There has been much talk of late about issues affecting the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Events like Congress’s signing of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act – which bans workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation – and the Transgender Day of Remembrance – which reflects on the lives lost in the transgender community – are making people aware of GLBT problems. Both of these events occurred recently, but did students know about them?
These topics are important to the GLBT community. Unfortunately, they do not seem to be as important to those outside of the community. But they should be because they concern the lives of people who live in the same dorms and sit in the same lecture halls as everyone else on this campus.
Cayden Mak wrote in a letter to the editor recently about the lack of visible support and acknowledgement of transgender issues at the University and in its media (Daily fails to do its part for awareness, 11/26/2007). Mak spoke about feeling disheartened, understandably, because the Daily did not run any stories about the Day of Remembrance. If no one on the Daily’s staff knew about the event, they cannot be at fault, but if it was purposefully left out, then that is discrimination and it should not be tolerated.
In looking through the Daily’s archives online, there were no articles about Congress passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in November, except one editorial. A major issue with this bill was that it was not transgender inclusive. As a result, there were protests all over the country. This topic was talked about heatedly for weeks at every GLBT organization in the country, but was barely mentioned in the Daily. Is the Daily staff uninterested or unaware?
Katherine Gallagher wrote in her letter to the editor the same day as Mak that there are University students using hate speech and degrading the entire GLBT community at football games (Homophobia, sexism abound among fans, 11/26/2007). Gallagher called for the University community to do better, and hopefully it will. Unfortunately, if students still feel the term “fag” is acceptable language, as Gallagher overheard, I doubt that the University community is ready to be more inclusive toward members of the GLBT community.
Although many University students may not be interested in transgender issues or advocates of their rights, it appears that Michigan’s governor is. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed an executive directive banning discrimination in state employment based on “gender identity or expression.” This directive will protect transgender employees and anyone who does not conform to society’s view of how individuals’ appearances or behavior should reflect their gender.
According to the Triangle Foundation, an organization supporting the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, this directive protects approximately 50,000 state employees. People now have the freedom to be who they are without fear of losing their jobs in government.
Does this sound somewhat familiar? It should. About two months ago, the University passed the inclusion of gender identity and expression into its non-discrimination policy. Apparently, inclusiveness is a trend because other universities and colleges across Michigan, like Michigan State University and Eastern Michigan University, recently included this protection for their transgender students and employees as well.
The transgender community is breaking new ground with these new protections at Michigan universities and in the state government. Even if students are disinterested for whatever reason, they should be aware of what a powerful and progressive step this is for a community of people who have been unprotected and neglected for so long.
Many students rely on the Daily for their news and the Daily must be as inclusive in its coverage as possible. If the Daily does not deliver everything it can, then it is doing a disservice to the University and to itself. If issues reflecting communities on this campus are not covered, then oppressed people will continue to be marginalized in the greater University community.
Brett Beckerson is an RC senior and an intern at the Triangle Foundation.