Transgender group long overdue at UABy Beth Lindly | 03/18/2014 11:00pm
There are more than 250 student organizations at The University of Alabama. There are more than 250 ways to get involved if you’re creative, if you’re athletic, if you just want to get to know other UA students. Some of these have been around since our school’s inception in 1831. However, one very important group has unfortunately taken until this semester to become a reality – a support group for transgender students at the University.
Transgender (or trans) people are, to put it kindly, generally more marginalized than most people, even other minorities. Put aside Alabama’s historic unfriendliness towards its citizens who do not fit a certain look or concept of how people should be and just think about the reception of transgender people in our society today.
Their representation is improving slightly, with transgender celebrities such as runway model Carmen Carrera and “Orange is the New Black” actress Laverne Cox in the spotlight, but violence is still vastly disproportionate with transgender people compared to cisgender people (those who identify with the gender they were born). It is important that we recognize that the power structures inherent locally and in society as a whole, which are historically dominanted by those who identify as cisgender, are partly responsible for propagating gender bias.
The University of Alabama has not exactly been the forefront of open-mindedness, whether it in regarding race, gender or sexuality. However, regardless of your own personal beliefs regarding those with different gender identities than yourself, you’ve got to agree that every student at this school deserves to feel safe, accepted and well treated in their learning environment.
It is a basic human right to not have your own identity come under fire on a daily basis. Personal safety should not be a political discussion.
A trans support group at the University has been long-needed. It’s good that Spectrum, the campus LGBTQ group, has existed for 31 years, and it’s good that this support group is finally started, but it breaks my heart that it took this long. For heaven’s sake, we had Quidditch on the Quad before this group was started.
I am proud of certain University of Alabama faculty for facilitating this necessary change in our campus’ social landscape – believe me, I am. But ideally this group would have been instated years and years ago.
This group is new and young, but I have a feeling it will be an important catalyst in conversation at The University of Alabama regarding treatment and acceptance of transgender students. Too often the South has been on the wrong side of history when it comes to pretty much every social issue you can think of.
With any luck, this move will make our transgender brothers and sisters feel more accepted here, and in 31 years we will look back and wonder why we ever had to have this discussion in the first place. I can only hope.
Beth Lindly is a junior majoring in journalism. Her column runs biweekly.