Transgender students at Rider ask to be seen
By Jay Roberson
For a lot of transgender students, college is the first time they can start going by their preferred pronouns and name without worrying about their past. This was the case for me, but throughout my experience at Rider, there have been barriers that prevent me from feeling completely seen as a nonbinary person.
I’ve been living on campus since my freshman year, and while there are many benefits, residence halls don’t exactly accommodate those who are not a man nor a woman.
Sophomore acting major Emily Porter Siegel, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, spoke about their experience living at Rider.
“My first year, we were gender segregated by floor and there was one gender- neutral bathroom and it was like our guest bathroom. So if I wanted to actually be comfortable in the bathroom I was using, I had to go all the way downstairs,” said Siegel.
In other instances, students felt the gender-neutral bathrooms in some residence halls are better compared to others. An anonymous source who identifies as a transgender man shared his experiences dorming.
“You kind of feel like you have to be lucky in order to get a dorm hall that even has a gender-inclusive bathroom that you can use. Even when they do, oftentimes, the pipes are rusty, the water comes out orange, or they’re not cleaned often or they’re in a lounge,” said the anonymous source.
This is an issue many transgender students face while in academic buildings as well. Most of the academic buildings only have one gender-inclusive bathroom, and it’s combined with the accessible bathroom. This takes away resources both from transgender students and students with disabilities. In Lynch Adler Hall, there aren’t any gender-inclusive bathrooms, so transgender students often have to use the bathroom of their assigned sex.
“Even in the Fine Arts building, there is one gender-neutral bathroom, and it’s on the very first floor,” said Siegel.
Another issue I faced while attending Rider is being deadnamed in different places. This academic year, there have been multiple instances where my deadname was put up on my dorm door after I told my community assistant I go by a different name. The first time this happened was really upsetting, but over time, I got used to it and took down the name tag each time it occurred.
Sophomore political science major Cecilia Simon, who identifies as a transgender woman, spoke about her experiences with being deadnamed and feeling uncomfortable.
“I know some of the things that are like a legal requirement, but the bookstore emails. I get like 20 of them, do they all have to have my deadname? Reslife emails that just went out the other day? Does that have to have my deadname when the housing portal doesn’t?” Simon said.
Most of the community at Rider knows me by my preferred name, but many don’t use my correct pronouns even though I have several visible pronouns stickers and my pronouns are on Canvas. Last year, I faced an issue where my professor continuously misgendered me in front of my class and posted an announcement on Canvas using my incorrect pronouns.
A previous nonbinary Rider student who prefers to stay anonymous opened up about an experience where a professor went out of their way to use their incorrect pronouns.
“I actually switched into his class because of a transphobic teacher, and everything was going really well until I made the decision to transfer schools, and once he was made aware of that decision, he began misgendering me and it had literally never been a problem before. So I’d say that was the most jarring experience I’ve had in regards to transphobia straight from a teacher,” they said.
Many transgender students feel it is frustrating to have to continuously correct people on their pronouns. It feels as if our identity is brushed under the rug although Rider advocates for a supportive and diverse environment.
“I feel like if I want something done, I have to go out of my way and ask for it to happen. If I want a [gender inclusive] bathroom unlocked, I have to go out of my way to ask for it … I don’t want to feel like I’m an afterthought,” said the anonymous student.
The most basic way you can respect your transgender classmates and friends is by respecting their pronouns and identity.
“No one is alone. None of us are alone. We are all in this together,” Siegel said. “The best form of allyship is not centering yourself and making sure again, you’re giving people basic human respect.”