Yesterday the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education issued a new “Dear Colleague” letter that rescinds the previous guidance of these two agencies on the rights of transgender students in educational institutions. We write today to offer support to our transgender students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and to ensure that all members of our community are familiar with the resources that Wake Forest offers to the LGBTQ community.
Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Last May’s “Dear Colleague” letter provided schools with practical advice on how to protect the rights of transgender students by complying with case law under the Title IX sex discrimination law. Yesterday’s letter instructs schools to ignore that guidance.
It is important to note that Title IX has not gone away, and transgender students are still protected by federal law, a position supported by two decades of case law and reaffirmed last year by the Departments of Justice and Education. For a more detailed analysis of Title IX and its implications for transgender students, please see the FAQ produced by the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Here at Wake Forest, students are protected not just by Title IX, but by our institutional commitment to equity and inclusion. The following are specific ways in which the university seeks to support and affirm the rights and dignity of our transgender students:
- Our university non-discrimination policy includes gender identity and expression, and we are committed to providing safe and inclusive spaces for all students;
- All-gender restrooms are available throughout the Reynolda and Wake Downtown campuses;
- Gender neutral housing is available for students through Residence Life and Housing;
- The LGBTQ Center, located in Benson 311, maintains an open lounge and study space for all students, and offers support, education, and advocacy to all LGBTQ students. The Center hosts a monthly discussion group for trans and gender non-conforming students, Trans/Action, which will meet on March 15 and April 19 at 6:30 in the Center;
- Students can also look for Safe Zone members across the campus; these are students, faculty, and staff who have participated in the Safe Zone workshop and committed to working for a more inclusive Wake Forest and providing safe space to members of the LGBTQ community.
In addition to these campus resources, there are a number of resources for transgender people in the Winston-Salem community as well. PFLAG Winston-Salem meets monthly and provides support for a number of trans youth and their families. The Northstar LGBTQ Community Center runs a support group for trans people, and Pride Winston-Salem is hosting a meet and greet for the trans community on Saturday, February 25th, at 5:00 pm.
If you are in need of help, support, or a referral to more specific resources, please reach out to us. We will continue to work together to ensure that all students on our campus are valued, protected, and treated with dignity and respect.
Angela Mazaris, Director, LGBTQ Center
Kayla Lisenby, Program Coordinator, LGBTQ Center