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May 24, 2016 - Posted to Study
One topic that has been in the news lately is gender identity. Gender identity is gender that each person, assigns to themselves. This identity usually matches the biological sex that the person was born with, but not necessarily. Some people, at some point after birth begin to identify as being a different gender than the one that was assigned to them at birth. For others, it isn’t as black and white. These people are gender fluid. One way to keep this straight is to remember that sex refers to the anatomy that people are born with, and gender refers to the way they identify themselves. People who are born with genitalia matching their gender identity are cisgender, while those who are not are transgender. Some transgender individuals choose to have surgeries or take hormones to alter their bodies to match their gender identity, but others do not.
While there is controversy of the existence of gender identity in the lay community, about the true existence of gender identity, it is generally accepted as a reality among most doctors, scientists, and other experts. In spite of the opinion of professionals, there has been enough controversy surrounding this issue that many laws have been passed or are pending regarding the rights of transgender individuals. This includes, but is not limited to laws involving public restroom use, religious protection laws, and laws rolling back previously established protections for members of the LGBTQ community. Because of this, a social justice issue has come to light, and that issue now impacts college campuses.Fortunately, there has been some progress made. Many schools have programs specifically dedicated to gender education where students can learn about and write gender identity research papers. Keep reading to learn the factors that are influencing students and gender identification.
Physical And Emotional Safety
During school orientation sessions, many college students are given information about mental health services. They are also educated about various mental illnesses, suicide prevention, and often warned that the college years are often when mental illness begins to surface. What is often left out of these discussions is the increased risk of members of the transgender community when it comes to anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol use, and suicidal ideation.
In addition to this, transgender individuals have an alarmingly high risk of being the victim of physical brutality. Unfortunately, many individuals who are victimized don’t go to campus security or the police when these instances occur, because they fear further victimization or a lack of support.
Fortunately, many college campuses are working hard to implement programs that provide for the physical and emotional well being of trans students. This includes educating staff about transgender issues physical and mental health. When trans students feel safe, they can then focus on furthering their academic careers by getting motivated for studying and accessing educational resources.
Educating Staff And Students About Gender Identity
College students and staff members come from a variety of backgrounds. They have varying levels of education on this topic, and their personal belief systems may cause them to have a variety of views on gender issues. While a college campus should be a place where ideas and opinions are exchanged freely, it is also important that inclusivity is maintained. In addition to this, campus curriculum and other points of education on social issues offer correct information and instruction on gender identity, even if that instruction is counter to individuals’ personal or religious beliefs. By providing education on this subject, universities and colleges can also help students and even staff members move beyond misconceptions they might have about gender identity. As a result of this education, many students might just learn to be a good leader in their community in the future on this issue.
Providing Access to Healthcare
Members of the trans community have unique healthcare needs. Unfortunately, finding providers who are educated in meeting those needs can be difficult. It can also be difficult to find healthcare workers who are sensitive to trans culture. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers often make the mistake of referring to trans patients using the wrong terms, and assign them inappropriately when medical wards are segregated by gender. In addition to this, many on campus health centers simply do not have staff on hand who are capable of meeting the medical (physical and mental) needs of transgender people, especially those who have transitioned or are in the process of transitioning. An effort should be made to ensure that on campus health centers can meet the needs of all students, not just the cisgendered.
Encouraging Respectful And Inclusive Language
Imagine spending your entire life filling out forms that asked for your gender, but didn’t have an appropriate selection for you. Imagine reading textbooks for the entirety of your school career and never reading about anybody who was born cisgendered. Imagine being assigned the wrong gender by people throughout your entire life, and being referred to by the incorrect pronouns. Imagine being denied the right to compose a gender identity research paper because your instructor deemed it inappropriate. If that seems like an isolating existence, that is because it absolutely can be. Unfortunately, for trans people, this is simply life. However, the powers that be at colleges and universities, along with students who are supportive of trans rights can make serious changes to this. This can begin with simply including inclusive terms on forms, encouraging textbook manufacturers to use inclusive language, and to establish policies that mandate the use of appropriate terms when speaking to or about members of the trans community. This should also extend to athletic teams, clubs, fraternities, and other organizations where insensitive language and hazing might be the norm. Even without ill intent, words can create an environment where students feel unsafe and excluded.
Gender definition and student education and well being are extremely important issues on the college campus. As education is the priority at these institutions, it is imperative that students are educated about the facts of gender identity. It is also important that all students are safe, supported, and have their needs met regardless of their gender identity. Finally, campuses have historically been places where social justice movements have flourished. In the past, some of the strongest efforts to fight racism, sexism, and other forms of injustice began on college campuses. This is another issue where students and academic leaders should take the lead and fight to ensure equality and justice.