express our genders and our identities. She wondered how her teenage son, with long hair and earrings, might be perceived and harassed.
Finally, I spoke. I tried to relate a little bit of my own story and to chide them a bit as well. I wrote out a set of remarks, that I had planned to guide me, but I did not read them and instead just looked directly at and spoke directly to, the Regents and University staff. Still, although I wandered a bit from my prepared remarks, I attach them here, if you have any interest in the gist of what I had to say.
All in all, a good day.