Cornell will continue to protect transgender individuals from discrimination, despite federal changes in the definition of sex proposed by the Trump administration, the University affirmed in a statement published Friday.
The statement, signed by Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life and Mary Opperman, chief human resources officer, came nearly two weeks after The New York Times first reported the Trump administration’s proposal to redefine sex under Title IX as limited to sex assigned at birth.
The proposed redefinition would eliminate federal Title IX protections against discrimination based on gender identity. However, for Cornell students, faculty and staff, New York state law and Cornell’s policies protect transgender, gender nonconforming and gender nonbinary people, and these policies will remain even if federal rules change.
“Our support for the rights of students, staff and faculty of all genders, gender identities and gender expressions is unwavering,” the statement said.
Chantelle Cleary, Title IX coordinator, told The Sun that if the federal government sets a “minimum” definition of sex, “we can go beyond that.”
“And in fact our current policies do go beyond what this proposed change suggests and will continue to go beyond that,” she said.
Cleary was not sure the Cornell administration would release a statement at all, since no official federal changes had been made when she talked with The Sun. Instead, her office started to communicate with students on a one-on-one basis. After hearing concerns from the transgender, gender nonconforming and gender nonbinary community, the University decided a statement was necessary.
“We realized that our individualized approach was not reaching the entire Cornell community,” Cleary said in an email to The Sun on Nov. 5.
The Title IX office and LGBT Resource Center also held a “Trans & Gender Non-Conforming Support Space” on October 24, where Cleary answered questions from the community about the proposal’s impact on Cornell.
“There’s a lot of fear, a lot of worry, a lot of tension about what this might look like for transgender and gender non-binary students at Cornell,” said Joseph Anderson ’20, president of HAVEN, Cornell’s LGBT student organization. “[The question is], where do we go from here? How do we fight back against this?”
Students participated in a rally to support those affected by the proposal on Monday. Concerned students have also been communicating one on one with the Title IX office, according to Cleary. The LGBT resource center will offer a support space for transgender and non-binary students regularly starting Nov. 6 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., according to Christopher Lujan, director of the resource center.
“As a cisgender man, it is essential that I do not generalize the experiences and emotions of an identity I do not hold …. It appears that students are rightfully angry about this attempt to permanently erase their identity,” Lujan told The Sun in an email.
Even with these initiatives, some members of the community think Cornell could go farther. Anderson believes Cornell should commit more resources to transgender, gender non-binary and intersex inclusion in workforce diversity and student services. He also thinks that the larger campus community needs to understand the oppression these students still face.
“This need to be a wake up call that [says] ‘Look, we’ve disregarded this population for a long period of time, we need to make consistent and intentional inroads with providing necessary resources both financially and emotionally,’” Anderson told The Sun. “It’s a good statement but action is different than statements.”