A conversation that is spiking curiosity and actions from universities across the nation is how to be inclusive to students who identify as transgender, so what is North Dakota State doing about it?
For Genesis Knoblach, an NDSU student who identifies as gender fluid, their days sometimes look a bit different than other students. For example, using the bathrooms. “When I have more masculine days, I feel like I’m invading a woman’s only space,” Knoblach said. “Everyone wants to go to the bathroom in peace, and I’m no exception.” They also define the difference between their gender identity and the broader term of “transgender” as: “Transgender is defined as anyone whose gender, the social role that they fit into, does not match their sex. Gender fluid is exactly how it sounds. My gender is not fixed and changes from day to day.”
Abbie Goldberg, the author of a study looking at how new policy implementation on campuses can improve the well being of transgender students, went into detail about how to adjust the university environment.
The purpose of her research was to help faculty understand the lives of transgender students, noting that well-intentioned professors often use gendered language that can make the classroom feel unwelcome to transgender students. Goldberg pushes professors to de-gender their classrooms, reminding professors that it only requires a change in consciousness and that it doesn’t cost a dime.
Goldberg also talked about how there are many pragmatic ways that universities can be more inclusive, such as highlighting the resources available to these students in the beginning of school year emails, and professors emailing classes ahead of time and asking what name they would like to go by. She also encourages universities to do the work to make professors more educated.
“I’m suggesting small, inexpensive changes,” Goldberg said. Other suggestions she has for universities is supporting and asking transgender students to step into leadership positions and making sure counselors and student health professionals are well versed in what it means to be transgender and to have resources available for those students.
When it comes to housing on campus, Goldberg had a few suggestions, such as signing up for roommates and letting students indicate whether they’re comfortable with being housed with a transgender person or offering single rooms if there are private medical considerations to take into account.
However, private rooms can come at an extra cost to students. Goldberg suggests universities minimize these extra costs as they can feel unfair to transgender students to assume that cost solely on the basis of their gender identity.
Other suggestions include gender inclusive apartments, rooms, suites, floors or halls that are not segregated by gender.
In regard to housing Knoblach said, “I personally have a single room in the health professions community this year. I have my own personal safe space if I need it, but I’m still living in a community with a variety of people who share the same passion of health care. That has honestly been perfect for me. The bathroom in our suite isn’t gendered, and we even have guys living on our floor, which makes me feel more comfortable that I’m gender fluid. I know that this isn’t the case for many dorms, but I truly think that I have a dream situation for dorm life as a trans person.”
Goldberg put an emphasis on visibility and accessibility for trans people and resources, additionally advocating for transgender administration if given the chance. She suggests this because it will help to make the community supported and help make staff better educated.
When reflecting on the NDSU community Knoblach said, “Please come and talk to me if you have questions. So many people are afraid to ask questions, but questions show that you want to come to a level of respect and understanding with a person. If you’re confused, I live with this experience every day and being able to have people who understand, care and want to do what they can to ensure that everyone feels safe and comfortable in our world is truly a blessing. So if you want to be one of those people, but don’t have the information or knowledge on how to do that, I am more than willing to be a part of that learning experience.”