Fifty Shades of Gay

iO Tillett Wright has photographed 2,000 people who consider themselves somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum — and asked many of them: Can you assign a percentage to how gay or straight you are? Most people, it turns out, consider themselves to exist in the gray areas of sexuality, not 100% gay or straight. Which presents a real problem when it comes to discrimination: Where do you draw the line?

This talk was presented to a local audience at TEDxWomen 2012, an independent event. TED editors featured it among our selections on the home page.


7 Ways Title IX Protects College Students


For 45 years, Title IX has helped protect students from gender discrimination but recently the Trump Administration has been tweaking guidelines for the influential civil rights law.

First, Betsy DeVos’ Education Department withdrew protections for transgender students. Now, sexual assault survivors have to work harder to prove their assault happened.

Despite these changes, Title IX still benefits students. Here are a few groups the legislation helps.

1. Sexual assault survivors

The new Trump-era guidelines give colleges more power over sexual assault cases. This may not be the best idea, as universities across the country may under-report or even cover up sexual violence on campus.

Title IX has been used to protect survivors. Though its standards are weakening, the legislation is still there.

2. Transgender people

Former President Barack Obama used Title IX to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that matched their gender identities.

The Departments of Education and Justice withdrew this guidance earlier this year. Yet, as the National Center for Transgender Equality clarifies, “The guidance itself didn’t change the law or create protections for transgender students that weren’t there before. It just clarified how the Department of Education would be enforcing existing laws.”

Essentially, trans students are still protected. After all, sex discrimination is sex discrimination.

3. Pregnant students

Whether they’re newly pregnant, getting an abortion or giving birth, pregnant students have legal protections.

Under Title IX, students facing pregnancy-related issues should be given the accommodations that students with temporary disabilities would get. For example, professors need to excuse pregnancy-related absences otherwise, they’re in violation of Title IX.

4. Student athletes

We often talk about Title IX in the context of school sports. Indeed, the law does protect student athletes of all genders.

Women’s sports need to get the same funding and resources as men’s sports, according to the law. However, a Vice investigation found many big-name colleges disproportionately favor their men’s programs anyway.

5. Bullying and harassment targets

If bullies target someone for their gender, Title IX has their back. As the National Women’s Law Center notes, this protects women targeted by sexually explicit gossip, and also protects men from getting harassed with sexist and homophobic names like “fairy.”

Schools need to take action on bullying and harassment incidents or they will fall foul of the law.

6. Math and science scholars

Before Title IX, colleges steered women away from majors in math and science.

Although the gender gap in STEM persists today, the law ensures someone can’t be pushed out of their chosen study because of their gender.

7. Those Who File Complaints

Legally, colleges aren’t allowed to retaliate against those who file Title IX complaints.

If you experience or witness sex discrimination in higher education, the Women’s Law Center has some good tips to help you.

The Human Rights Campaign is also supporting a Care2 petition to urge the Trump Administration and Betsy DeVos to protect LGBT students through Title IX.

And if you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.




Obama administration links bathroom bills to Title IX funds

  • bathroom sign

(CNN) —The Obama administration will issue guidance Friday directing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.

A joint letter from the Departments of Education and Justice will go out to schools on Friday with guidelines to ensure that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment,” the Obama administration said on Thursday.

The announcement comes amid heated debate over transgender rights in schools and public life, which includes a legal standoff between the administration and North Carolina over its controversial House Bill 2. The guidance goes beyond the bathroom issue, touching upon privacy rights, education records and sex-segregated athletics, all but guaranteeing transgender students the right to identify in school as they choose.

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. “This guidance gives administrators, teachers and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies.”

The letter does not carry the force of law but the message was clear: Fall in line or face loss of federal funding.

Justice and Education Department officials have repeatedly made clear that under their interpretation of Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law in education, schools receiving federal funds may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status.

“The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX,” the administration said Thursday.

LGBT groups praised the announcement, calling it a validation of transgender rights and a repudiation of so-called “bathroom bills” that ban people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex.

“These groundbreaking guidelines not only underscore the Obama administration’s position that discriminating against transgender students is flat-out against the law, but they provide public school districts with needed and specific guidance guaranteeing that transgender students should be using facilities consistent with their gender identity,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.

“This is a truly significant moment not only for transgender young people but for all young people, sending a message that every student deserves to be treated fairly and supported by their teachers and schools.”

The letter emphasizes the departments’ shared position that schools must treat transgender students the way they want to be treated based on their gender identity, regardless of how others may feel about it.

Schools should let transgender students use bathrooms, locker rooms and other sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity, according to the guidance. Staff should address transgender students by their preferred names and pronouns. Schools cannot require students to have a medical diagnosis, undergo any medical treatment, or produce a birth certificate before treating them consistent with their gender identity, the guidance states.

“As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex,” the letter says.

The guidance takes the same approach to the bathroom issue: A school may provide gender-separated facilities but it must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity. If a school opts for individual stalls it must make them available to all students.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said the letter comes in response to request from schools and parents seeking guidance.

“This guidance further clarifies what we’ve said repeatedly — that gender identity is protected under Title IX,” he said. “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.


Dept. of Education: Yes, Title IX Protects Trans Students

The Department of Education is poised to release on Friday its most detailed guidelines to date explaining the obligations that schools receiving public funding have to their transgender students.

These obligations include respecting the gender identity of transgender students by using the student’s preferred name and pronouns, and ensuring them access to sports teams, educational opportunities, and sex-segregated facilities that correspond with their gender identity, according to a draft of the DOE letter obtained by The Advocate. 

The letter, which will be sent Friday to public K-12 schools nationwide, as well as to colleges and universities that receive federal funding, plainly defines a school’s responsibilities to its trans students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools that receive any public funding.

“This prohibition encompasses discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status,” reads the letter. “For purposes of the Department’s enforcement of Title IX, as explained in more detail in this letter, a student’s sex is determined by the student’s gender identity.”

The document further affirms that schools must use a student’s preferred name and pronouns, regardless of what is listed on the student’s official school records or government-issued identification. It notes that transgender individuals — especially young people — are frequently unable to attain updated legal documents, either because the state they live in does not allow such changes, because the student’s parents or guardians are not supportive of their identity, or because updating such documents is often time-consuming, costly, and frequently not an option available to people under the age of 18.

The letter, signed by DOE officials and members of the U.S. Department of Justice, is deemed a “significant guidance document,” though it is not legally binding. It builds on legal interpretations of Title IX’s trans inclusions long advanced by the Obama Administration, and marks the most direct instruction the federal agency has provided to schools since it issued a (much shorter) memo on the same issue in 2014.

The guidance comes in the same week that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch delivered a historic speech affirming the civil rights of transgender Americans, promising that the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration will use its full force to put a stop to anti-transgender discrimination. Lynch (pictured above with Education Secretary Arne Duncan) also announced during that speech that the DOJ had filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina for its discriminatory law known as House Bill 2, which, among other things, bars transgender people from using restrooms and locker rooms in government-run spaces that correspond with their gender identity.

The letter goes on to define several basic terms regarding transgender identities, many of which have been widely misinterpreted in the wake of controversial laws in North Carolina and Mississippi, which bar transgender people from using public facilities that match their gender identities.

The draft letter’s “terminology” section reads:

“Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender.  A person’s gender identity may be different from or the same as the person’s sex assigned at birth.

Sex assigned at birth refers to the sex designation recorded on an infant’s birth certificate should such a record be provided at birth.

Gender expression refers to how individuals represent their gender to others, often through appearance or behavior.

Transgender describes those individuals whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. A transgender male is someone who identifies as male but was assigned the sex of female at birth; a transgender female is someone who identifies as female but was assigned the sex of male at birth.”

The letter primarily focuses on the implementation of Title IX’s protections against sex-based discrimination in educational settings, stressing that the Department of Education “treats a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for the purposes of Title IX.”

“This means that a school must not treat transgender students differently from the way it treats other students of the same sex,” continues the draft letter. “For example, a school must treat transgender female students the same way it treats other female students.”

Federal funding, including financial aid, is generally tied to a school’s compliance with Title IX, except in cases where a school has obtained a waiver — often seeking a religious exemption. As a condition of receiving those federal funds, schools must guarantee that they will not “exclude, separate, deny benefits to, or otherwise treat differently on the basis of sex” any student attending the institution.

The letter instructs that a school must accept and affirm a student’s gender identity from the moment administrators are notified by the student’s parent or guardian. This affirmation includes providing equal access to the appropriate sex-segregated activities and spaces, including locker rooms and bathrooms.

Crucially, the letter notes that schools may not require any student to undergo any clinical, surgical, or mental health treatment as a condition of the school accepting the student’s affirmed gender identity. Schools also may not require that transgender students produce an updated birth certificate that reflects their gender identity as a condition of having that identity respected on campus. Such requirements constitute a violation of Title IX, the draft letter explains.

Further, the Department is clear that objections by other students, parents, or faculty to a transgender student’s identity are not legally sufficient reasons to deny that student equal access. In responding to such objections, the school cannot place “a greater burden on transgender students than other students.” Schools may address concerns about privacy in locker rooms or bathrooms by allowing all students access to alternate facilities, like single-stall restrooms, however a school may not require that only the transgender student use a separate facility.

“Discomfort with transgender people expressed by anyone, inside or outside of the school community, cannot justify denying transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities or treating transgender students inconsistent with their gender identity,” reads the draft letter.

The letter goes on to outline “common issues” that schools and administrators may face when working to support transgender students, including ensuring a “safe and nondiscriminatory environment,” using correct names and pronouns, protecting a transgender student’s privacy (including their birth name and sex assigned at birth) and ensuring equal access to sex-segregated activities and facilities.

While Title IX does allow for sex-segregated facilities, athletic teams, housing, and in some cases, entire schools, the draft letter is adamant that transgender students be granted access to such spaces that correspond with their gender identity.

In an example that seems pulled from the headlines of a drawn-out legal battle in Palatine, Illinois, where a transgender girl was barred from using the girl’s locker room and bathroom, and instead required to use a separate staff bathroom to change for class, the letter explains:

“A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity (e.g., a school may not require a transgender female student to use the male restroom) or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so. A school may, however, make individual-user facilities available to all students who seek additional privacy.

“For example, the Department may find a violation where a school requires a transgender student to use the nurse’s office to change for gym class. In that scenario, one nondiscriminatory way in which to accommodate any privacy concern would be to allow the transgender student to access the locker room consistent with the student’s gender identity and, if necessary, make other arrangements to increase privacy for all students without isolating or burdening the transgender student, such as rearranging locker assignments, hanging privacy curtains, or providing all students with access to individual-user alternatives.”


Preferred Name Information

For schools working with students transitioning,  the issue of name change can be a complicated one. Laws vary from state to state. Here is how one university handles name changes.


Preferred Names

Statement of commitment to inclusion

In support of the University of Pennsylvania’s commitment to providing an equitable and safe experience for students whose birth name and/or legal name does not reflect their gender identity and/or gender expression, Penn accepts requests from such students to use a preferred first and/or middle name in University records.  A student’s preferred name can and will be used where feasible in all University systems unless the student’s birth name and/or legal name use is required by law or the student’s preferred name use is for intent of misrepresentation.


Transgender, gender nonconforming, gender variant, and non-cisgender students who wish to designate a preferred name should fill out the Preferred Name Change Form. Students wishing to change a birth name and/or legal name to a preferred name must meet with one of the following designated University Life trans* allies to discuss the scope and limitations of the preferred name request:

Karu Kozuma, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs, 215-898-6081

Erin Cross, Associate Director, LGBT Center, 215-898-5044

Rodney Robinson, Associate Director, Office of Student Affairs, 215-898-6533


Although the University is committed to supporting students in the trans* community, it is important to understand that designating a preferred name for use at Penn DOES NOT constitute a legal name change. A student’s birth name and/or legal name will continue to be used on certain University documents. Preferred first and/or middle names may be designated. The University is unable to designate a preferred surname without documents showing that the surname has been changed legally by a court or government entity.

Students interested in changing their name legally can find resources through local government or the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia.


Can all Penn students request to change their designation from a birth name and/or legal name to a preferred name? At this time, the Preferred Name Change process is only available to transgender, gender nonconforming, gender variant, and non-cisgender individuals and only for first and/or middle names.

I would like to talk to someone about changing my name in Penn systems to my preferred name. Please contact one of the above University Life trans* allies.

I am a student and made a legal name change. How do I communicate this legal name change to the University?Legal names can be updated through the University Registrar.


Copyright © All Rights Reserved · Green Hope Theme by Sivan & schiy · Proudly powered by WordPress