Madison Polkowitz / Gavel Media

Validating Gender Identity on BC's Campus

It’s no surprise that the name for the LGBTQ+ community has expanded in recent years. As the community grew to recognize more genders and sexualities, the acronym to represent the queer community also needed to evolve.

The Q+ was added to include those that were not represented in the shorter acronym. In the case of gender, this often includes people who identify as non-binary, meaning that they don’t consider their gender to be either exclusively male or female, and therefore don’t necessarily identify as transgender.

As the acronym changes to be more inclusive, many people are starting to become more inclusive as well. For example, using the correct preferred pronoun has become more common in recent years. But it is still easy for a cisgender person—one who identifies with the same gender that is assigned by their biological sex—to disregard this. Some do not realize the importance of using the correct preferred pronouns, while others don’t know how to best go about approaching the topic at all.

The Gavel reached out to Anumita Das (CSOM ’17), E-board member of Allies at Boston College, on the topic of preferred gender pronouns. Das advised, “It’s often helpful not to ask someone about their pronouns in a big group since you wouldn’t want to force anyone to out themselves or to lie. Asking for someone’s pronouns doesn’t have to be a big deal, but it’s important not to put someone in a position in which they would feel uncomfortable. It’s also important that we create a society in which it’s acceptable to introduce ourselves with our pronouns so that we normalize a more gender-inclusive environment.”

While society has become more gender-inclusive in recent years, we still have a long way to go. The issue of gender-neutral bathrooms has come up time and again in the courts, and, recently, the Trump administration withdrew federal protections for transgender students.

Although there is little chance that society will do away with gendered bathrooms in the near future, it’s not hard to add gender-neutral bathrooms in buildings. Still, providing gender-neutral bathrooms is just one step of many towards inclusion. Another step is allowing for gender-neutral housing on college campuses, allowing students to share a dorm space without regard to their gender. According to campuspride.org, 210 colleges and universities have an option for gender-neutral housing. At universities without this option available, students may feel limited in their options and even alienated.

“Given BC’s track record with LGBTQ+ issues, we’re doubtful that BC will pioneer the movement towards gender-neutral housing in schools,” says Das. “That being said, the influence of other Jesuit schools may be a contributing factor in the policies BC chooses to pursue in the future, and we would love to see steps toward more gender-neutral housing at our school.”

Change on college campuses is often slow, but progress is still being made. For example, many college applications now allow students to self-identify their gender when applying.

For cisgender people, having a safe space, one where your feelings are protected and validated, is often taken for granted. However, these students have the responsibility of moving past any initial hesitations and respecting all people the same way. As Das said, “[Using the correct preferred pronoun] is a way of recognizing that person and the identity that they associate with. As cis people, we often don’t think about our pronouns or the language we use, but we have to remember that there is an inherent meaning in the way we speak about people. By using the right pronouns, we are acknowledging their right to respect.”

 

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