Sacramento State strives to become more gender-inclusive

Cailin Jessup

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California School Success and Opportunity Act, requiring all public schools to respect the identities of transgender and gender variant students, and to allow them to use the facilities and sports teams that align with their gender identities.

Though the law does not extend to the California State University system, Sacramento State has made efforts in recent years to become a more gender inclusive campus.

Representatives from the Multicultural, Women’s Resource and Pride Centers have been collaborating with Associated Students Inc. President Nielsen Gabriel and Vice President Erica Brown to find ways to make Sac State more accommodating for non-binary gender students.

One of the common issues for transgender students is not feeling safe using public restrooms.

“I’ve had a student confide to me that one semester they had all classes on a side of campus without a single occupancy bathroom,” Chris Kent, administrative support coordinator for the Pride Center, said. “They were there all day and had no safe place to use the bathroom.”

A survey done by the Multicultural, Women’s Resource and Pride Centers found there to be 12 gender neutral, single public occupancy bathrooms available to the campus. The eight restrooms in Student Health and Counseling are all single occupancy for the use of students and staff – five of them being gender neutral.

Other issues have to do with the way gender variant students are identified in the university systems.

“Most of the paperwork for classes and such don’t have boxes for preferred names,” Trevor Garcia-Neely, a student assistant at the Pride Center, said.

He said with only legal given names available for professors to see on their class rosters, transgender students may be put into the position of having to out themselves.

Lynn Hanna, chair of the Committee on Diversity and Equality, said there are no formal campus policies specific to transgender students, but the committee has a “long history of reviewing and recommending campus policies at the request of various campus entities.”

The Pride Center makes resources available to transgender and other lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, intersexual, agender and asexual students and also provides Safe Zone training to various campus groups and organizations, including housing staff.

“Safe Zone training is not mandatory, however we do include the Multicultural Center, Women’s Resource and Pride Centers into our social justice (Resident Advisers) training schedule, thus many of the core components of the Safe Zone training are covered,” Michael Speros, associate vice president for Campus Life, said.

As for housing accommodations, there are no gender neutral dorm rooms, but Draper and Sutter halls do have some single occupancy restrooms.

“We do work with students who identify as transgender if they contact us in order to find housing accommodations that are acceptable,” Speros said.

However, there are some steps being taken to provide more safe spaces and accommodation for gender variant students at Sac State.

Kent said when the Well was being built, the developers did take into account gender inclusive spaces, including private bathrooms, showers and changing spaces, but also said there needs to be more.

Other students feel progress toward gender inclusiveness on campus has been slow.

“Overall, there are just not enough services here on campus, but there are some that could be adapted,” Garcia-Neeley said. “There are good steps being taken, but there is no structure.”

Since the CSU system does not offer medical services specific to the needs of transgender and gender variant people, the Pride Center works with the Sacramento Gender Health Center, a non-profit organization that provides counseling and therapy services to the transgender community in the Sacramento region.

According to the Transgender Resource Guide, all staff members at Student Health Services are trained to treat transgender and gender variant students for basic health care.

The University of California system is the only California university system to provide medical coverage for gender transition-related health care, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

While Student Health Services does not offer prescribed hormone therapy, outside prescriptions may be filled at the on-campus pharmacy for reduced rates.

“It would be great for this law to lead to K-12 teachers being required to take training on gender variance and safe zoning so that other students become educated about this law, and avoid the misunderstandings about the law that the news coverage focused on,” Garcia-Neeley said. “I hopefully think that (the new law) will have a trickle effect on the university system.”