Transgender Q&A


What does "gender identity or expression" mean? Should I be aware of other terms?

Gender identity is a person's internal sense of their own gender, whether that's male, female or something else entirely. This internal identity may or may not correspond to one's physical sex characteristics, and may also be expressed in the person's clothing, hairstyle, name, mannerisms or the pronouns with which the person chooses to be identified. The term also includes transgendered individuals, or those who were assigned one sex at birth, but now present themselves as a different gender and who live a large part of their lives in this different gender.

More transgender and gender variant terminology

Why does Swarthmore need to protect this form of discrimination?

To date, over 80 colleges and universities, 12 states + D.C., and more than 100 cities and counties nationwide have implemented such a policy. In March 2006, the Borough of Swarthmore also expanded its protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations to include "gender identity and expression". As such, the borough ordinance requires Swarthmore to be in compliance. Notwithstanding the borough's ordinance, adding gender identity protection further enhances Swarthmore's policy of fairness and equality for our community members and those who seek to become apart of the academic and employment life of the College.

Doesn't protecting sexual orientation already protect transgender people?

Not really. Sexual orientation and gender identity are two distinct concepts, that are not synonymous. A person's sexual orientation refers to who the person is attracted to physically, emotionally, romantically, and sexually, while a person's gender identity represents the person's internal sense of their own gender. A person's outward expression of their gender identity, likewise does not necessarily reflect their sexual orientation.

How do I address or refer to a transgender or transitioning person?

There are no absolute answers. It is best to echo back the language you hear them using to describe themselves. It is often (but not always) more respectful to use pronouns referring to their presentation gender, not their assumed physiology. Remember when in doubt, ask! If you are well intentioned and have presented a non-judgmental approach, the question should be well received.

If I am transgender or transitioning, what's my responsibility to others?

Inform others of your preferences and let them know if and how you would like information about your preferences to be shared. Recognize that this may be a growth process for them, as well. Be patient, especially with those who are making a sincere effort to be respectful and fair.

Where can a transitioning person go for support at Swarthmore?

The Equal Opportunity Office along with all of the following can provide support to a person who is transitioning.

Resources for employees
Human Resources
Carebridge is Swarthmore's employee assistance program.
Employees can call 1(800) 437-0911 at anytime, 24 hours a day.

Resources for students
Dean's Office
- especially the Gender Education Office, the ICC, the Registrar's Office, Psychological Services, & these student organizations: SQU, QSA, NOTA

What changes can I expect to see at Swarthmore?

Very little will be noticeable to the vast majority of us, but here are some specific changes:

  • Employees and students will have an opportunity to more specifically identify their gender. In forms, "Gender: ____________" will replace male and female check boxes.
  • Preferred names may be reflected in non-legal documents and files, such as class lists, commencement programs, wellness logs for employees.
  • Incoming students are now being asked on their housing questionnaire if they are "transgender friendly" - used for roommate matching. Also, more gender neutral housing spaces are now available.
  • A few gender specific, single stall bathroom signs may be changing to "Restroom" in the near future. Lots of gender neutral, single stall restrooms already exist around campus in nearly all of our buildings.

Does my department need to make any changes?

Most departments should review any forms, policies, and practices that solicit name or gender information from others. Try to spot potential obstacles for transgender students, employees, alumni, etc. and make changes accordingly. Feel free to contact the EOO for an assessment, if you are still concerned about how your department's practices might be affected. Together, we will determine if any changes need to be made.

Where are gender neutral restrooms located on campus?

Please see Gender Neutral Restrooms for the complete listing or download the Printable version [PDF]

How can I learn more about transgender issues?

The Transgender Law & Policy Institute and the Human Rights Campaign provide information on the web about a variety of transgender topics. Both sites were heavily referenced in the creation of this Q&A.

The Mazzoni Center is a health center in Philadelphia for LGBT people. They provide a wide variety of services and information. Educational materials given by the Mazzoni Center were also a resource in the creation of this Q&A.

There are also lots of materials available by simply searching "transgender" in tripod. Here are several recommended written materials and films available through the McCabe Library. This listing is reproduced with the permission of Jessica Pettitt, Social Justice and Diversity Facilitator and Trainer, Tucson, AZ.

Bornstein, Kate. Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us.
      Routledge, 1994.
Bornstein, Kate. My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real
       Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely
. Routledge, 1998.
Cromwell, Jason. Transmen and FTMs: Identities, Bodies, Genders, and
. University of Illinois Press, 1999.
Devor, Holly. Gender Blending: Confronting the Limits of Duality. Indiana
      University Press, 1989.
Feinberg, Leslie.Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue. Beacon Press, 1998.
Feinberg, Leslie.Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to
. Beacon Press, 1996.
Howard, Kim, and Annie Stevens, eds. Out and About Campus: Personal
      Accounts by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender College Students
      Alyson, 2000.
Israel, Gianna E., and Donald E. Tarver II. Transgender Care: Recommended
      Guidelines, Practical Information, and Personal Accounts
. Temple
      University Press, 1997.
Meyerowitz, Joanne. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the
      United States
. Harvard University Press, 2002.
Namaste, Viviane K. Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and
      Transgendered People
. University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Sanlo, Ronni, L., ed. Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender
      College Students: A Handbook for Faculty and Administrators
. Greenwood
      Press, 1998.

A Boy Named Sue (documentary about an FTM)
Boys Don't Cry (fictionalized story of Brandon Teena's life)
Georgie Girl (documentary about New Zealand's trans legislator)
Ma Vie en Rose (feature film about a trans child)
Normal (feature film about a male cross-dresser)
Paris Is Burning (documentary about voguing in New York in the late 1980s)
Southern Comfort (documentary about a trans man who dies of ovarian
Toilet Training (documentary about the need for gender-neutral bathrooms)