Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's Happening Now

This week's post is a guest post from Jessica Pettitt, a nationally-known speaker on a variety of topics and founder of I am... Social Justice.

I have gotten 5 phone calls this fall from campus professionals needing assistance on reacting to a trans student joining a chapter or registering to go through formal recruitment. The NCAA reports receiving over 30 requests for guidance in dealing with trans athletes. Trans students, faculty, staff, and alumni happen – and it is happening now. Trans inclusion is a new concept for most campuses and even those that have gone as far as to add gender identity and expression into their non-discrimination policies haven’t done much since then. Even the most progressive campuses still have acts of violence, bias, hate, etc. Much like racism isn’t over, homophobia, heterosexism, sexism, etc., are alive and well. The conversation that needs to take place is how do these realities impact our campus climate and the fraternal movement.

Single gendered organizations are by definition groups of members based on the conflation of sex and gender. Title IX codes were developed to provided equal access for female/women in response to male/men inequitable funding. The inconsistent applications of sex and gender have made gender designation significantly more complicated than it should be. In response to this complication, some single gendered organizations have created definitions of the sex/gender requirements or expectations based on hormone levels or chromosomal make up of an individual. A new NCAA report recommends that trans athletes are able to perform based on hormone levels while also being able to identify and express their gender separately. The fraternal movement needs to contemplate these complications and develop a similarly simple policy.

For example, a student athlete can identify as a man, use male pronouns, have XX chromosomes, and not pursue a testosterone therapy treatment and compete on a women’s team. If this student does pursue testosterone therapy, he can request an exemption from NCAA and perform on a men’s team. A transwoman (a person labeled male at birth and XY chromosomes) student athlete can compete on a men’s team or after a year of testosterone blockers and/or estrogen hormone therapy, she can compete on a women’s team. Trans folks taking hormones regularly have their estrogen/testosterone levels checked, but like non-trans, or cisgendered, folks, rarely have their chromosomes checked. Cisgendered men and women rarely have their hormone levels checked unless they are experiencing fertility or menopausal concerns. My question to the NCAA, and to all of us within the fraternal movement is - are we willing to set policies based on blood tests? If so, all members (active and alumni) would need to be tested. We could also trust and respect how an individual identifies themselves and allow for someone to develop through membership to be themselves?

These questions, lead me and an intern, Sarah Fielding, to write a Trans Resource Guide for Fraternities and Sororities: Beginning the Conversation found at www.lambda10.org/transgender . We gathered narratives from trans students that contemplated going through recruitment, joined Panhellenic, IFC, and NPHC organizations, and alumni that are still actively involved with their chapters and campuses. Please read these with the respect they deserve. Due to the climate, names, institutions, and Greek organizations have been changed to offer anonymity to the authors. The voices included in this resource guide are from lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, and queer, students of color, gender queer students, transmen, transwomen, advisors, faculty, staff, current undergraduate students, graduate students, active alumni, and de-pledged sisters and brothers from local and national fraternities and sororities on small, medium, and large research institutions within the United States. We also pulled together a lot of resources to help support the trans advocates that are doing GREAT work within chapters, organizations, and on campus.

Gamma Alpha Omega, a NALFO affiliated sorority, contacted me over a year ago when a chapter wanted to extend membership to a transwoman. The chapter turned to the national leadership for guidance. After a long process of education and conversations, GAO now includes gender identity/expression to their non-discrimination policy. Kappa Delta Chi and Omega Delta Phi have followed suit. Even with a more inclusive non-discrimination policy in place – there is still a lot of work to do for members. I don’t think answers can be developed until the conversation is started.

Now what? Thank you for your work and in advance for starting this conversation. If you are interested in joining in for a one hour free webinar on trans inclusion within the fraternal movement, feel free to visit http://breakdrink.com/conference/trans-and-greek/

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