Trans* Activists Face SJB Hearing Today

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Last month, an undetermined number of students ripped off gendered bathroom signs around campus, replacing them with paper “All Gender Bathroom” signs. Three students were referred to the SJB for the removal of these signs, despite a lack of concrete evidence that any of them participated in the degendering process. The three students are being tried by the SJB today, where they face thousands of dollars in fines, untold judicial sanctions, and — despite the fact that their guilt remains undetermined — one has already lost their work-study job.

The following press release emerged yesterday and has begun cropping up around Tumblr and other social media websites since then. In addition, an alumni letter calling for solidarity with the accused activists has been making its rounds gathering signatures. The hearing will take place today at 4:30 PM in North College. Check back here to see how it goes.

The full text of the press release, for your reading pleasure.

The self-proclaimed “Diversity University” is at it again! Wesleyan University, located in Middletown, Connecticut, is prosecuting three trans/gender-nonconforming students for taking political action to address transgender discrimination on campus. This comes just one year after the University reversed their need blind admission policy, and a rash of racial profiling by the campus police, Public Safety.

On Wednesday, December 4th, Wesleyan University will be holding a disciplinary hearing against the three aforementioned trans/gender-nonconforming students. The charges against the three stem from actions taken this October to “degender” public restrooms. These students are being targeted because of their visibility in these actions and in the LGBTQ community on campus, despite no evidence that they are indeed responsible for the $5,245 in fines they are facing.
Beginning this October, Wesleyan students began removing gender signs from public restrooms across campus. In place of the gender signs, they posted new all gender signs as well as manifestos which explained their actions: “We demand that Wesleyan University stop segregating bathrooms along gender lines and provide all-gender bathrooms in all buildings in the University. We believe gender-segregated bathrooms create uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations for trans and gender-variant presenting people. We believe gender-segregated bathrooms reinforce trans* invisibility at Wesleyan.”

The manifesto was signed by an anonymous group “Pissed Off Trans* People,” and the group provided manifestos and all-gender signs available for download online. The materials soon had over 200 downloads and many students outside of the original group were participating on their own.

The charges stem from one incident in the student center when a university employee stopped a group of five students suspected of degendering two restrooms. From this moment on things got confusing. Only three of the five students have been brought up on charges and face disciplinary consequences. These three students are being singled out for punishment because of their visibility in the LGBTQ community and are being forced to carry the weight of all degendering activism on campus this semester.

The entire disciplinary process has been mired with confusion and secrecy.

After several meetings with University administrators, the accused students have been met with hostility and obstinance. Administrators have made it difficult to obtain basic information necessary for the students to defend themselves including public safety reports and the calculation of the $5,245 fine. Two of the accused students weren’t even informed they were being charged until several weeks after the incident.

While the three trans/gender-nonconforming students were meeting with various administrators, they frequently received contradictory information. Even such basic information as the extent and specific of their charges were unclear. The judicial process has been inconsistent and has resulted in a chaotic and isolating experience, leaving them unable to adequately defend themselves and putting unneeded stress on students during the final weeks of the semester.

In addition to these inconsistencies and frustrations the basis of these charges have been questionable at best. The indictment of the three trans students is based on the notion of preponderance: the assumption that one piece of evidence is sufficient to prove a guilty verdict, and that the accused are guilty unless proven innocent. Although there is only evidence that the three trans/gender-nonconforming students were present at the sign removal in the campus center, they are being charged for the removal all the bathroom gender signs on the entire university campus.

Finally, in the middle of the proceedings and negotiations with the administration the fine was nearly doubled from about $3,000 to over $5,000. The fine breaks down to $157 per sign plus additional unexplained fees. This calculation comes in spite of an offer from mydoorsign.com to donate all-gender signs to the University for free.

The nature of these proceedings has indicted the accused students as guilty from the outset and has served to make an example of students who decide to transgress the rules that govern public space and take direct political action to alleviate the oppression faced by trans/gender-nonconforming and LGBTQ students on campus.

The trial takes place this Wednesday, December 4th at 4:30 pm, in the North College administrative building.

For more links for Wesleying’s past coverage on this issue, click below.

Additional links:
“Complete Bullshit”: An Update on the Trans* Degendering Bathrooms Situation
LiveBlog: Open Forum on Gender-Neutral Bathrooms and Trans* Activism
“All Gender Bathrooms Now” – Pissed Off Trans* People on the DIY Gender Neutralizing of Wesleyan’s Bathrooms

16 thoughts on “Trans* Activists Face SJB Hearing Today

  1. Pingback: SPECIAL EDITION: Trans*action on Trial | Hermes

  2. Everyone counts

    First off, as a comment on the cost- it’s ridiculous but similar to the government, universities tend to overpay for everything so signs priced at $100+ aren’t totally surprising.

    But more importantly, I think it would be really useful to frame this discussion in a less dichotomous way. A few weeks ago an article in the Argus pointed out that there are reasons beside enforcing social norms that favor gendered bathrooms- most notedly, that those who have experienced sexual assaults would feel as threatened in a de-gendered bathroom as a trans* person in a gendered one. Another issue that needs to be worked out is accommodating faculty and staff who might have more traditional views that make them uncomfortable in de-gendered bathrooms- which is a valid point, and their unions are powerful enough to have leverage in the decision.

    If we’re serious about this issue and making everyone feel comfortable then we should have an open discussion, as we did with the racial profiling issues last year (this article seems to purposely ignore the campus-wide forum series devoted to that issue, which changed how PSafe handles emails) because what’s going on now is merely dividing people and excluding the average Wesleyan student from even entering the conversation.

  3. Miles

    I can’t believe that was classified as a “press release”. Clearly sensationalist, oversimplifying and mislabelling facts. If these asshats can’t win anyone over with their argument without blatantly lying, no wonder they have to resort to vandalism.

    This whole thing is embarrassing.

    1. Trans* Ally

      What’s embarrassing is your ignorance and spite. Why do you even go to Wesleyan if you call people who fight oppression “asshats”?

      1. Miles

        lololol this is hilarious. “Oppression”. What’s oppressing is having to sit through this bullshit.

    2. Ross Levin

      Hi, I’m one of the authors of the press release. If you point out anything in the press release that might be a lie, please do say what it is. I can assure you, though, that everything is true. If any of it seems confusing, it is because this has been a confusing process and we are merely relaying what happened from our point of view, which is totally legitimate (why do I even need to affirm that it’s legitimate?). It is no doubt shocking to some that the administration would do something like this, but it’s time to face the facts–despite their effort to come off as our friendly neighborhood administrators, and despite many of their good intentions, the people in North College are part of a huge industry and millions of dollars and desire for order are very, very powerful.

  4. trans* ally

    i have been nervously refreshing facebook and wesleying since 6 pm – anyone know how this turned out???? praying that the SJB took a close look at the lack of evidence against their fellow students and decided that a 5K fine was absurd

    1. person who was at the thing

      we don’t know yet! they don’t release the verdict until a bit later (a day later maybe?)

  5. Confused

    Couple of things I’m confused about in this article:

    “These three students are being singled out for punishment because of their visibility in the LGBTQ community and are being forced to carry the weight of all degendering activism on campus this semester.”

    Can someone clarify what this means? Is this referring to the fact that these three are not cis-gendered or that they host a lot of LGBTQ events etc.

    Second question:
    “These students are being targeted because of their visibility in these actions and in the LGBTQ community on campus, despite no evidence that they are indeed responsible for the $5,245 in fines they are facing.”

    “The indictment of the three trans students is based on the notion ofpreponderance: the assumption that one piece of evidence is sufficient to prove a guilty verdict, and that the accused are guilty unless proven innocent.”

    So first off, it seems like these statements are contradictory, unless (and again, just looking for clarification) the first statement is referring to lack of evidence of all the OTHER de-genderings besides the one that resulted in the SJB hearings. Is that what this article means?

    Second, the article also states that the in the case that triggered the SJB hearings was when one university employee stopped the de-gendering of a restroom. I thought I had heard (not sure if from word or mouth or another wesleying article) that there had been video evidence that caught these students? Is this really just the result of one person picking five others out?

    Last:
    “The fine breaks down to $157 per sign plus additional unexplained fees.”
    How many signs were taken down? I know this may seem loaded but I feel as though the article is making the gap seem larger than it is. I’m sure there is a gap, and I’m sure it’s unfair, but I can’t see it being a full $3-4k. (Unless I’m wrong and less than 10 signs have been removed in which case, sorry, I’ll shut up now.)

    Sorry for the long post, just found several points in this article confusing.

    1. Confused

      Yeah, from the “update” Wesleying article:

      “There is video of them entering and exiting Usdan with the de-gendering materials, and a witness who didn’t see them take down the signs, but did see them by the bathrooms right before the signs were removed.”

      Can someone clarify what the actual evidence is and which article is correct?

    2. Cis in solidarity

      Clarification: Five students were seen in the vicinity of the Usdan bathroom with tools, but no one saw them take down the Usdan bathroom signs. They are being charged with that sign and ALL the signs on campus with that one piece of “evidence”. Out of the 5 students, the 3 that are being tried identify as trans*. The 2 not being tried identify as cis (to my knowledge).

      For the fine, there is lots of fuzzy math that the university won’t explain. In addition to the cost of the signs, they are charged for labor to put the signs back up and other unknown “miscellaneous” fees. (And it’s ridiculous that the university wants trans* students to pay for signs that exclude them.) Also, where are they buying signs that they cost $157?

      1. Confused

        ^Thanks for the first clarifications, I’m still not clear on the fine. I was asking if there was a way to know how many signs were taken down so that we could see HOW BIG the gap between the university and non-university estimates is.

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