New to Seattle Central, I’m floored by the availability of resources, the quality of the community, the depth of education and the amazing efforts of the teachers, staff, and students that keep the school thriving. It’s truly a privilege to be here. For all the unequaled exceptionalism, however, I look forward to more consideration given to the needs and concerns of transgender and gen- der-nonconforming individuals—true equality for all.
In the words of Ms. Swan from MAD TV, by all appearances I “look like a man”; I have the height, build and facial stubble of traditional males, but inside I’m 100% pure lady. Because I choose not to alter my appearance within con- ventional female norms, I’m patient with others who have limited experience interacting with transgender individuals, and am rooting for all people, regardless of any inward- or outward-fac- ing uniqueness to be their best selves. Whatever my personal intentions, however, certain facts must be acknowledged.
While the overall rate for attempted suicide among the general population is 4.6 percent, for transgender individuals the rate is nearly an or- der of magnitude higher, recently cited at over 40 percent (USA Today). Transgender individuals are particularly susceptible to mental health is- sues and face discrimination in housing, employ- ment and social services on par with the most marginalized groups in society. Their needs—es- pecially in an academic environment—must be respected.
This year the President of the United States broke ground by including transgender people in the State of the Union address, and reality stars and media attention have also brought more light to this issue. Seattle is home to the annual Gen- der Odyssey conference, and free resources like the Ingersoll Gender Center cater to the needs of transgender people. And, during the college’s recent Candidate Forum featuring City Council candidates Kshama Sawant and Pamela Banks, the very first question raised addressed transgen- der needs. Truly, this movement towards equality is gaining steam, and Seattle Central can contin- ue to be a leader by respectfully providing ser- vices to people of all genders.
Our school has already taken the initiative by providing gender neutral bathrooms (on the third floor of the Broadway Edison building), and can use this particular moment in history to provide a truly gender-equal environment by starting with action from senior leadership.
It begins with dialogue: establishing official opportunities for communication between var- ious groups and interests on campus is central to ensuring all voices are heard. By specifically making an effort to support transgender voic- es—in the same way the college has promoted exchanges and support for ethnic and racial mi- norities—Seattle Central can again be a leader in the equality movement.
Facing the ugliness of intolerance and bigotry is never easy, and Seattle Central can be a leader by establishing a Gender Equality Board. With the head leadership of our College endorsing healthy communication between all gender-expressions, and creating a college-sanctioned board pro- viding consistent, open dialogues for all gender identities, this school could become a beacon of hope for those facing gender-discrimination.
Seattle Central has taken tentative steps towards equality by providing gender-neutral restroom access. The next step, while more difficult, is just as necessary: creating safe, inclusive, non-judg- mental spaces for all voices to be heard. We need to listen to each other. The time is now, and with the support of Seattle Central College and senior leadership, life is about to improve for everyone.
By Paul Mansoor