I recently read the September 7th article “Prevention requires discussion: Sexual assault & harassment,” and while I agree that it is important to examine the way in which sexual violence is reported and investigated at TU, the article left me feeling upset and uncomfortable for different reasons.
The article begins with an account of the harassment of a transgender student who has since left TU. The experience of this student was rooted in her transness and the harassers’ transphobia, to the point where the harassers were calling her trans slurs and aggressively asking about her genitalia. The article however, besides relating the incident itself, addresses none of this.
Sexual harassment is, of course, an important issue, especially on TU’s campus, but when the only personal account you relate is one that is rooted in transness, you have an obligation to discuss the intersection of sexual harassment with transphobia, and specifically trans discrimination at TU. The experience of trans women is unique, and when you equivocate transphobia to the sexual harassment of cis women, you gloss over both an important facet of the discrimination they face, and a larger community issue.
Multiple studies estimate that 50% of trans people (including trans men and non-binary trans individuals) have experienced sexual violence. That’s three times more likely than the average American woman. While misogyny does inform and contribute to transmisogyny, the two are separate, nuanced issues that should be addressed as such.
It is horrible and unacceptable that a trans student was unable to complete her education at TU because of harassment and discrimination by the student body, especially given that TU’s anti-discrimination policy includes discrimination against students based on their gender identity. Unfortunately it seems that this, like so many other things (I’m looking at you Mark Ruffalo), is yet another instance of lip service to the trans community; the University claims to support trans people when it benefits them, but fails to deliver when it counts.
To be quite frank, the article itself, while not overtly discriminatory, is not much better. It co-opts a trans person’s story to support its own agenda, while ignoring the impact that transness had on the situation. It uses transmisogyny to support its condemnation of sexual harassment, while ignoring transphobia and the issues trans people face on this campus. The treatment of this student’s story unacceptably contributes to the invisibility and marginalization trans people are constantly forced to endure.