Office of LGBTQ Services holds transgender, non-binary education seminar

The seminar was held in response to a transphobic message outside a student's dorm room


 Faculty and students attend a transgender education seminar presented by Central Michigan University Provost Assistant Jon Humiston. 

Central Michigan University faculty and students attended a transgender and non-binary community education lecture on Dec. 4, sponsored by the Office of LGBTQ Services.

The event was held in response to an incident regarding a transphobic message that was written on a transgender student’s whiteboard outside of his dorm on Nov. 20.

The community was invited to a lecture presented by Special Assistant to the Provost Jon Humiston. He used his knowledge to shed light on the topic.

Humiston wrote his dissertation about the transgender and non-binary community, including what issues they face and concerns they have on a college campus. His dissertation was completed in February 2017, after networking with transgender students at a university, which he chose not to disclose for safety reasons.

Humiston based the study on ten students' personal experiences on a college campus. 

“There is a great understanding (over the transgender and non-binary community) especially among our staff and students and our graduate population, more so than the faculty on campus,” Humiston said. “So we’ve got a little bit of work to do.”

Humiston surveyed the students in his study for places they felt safe and unsafe on campus. The library, the LGBTQ office, and certain faculty member’s offices were chosen as physically and emotionally safe places for them. 

“The surprising thing to me was some of the places where the students didn’t feel safe. Alarmingly, the counseling center was considered for some to be unsafe," Humiston said. "Fraternity and sorority housing was among the unsafe ground, as well as during some times of the day on various parts of campus."

Humiston mentioned that during his study, a lot of transgender and non-binary students didn’t know about the campus resources available to them. 

“Both on the study campus and at CMU we should be updating our resources, offer more training like this, improve the gender-inclusive bathrooms,” Humiston said. “We can also be reaching out to students of those communities before they come to campus, so they feel welcome as they come to campus rather than them coming to us halfway through the semester.”

Faculty and staff at the seminar wanted to find out how they could help and become more open and approachable. 

Humiston said that everyone at CMU can recognize the various pronouns that some students might go by and ask what pronouns they are instead of guessing. 

Multiple faculty members at the seminar said they would like to be able to confidently send a student to a safe office or location like the LGBTQ services office and other safe spaces to make the student feel more safe. 

"It's important to get to know the students well, so they create a safe space with you and you can understand where other safe spaces for them are and you can, in turn, inform other students of those same spaces as well," said Luanna Goffnett, a residence hall director in Robinson and Barnes Halls.

Other points made during the lecture included recognizing the binary system in place at CMU when enrolling to CMU. Students must specify if they are female or male on the application. Humiston said that many student who don't identify as female or male often don't know which box to check. 

The university, however, is in the process of changing the naming system for student IDs and Blackboard accounts to show the students' non-legal name, if they choose. Students are currently not allowed to change their names from their legal names shown on IDs and Blackboard. 

A new resource for transgender and non-binary students at CMU is the “Trans@CMU” page. This page lists locations of gender-inclusive bathrooms around campus and other resources for students. The link to the page can also be found on the Office of LGBTQ Services homepage.