BY LESLIE WEBB
Central Washington University, a four-year comprehensive state university, has taken a number of
steps to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students and staff. Administrative
advocacy, student-led initiatives, and institutional support are
three primary factors that led to critical improvements in
student life and campus inclusivity. The following examples
reflect recent improvements Central Washington University
• Expanded university non-discrimination policies to
include gender identity and gender expression
• Inaugural student LGBT Leadership Conference in
NASPA Region V
• Advisory board through NASPA to sustain a regional
LGBT conference (with Washington State University)
• Named as one of the Top 100 colleges in the nation for
LGBT students by The Advocate’s College Guide
• Implementation of a bias response plan for students
• Strengthening of the LGBT student organization through
leadership and advising
• Implementation of a campus Safe Space program
• Creation of an LGBT Initiatives program under the
multicultural services model
• Training for mental health professionals on gender identity issues
Senior student affairs officers (SSAOs) might consider the
following key areas when conducting an environmental scan
and broadening institutional support for the LGBT population.
Policies and Procedures Is the university nondiscrimination policy inclusive of gender identity and gender expression?
Are inclusive housing options available? Are nonbinary
options included on university forms?
Services/Resources Are health and counseling services
open to the needs and concerns of transgender and
genderqueer students, including access for non-operative,
pre-operative, and post-operative students? Is the campus
student organization supportive of transgender issues? Are
campus spaces, such as gender neutral restrooms, functional
Programming and Events Do programs create awareness
and education about transgender and genderqueer issues?
Does the campus provide programs to address the gender
binary? Are safe discussion groups available for transgender
Climate Are there qualitative and quantitative methods for
surveying the needs of the transgender population? How does
the university score on existing climate indexes, such as the
Genius Index or LGBT Friendly Campus Climate Index?
Have we adopted a false sense of accomplishment in the
absence of observable climate tensions?
We cannot put the LGBT population in a box to better
understand individuals’ needs. We cannot memorize the most
current definitions or emerging theories to fully comprehend
the complexity of gender identity and gender expression. But
we can recognize that our knowledge and understanding of
the transgender student is evolving. We must move beyond
the superficial notion of campus climate and dig into the
reality of the daily student experience. Our students’ collective
and individual stories provide the insight and direction we
need to guide current and future campus efforts.
Leslie Webb is assistant vice president for strategic planning and assessment, student affairs, and enrollment management at Central
Washington University. Jesse Nelson, director of the David Wain Coon
Center for Excellence in Leadership at Central Washington University,
contributed to this article.
gender identities and create frameworks for
leveraging ongoing attention to transgender
issues on campus.
“I expected that my supervisor and co-workers would
be supportive or at least accepting. So far, I have
received positive experiences even beyond my expectations. I had a discussion with my immediate supervisor
which went great, where she assured me that my job
and our working and personal relationships were not
dependent on my gender.”
Beginning the Journey
The five areas outlined mark the beginning
of the journey to address concerns of transgender individuals. The reality is that
genderism—with its accompanying system
of explicit and implicit rules and rewards
and punishments for conforming to narrow
norms of masculinity and femininity—harms all of us. The
impact on transgender persons is particularly horrific.
Discrimination, violence, harassment, and even murder are all
too commonplace fears of transgender individuals.
Student affairs staff members who are charged with
providing the best services for all students, inclusive of every
characteristic they might present, deserve the same levels of
support. Student affairs staff should not have to prematurely
leave a campus that does not support issues of identity.
Hopefully, the notion that “boys don’t cry” will become as
Anonymous MTF Student Affairs Professional
archaic, absurd, and as unthinkable as firing people because
they are different.
Ronni Sanlo is a professor and director of the M.Ed. in Student Affairs
program and is the director of the LGBT Center at the University of
California, Los Angeles.
Brent Bilodeau is the director of the LGBT Center at Michigan State
University and is engaged in research on genderism and transgender
issues on campus.