New K-State group aims to advocate for nondiscrimination

Riley Katz, junior in women’s studies, is an officer for the K-State Gender Collective, a new organization on campus. (Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

A new group at K-State, the Gender Collective, plans to advocate for members and “promote a better understanding and acceptance of gender diversity, expression and identity issues,” according to the group’s website.

The Gender Collective is an organization is “designed to provide a venue for individuals who are transgender, cross-gender, intersex, androgynous, gender variant or otherwise involved in activities, expressions or presentation that is divergent from their birth-assigned sex,” according to the LGBT Resource Center’s website.

“It’s a group that’s about both advocating for and providing a kind of social space for trans, gender-nonconforming, gender-fluid, students and community members both at K-State and in Manhattan,” Harlan Weaver, assistant professor of women’s studies and Gender Collective adviser, said.

The organization provides a safe place for students and community members to express themselves and their opinions and concerns, according to Gender Collective’s Feb. 3 meeting agenda.

“One of the really vital things going on with this organization is really building a community where folks can connect, support each other and fight the good fight together,” Weaver said.

The organization’s top priorities are advocacy for members and educational outreaches to K-State faculty, staff, students and the Manhattan community as a whole, according to the LGBT Resource Center’s website.

“It’s a good medium for making sure we get our concerns addressed, making sure we’re heard by the university,” said a member of Gender Collective, who wished to remain anonymous as she goes through her transition. “It’s easier to do that on a group basis rather than individually.”

One of the organization’s concerns is discrimination happening on K-State’s campus, according to Weaver and members of the club.

K-State’s nondiscrimination policy prohibits discrimination “based on race, color, ethnic or national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, ancestry, disability, genetic information, military status or veteran status.”

Some students will avoid using the restroom for an entire day in order to avoid harassment, which is a major concern, Weaver said. The organization is documenting instances of harassment that occur on campus.

“Some days I look like a boy,” Darcy Smith, junior in business management and Gender Collective member, said. “I’ve gotten weird looks, comments, whispers … girls will look at me and do a double-take as if to say, ‘Why are you in here?’ If you don’t have thick skin, it’s hard.”

To combat discrimination, the group is conducting a project that will map where all of the gender-neutral campus restrooms are located, with the end-goal being the addition of more gender-neutral spaces on campus, according to the group’s meeting agenda.

Making it easier and less expensive for students to change their name in the online system is another issue the organization is researching and advocating for, the meeting agenda said.

Currently, a “$20 nonrefundable replacement fee applies for replacement cards issued,” according to K-State’s ID replacement policy.

“Twenty dollars,” said Riley Katz, junior in women’s studies and Gender Collective officer who spearheaded the formation of the organization. “We’re talking about people who get fired from their job in this community because of their trans status. Having a preferred name is important to a lot of people, not just transgender and gender nonconforming, but in our case, outs us immediately.”

Aside from its political agenda, the new organization hopes to provide a safe community for individuals who don’t have one, according to the meeting agenda.

“I took intro to women’s studies and realized I wasn’t alone,” Katz said. “I just don’t want anyone to ever feel as alone as I did.”

The organization’s first event will be held on March 9 at 4:30 p.m. in McVay Family Town Hall in the Leadership Studies Building. Gender Collective, along with the LGBT Resource Center and the women’s studies department, will be screening the film “Tangerine.”

“Transgender and gender nonconforming individuals are people, too,” Katz said in a follow-up email. “We deserve to be treated as such. For all the trans and gender nonconforming students and community members: You are not alone.”

Hi there! I'm Emily Starkey. I'm a freshman in journalism and mass communications with the hopes of becoming a world-renowned photojournalist some day. I have big dreams of becoming the chief official White House photographer while dabbling in writing and drinking exorbitant amounts of coffee along the way.