By Lennox Orion
Transgender students at Simmons College feel discriminated against and unprotected as they face transphobia from faculty and peers.
Transgender students on campus face discrimination in the form of being misgendered or being deadnamed which has a significant impact on their academic performance.
Misgendering is the act of intentionally or accidentally using the incorrect pronouns for a person. Deadnaming is the act of using a person’s birth name instead of the name they currently use.
“I have been misgendered in my classes and it often makes me dread going to class, which in turn has a negative impact on my performance in those classes.” said first-year trans student, Allison Isaksen, on the effect of professors misgendering students.
No student should feel unsafe, but unfortunately many trans students at Simmons feel unsafe in their classes and dormitories.
Ari Robinson, President of the Trans and Non-binary Collective at Simmons, spoke on common microaggressions students face on a daily basis which undermine their safety and happiness at Simmons.
According to Robinson, many common microaggressions students face are people upholding the idea that there are only two genders, assuming every person at Simmons identifies as a woman, professors not asking pronouns, and people linking a person’s genitalia with gender identity.
The first is harmful because assuming that only two genders exist erases those who identify outside of the male and female binary.
The second microaggression assumes that every student is a woman which is problematic because it erases the identities and experiences of our students who are not women. And lastly, linking a person’s body parts with their gender leads to a lot of the violence trans people, especially trans women of color face.
Trans students can start to feel alone at Simmons and feel that there is no one fighting for them, but Susan Antonelli, Dean of Student Life, wants to change that. She wants trans students at Simmons to feel safe and wants them to know that if they feel unsafe there are people who can help.
Antonelli supports students who feel harmed by being misgendered saying, “Misgendering a student is dangerous because it’s as if they are being told that an important piece of their identity doesn’t matter, and thus they don’t matter.”
Antonelli hopes that students can come to her office if they need assistance with a professor or student being transphobic or the student can use the Bias Response Protocol sheet to report cases of bias.
But many trans students like Robinson and Isaksen want to see Simmons do more to make them feel welcomed.
They both note an important step is to ensure that it is known that Simmons is a women’s centered college and that our website reflects such by using gender neutral language and make it a commonplace to always ask for a student’s pronouns and preferred name.
Robinson wants incoming first-years to Simmons to know that they will have a community here; that the Trans and Non-binary collective will fight for their right to feel safe and respected on campus while students work towards a better and more inclusive Simmons.