Recently, The Plainsman published an article that addressed the existing gap for gender inclusivity at Auburn University. The article, which includes the perspective of gender-nonconforming students, highlights a common issue that comes with existing on a campus that, culturally, caters to those that are white, heterosexual, cisgender and male.
There also seems to be a common misconception that the editorial board at The Plainsman hates the University because of some of the things we publish. Most critiques come from a place of love, of acknowledging that the idea of an Auburn Family is not as wholly inclusive of everyone as it could be. And it certainly could be.
There is power in speaking up, and there is power in letting people know what needs to be done.
When the Auburn Family shows up behind those in need, change happens.
In this case, the most powerful tools to help bridge the gap for gender inclusivity on campus are information and intentionality. Meaning, the Auburn community needs to be informed about what these struggles are, and intentionally and collectively try to shift our culture to be inclusive of those that are not white, heterosexual, male and cisgender.
The answer to changing it is, in part, already a part of the collective consciousness of Auburn.
“I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all,” reads the sixth line of the Auburn Creed.
Cultivating sympathy for your fellow man, even if they don’t identify as one, begins with first understanding your peers.
Gender and sex are two separate categories. Gender is a social construct, and sex refers to the anatomical factors that a person is born with, according to the Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays’ glossary page. Simply put, gender is a social idea that is determined by how one acts and looks.
Someone is considered cisgender is when their gender identity and sex align with each other, transgender when their gender identity and sex don't align and nonbinary when they do not identify within the gender binary of male and female.
A lack of understanding of the basic categories of sex and gender leads to violence, such as the crimes that took at least 53 transgender or non-conforming lives last year, or microaggressions like dirty looks or deliberate misgendering.
There are efforts being made on campus to right these wrongs — Safe Zone training to educate faculty, staff and students that is offered, but not required; a committee that was formed and dissolved just as quickly; and the option to change or display your pronouns on Banner operating systems.
While these efforts can be helpful, begin your interactions with mutual helpfulness and happiness for all — ask someone for their pronouns when you ask for their name, be mindful that not all gender identities and presentations align.
To Auburn, it is essential to make more of the optional trainings a requirement. This includes both Safe Zone and Green Dot training.
It shouldn’t only be up to a particular office, entity or student to be concerned with making the University a safer place for everyone who doesn’t fall under the umbrella of white, cis, male or heterosexual.
The Auburn Family can be a family when it wants to be, and it can be a family that is inclusive of everyone.
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