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PCC initiatives assist transgender, gender nonconforming students
Photos and Story by James Hill
Portland Community College has the highest population of transgender and gender nonconforming students of any community college in Oregon and one of the highest of any higher education institution in the state.
As a result, PCC has made significant changes to assist in creating a safe and accessible atmosphere for these students. Since January, class rosters at PCC have reflected the preferred names of students rather than their legal names. Organizers said this is a significant step forward for transgender and gender nonconforming students, faculty, and staff. Having a preferred name reflected on class rosters benefits transgender students for whom a legal name may reflect a gender they do not identify with. Visit the preferred names webpage for more information.
This change comes on the heels of the decision to construct 19 new all-gender bathrooms as part of the college’s Bond Program. Gendered bathrooms labeled “men” or “women” pose barriers for many transgender and gender nonconforming community members, said Nash Jones, the chair of the college’s Gender Inclusive Spaces Committee and a coordinator at the Rock Creek Campus’ Queer Resource Center. Jones continued that these bathrooms, like the class roster change, will serve the needs of a variety of people in addition to the transgender and gender nonconforming communities, including parents and people with disabilities. And, the restrooms can be used by anyone.
“Adding more all-gender restrooms and having preferred names reflected across more systems are both important steps in making PCC a more trans-affirming college,” Jones said. “These changes are a way for the college to let trans and gender nonconforming students, faculty and staff know that we see them, we value their contributions to our community, and because of that we are working to understand and meet their accessibility needs.”
In a 2013 statewide survey conducted by the Oregon Student Association and the Oregon Community College Student Association, it was found that seven percent of students at PCC’s Cascade Campus in North Portland identify themselves as transgender or gender nonconforming students, six percent at the Rock Creek (Beaverton) and Sylvania (Southwest Portland) campuses, and four percent at the new Southeast Campus. The community college with the second-highest percentage of trans students was Rogue Community College in Grants Pass at three percent. The University of Oregon has a trans population of seven percent, most by any four-year institution.PCC’s Gender Inclusive Spaces Committee, a group of students, staff, and faculty at the college advocating for trans culturally responsive policies and practices, partnered with the college’s Technology Solution Services, Student Account Services and Student Affairs departments to make this class roster change a reality. Jones said this collaborative effort will continue as other systems at the college are slated to be updated to reflect preferred names.
The Gender Inclusive Spaces Committee, which is funded through the end of this academic year, consists of about 24 members that have met every other week since 2012 about these opportunities. Students and committee members hope the committee continues to work on additional LGBTQ inclusion initiatives at PCC.
“The amount of assistance we have received while working towards making PCC a more inclusive college has been immeasurable,” said student Kole Myrick.“It feels great to have allies in my fellow students, faculty, staff and administration and to all be working together towards a common goal. Creating gender-neutral bathrooms and making sure students can use their preferred name within the classroom, on class rosters, within distance learning, and on their student ID’s has been a personal mission of mine since I started at PCC two years ago.
“I am so happy and pretty darn proud of all of the changes that PCC has made,” Myrick added. “We, as a committee, have paved the way for all students at PCC to feel welcome and accepted.”
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