Open Letter to Central Piedmont Community College-Gracie Berry

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President Zeiss,

My name is Gracie Berry and I live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I recently learned of a story, that has gained national attention, the story of, Andraya Williams.  I’m disheartened to read that she was asked to leave the school as a result of gender discrimination enacted against her. And to add insult to injury she was asked by the dean to furnish medical documentation because that is the only way your school can protect her from future incidents. Janet Mock, is an American trans woman rights activist, author and the former staff editor of People magazine’s website said, “I am not betraying anyone by declaring who I know myself to be. I’m learning more about the friction that’s arising between trans advocates and activists to clarify the term transsexual and separate it from the “umbrella term” transgender, which tends to offer a murky definition some feel needs sharpening. I know women and men in transition have medical issues and rights that need their own set of champions, and I am glad there are activists fighting for medical rights for trans people. But I can’t fully align myself with all separatists methods because they don’t always speak directly to me.” This speaks volumes to me about your schools arbitrary separatism of a ‘medical’ argument; that without it justifies and doesn’t protect against acts of violence and discrimination toward trans students. And while many trans people align with medical validation, it certainly doesn’t apply to all trans people.

Andraya not only stated that she feels unsafe on your campus; she feels threatened by it’s staff and the lack of support from it’s administration. I say, shame on you, Central Piedmont Community College, for such a distasteful reprieve against her.  I challenge administration to rewrite it’s policy on gender equality. A policy that you assure is in ‘compliance with the law’, and have examined closely in this case. However, to tolerate an employee that has acted in violation of such policies seems unethical, discriminatory, and sets the tone for a hostile environment and violence against students that aren’t confined by gender norms.  I need help understanding how this behavior is justified? Janet Mock also says that our society has a lot of catching up to do in terms of understanding the meaning of transgender. To dedicate limited resources to the debate between transgender vs. transsexual seems irresponsible when it comes to how people self-identify. The debate over terminology is irrelevant to the fight for equal rights.

As your school prides itself on being an open-door, open-access institution of learning, and proud of its rich diversity, and aligning it’s self in 50-years of being fair, respectful and considerate of all students Central Piedmont Community College is in a position of privilege and power, and is responsible for making a difference here.  I urge you to reevaluate and change such discriminatory practices, practice’s that encourage an egregious system of gender profiling, violence, and the violation of ones-own human rights. The policy as it stands is not beneficial to your entire student body; therefore they cannot work to protect your entire student body. Acceptance must be accessible to all of your students! As educational leaders it is your responsibility to support school and student success. And in this case it is taking a stand alongside students like Andraya, and their families, to give respect, love, safety by valuing the rights of each of their experiences. She deserves more than an apology. The person that violated her should no longer be employed at a facility that prides it’s self on equality for all students. There should be education/training offered in support of trans students, and a scholarship to cover her remaining time at Central Peiedmont Community College. Kylie Brooks says, “No one is ‘born male’ or ‘born female.’ We are born babies that are assigned a gender.”

In solidarity,
Gracie

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