Last year’s Year in Review highlighted the progression of LGBTQ student groups on campus, as well as LGBTQ rights nationally, as evidenced by the legalization of gay marriage in states across the country. This year, one part of that acronym that had been overlooked in the past emerged as a key priority and force for progress on Georgetown’s campus: transgender students.
For the first time in Georgetown’s history, a visible population of transgender students brought transgender issues to the attention of the wider Georgetown community. The willingness of these students to speak publicly about their experiences, coupled with structural changes to LGBTQ organizations, amplified the student body’s knowledge of the experience of transgender students.
At the beginning of the year, GU Pride added a trans* representative to its executive board, electing Celeste Chisholm (COL ’15) to the position. In her role, Chisholm, who is spending this semester in Japan, spoke frequently to campus media and led programming and advocacy.
“Once there was the very visible transgender rep position, as well as a more visible community, it encouraged The Hoya and the Voice to cover these issues, and that led to more transgender-led initiatives,” GU Pride President Thomas Lloyd (SFS ’15) said. “Part of it was by happenstance of having a larger out community, and part was action by Pride and other folks to make transgender issues a priority.”
LGBTQ Center Director Shiva Subbaraman connected changing attitudes at Georgetown to a changing climate nationally.
“There have always been trans students on campus, but I think the level of comfort and general level of openness around trans issues has certainly been more this year. Some of it has changed nationally — nationally there’s more awareness around trans issues,” Subbaraman said.
Lloyd identified several key moments for transgender rights over the course of the year, including a commitment to add a unisex bathroom to every floor of the Northeast Triangle Residence Hall and other dorms going forward, and a moment during the vice presidential debate in the Georgetown University Student Association executive race in which every candidate said his or her ticket would support gender-neutral housing.
Lexi Dever (COL ’16), the current GU Pride trans* representative, pointed to the importance of awareness over this year.
“People are more aware we exist, and we have a lot of things we have to deal with to have the same basic privileges other Georgetown students have,” Dever said.
Dever credited an article published in September for beginning the yearlong push for awareness of transgender issues. Later in the year, Dever authored a viewpoint further explaining the challenges transgender students face in everyday matters such as living with students of the same gender or changing their names through the University Registrar.
Over the next year, advocates for transgender rights expect to see greater push for policy changes as well as continued expansion of cultural acceptance. Dever met with university officials earlier this week to discuss easing the process of name changes for transgender students and removing quotations from changed names on university documents for all students who request such changes.
“Every year we hope it will get better and students will be more empowered to be who they are,” Subbaraman said. “Being trans is just part of who they are — that they’re not just present on campus as a trans person, that they’re present on campus as artists and musicians, and OAs and RAs and what they love to do.”