Recently our 45th U.S. president reversed the transgender bathroom policy that Obama enacted to protected transgender rights. Under that policy the Education and Justice Departments’ joint guidance allowed students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identities.
Now, Trump allows states to decide whether or not they want to enforce the policy. If states choose not to, transgender students will have to use bathrooms they do not feel comfortable or safe in.
Soon following this announcement, President Drinan explained to the student body in an email that Simmons College will continue to support transgender rights.
Overall, the email was concise but got the message across. She stated her concern over the reversal but felt reassured that Massachusetts law would continue to protect the rights of students.
The email continued by saying that women’s colleges have a tradition of building supportive communities that protect everyone, including when people are being marginalized because of their gender.
The email ended by saying that Simmons welcomes gender identity and expression. Sounds good, right? Well no, not exactly. The problem in the email hides within the words chosen to convey support. The words actually had an opposite effect.
One poor word choice is the term “women’s college.” Multiple times the term “women’s college” appears as a reference to the type of school that Simmons represents. However, to truly be inclusive of transgender and nonbinary students, Drinan should have used the term “women’s-centered college.”
The difference is tiny but the lack of one word indicates so much. A women’s college implies that Simmons is a school for women while a women’s-centered college implies that Simmons is a school for a variety of people, but with a focus on women.
By not including the word “centered,” Drinan inadvertently did not represent the students she was trying to show support towards in the email. It is ironic that she missed this term, as Simmons is currently celebrating “Women-Centered College Week.”
Another poor choice in wording was the emphasis on the Massachusetts laws protecting students instead of Simmons protecting students. She said that Massachusetts’ laws should reassure us and will continue to protect our classmates.
It is again a small note but a significant one. Drinan is unintentionally stating that Massachusetts law is where students should find comfort and not Simmons College itself.
If she had said that Simmons will continue to protect transgender rights then it would have been better. Instead she only stated that Simmons will remain inclusive and strive for all students to feel included.
I am a cis woman. I am writing this editorial because some of my transgender and nonbinary friends did not feel supported when they read Drinan’s email. I, along with others, want to be in a community that knows how to properly communicate support to students and can acknowledge when they unconsciously make mistakes.
We are living in a time where our friends and classmates feel unsafe or unwelcome because Trump does not understand that they are human beings with rights. It will take effort to combat this ill treatment and we can start at the smallest levels.
Being aware of how words can isolate students is a good way to start. Attending rallies that support transgender and nonbinary rights is another action to undertake. Being the student who reminds professors to ask about preferred pronouns and not leave that task for someone else helps.
These are some small actions we can all do to improve our community here at Simmons: a women’s-centered college.