Transgender students, allies rally for solidarity, support on K-State campus

Riley Katz, senior in gender, women and sexuality studies and president of Gender Collective, speaks to the crowd that attended the K-State Family Call-In on Bosco Student Plaza on Feb. 27, 2017. Many voices from the community came to show support and speak out for the rights of transgender people. (George Walker | The Collegian)

The K-State Gender Collective and K-State Sexuality and Gender Alliance, as well as allies, rallied on Bosco Student Plaza Monday evening during a “K-State Family Call-In,” to show support for the bathroom and locker room rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

Samantha Sharpe, graduate student in biology, said the group hoped the rally would bring attention to policies and statements being made by those in the White House that are not inclusive to everyone.

“This rally is organized as a response to the executive statement that came out last week that the White House is no longer supporting the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that are in accordance with their gender,” Sharpe said. “That doesn’t influence the official policy of Kansas State University, but we feel like it might potentially embolden individuals to harass or endanger transgender students on campus.”

Holly Nelson, senior in anthropology, said there needs to be a sign of support from faculty and staff like President Richard Myers; Pat Bosco, vice president of student life and dean of students; Zelia Wiley, interim associate provost for diversity; and athletic director John Currie.

“We can’t keep falling back on the general non-discrimination policy,” Nelson said. “We need a statement — explicit policies. We need to know and we need clear verbal support. We know you don’t want any student to be harmed or hated on this campus, but do you see the specific struggle students are going through and are you going to do something about it?”

Nelson said action that should be taken by administration includes the addition of gender-neutral bathrooms, help in making the act of asking for someone’s pronouns normalized and using preferred names on class rosters.

“Right now there are 20 gender-singled restrooms on this campus,” Nelson said. “They could easily be made into gender-neutral bathrooms with a flip of a sign.”

Riley Katz, senior in gender, women and sexuality studies, said some students on the K-State campus have to live in fear because they do not know what restrooms they can use.

“In the past two weeks, I have heard from a handful of trans students here on this campus who are so afraid to go to the bathroom,” Katz said. “They are afraid to be assaulted. One student told me they waited seven and a half hours to go to the bathroom. These are people you see on a day-to-day basis. How is that OK? In any world, how is that OK? You can’t tell me that this is OK.”

Brandon Haddack, coordinator of the LGBT resource center, said it is not OK that K-State students are living in fear.

“Today, we have to have these conversations because we can’t allow our students to live in fear,” Haddack said. “We can’t allow a student to not feel safe because they don’t know where they can use a restroom. Everybody should be entitled to be able to use the damn restroom. There’s nothing normal about preventing someone from using the restroom, especially according to their gender identity.”

Hi, I'm Kaitlyn Alanis, former news editor for the Collegian and a May 2017 graduate in agricultural communications and journalism. I have never tried a hamburger and I hate the taste of coffee, but I love writing stories and sharing what I learn with our readers. By writing for the Collegian, I can now not only sing along when the K-State Band plays "The Band is Hot," but I also know that most agriculture students did not grow up on a farm, how to use an AED to save someone's life and why there is a bust of MLK Jr. outside of Ahearn Field House. Thanks for reading!