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WSU community reacts to student Trans-bashings
WSU community reacts to student Trans-bashings
by Tim Peter - SGN Staff Writer

Three students at Washington State University were violently assaulted this month in separate incidents that police have labeled as hate crimes. Two of the victims, Jackson Hogan and Kristopher Shultz, were Transgendered. Another unnamed man was also identified as a member of WSU's Queer community. Hogan also reported that a rock was thrown through the window of his Pullman apartment on Monday, October 27. Pullman and WSU police are continuing to investigate the assaults, but no arrests have been made yet.

"I was walking home from my shift at Women's Transit [bus service for women at WSU] late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning when I heard someone shout, 'Trannie fag!' I turned around, and I got hit in the face," Shultz said. He added that he is female-to-male (FTM) but now identifies more as gender/Queer. "I don't remember much after that, except being kicked in the side. That's coming back to me now. I walked home, but I don't remember doing that. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. at home; I had no idea how I got there. My sweater and pants were covered in blood." He said he did not know his attackers and does not remember most of what happened. He has since undergone three CT scans, all with negative results. "Now, I'm as OK as I can be," he said. "I always carry pepper spray on me. I don't walk anywhere by myself."

This was not the first time he was attacked. He said he was also attacked in his hometown of Walla Walla. "I didn't report anything. I didn't say anything to anyone. I just let it be. Within Walla Walla, I don't think it would have been a big deal. No reason to bring it up. Don't think anyone would've done anything about it, anyway."

WSU police chief Bill Gardner said his department has tripled its presence around campus in response to the recent spate of violence. "We're getting more information on reports; in the past, reports were very sketchy. At first, we didn't know it was a hate crime. That could be due to a reluctance to give out details to help us understand the nature of the crime. The community is helping me to understand dynamics which prevented me from understanding it all before. One thing they made clear to me that I didn't know is that the Transgender issue is different. More privacy is involved. It's a learning process for me in that aspect."

He said the off-campus and on-campus assaults and threats must be connected. "It [the rock through the window] is too random not to be connected. To say it is not connected because of no evidence is sloppy. We have a problem, and we have to find it. Sometimes we don't see connections to crimes, and other times we see good connections."

Last Wednesday, October 23, the student senate (ASWSU) proposed and passed a resolution condemning the attacks. "That was very unusual and fast for the ASWSU," said Nikki Hahn, president of WSU's GLBT Association. As a result of that resolution, however, two homophobic letters were posted to the ASWSU office door, and one of the student senators was followed to their dorm and harassed with homophobic names. Then, on Tuesday, October 28, a group of GLBT students and their allies marched across campus to the administration building, where members of the group gave public speeches on the topic of Transgender issues.

"We had two main goals of the rally," said Sonia Horan, a recent WSU graduate and faculty member who identifies as a male-to-female Transsexual. "The first was to get our voices out there so that the administration can hear us and listen and learn our perspectives. The second was to band together as community and reclaim our space. In the second goal, I felt we were tremendously successful. It was like a mini-pride event. As far as reaching administration, I think we failed. Midway through my presentation, [WSU] President [Elson] Floyd tried to take the microphone from me. He was stopped, but I don't think he was paying attention [to us]."

Hahn said that Floyd turned away from the crowd to address the media instead.

At the beginning of the rally, GLBTA President Nikki Hahn said the rally was a "Safe Zone," where administrators were asked to listen, but not speak, according to WSU's student newspaper, The Evergreen Daily. Students, faculty and community members wore red shirts at the rally to support the GLBTQ community. Many held up picket signs that read "No Means No," "Respect Me," or "End Hate." Pins reading "Don't Say It" were also handed out at the rally.

Students from the University of Idaho were also present Wednesday, and two made appearances on stage to speak about vandalism that has taken place on their campus, the paper reported.

Horan's presentation included two parts. First, she introduced herself to the audience by telling them she was a Transsexual and how she had to overcome her fear of rejection and violence as a young boy wanting to become a girl. She said she still faces fear of rejection every time someone learns that she's Transgendered. "I fear telling a date that I am Trans, because the love she felt for me might turn to hate or disgust. I fear that telling you, now, that I am a Transsexual will delegitimize my identity - my femininity and my gender. Even so, I fear every time you see me that you are looking inside me and seeing the boy I was." Following her introduction, she performed a spoken-word dramatization, reading from the poem "Cocky" by Julia Serano, about Transgendered women.

Horan said that a 'zine was produced and given to WSU administrators explaining Transgender issues and demanding specific actions be taken to protect Transgendered people on campus. The list of demands included having the university aid in lobbying efforts to get Transgender included in statewide hate crime laws, not just anti-discrimination laws; open lines of communication, such as getting out public announcements when hate crimes occur on campus (required under the federal Jeanne Clery Act); gender-neutral housing, including advertising to attract incoming freshmen; and a curriculum for gender/Queer issues.

"It is hard to divorce Transphobia from homophobia," Horan said. "The average 'Joe Six-pack' doesn't know the difference. [But] Transphobia is huge to these crimes, and it's not being discussed. The word they are using is 'homophobia,' which is Gaycentric. It's frustrating to have the Transgendered people excluded."

Chief Gardner said he was also very pleased with the outcome of the rally and march. "It was fantastic, well organized. Not all events end that way. [I give] credit to students. It was well received."

"I received the list of recommendations after the rally," said Luci Loera, WSU Dean of Students, "and I have looked into some of them. Some are policy issues, and some are legal issues. I think [the assaults] are an unfortunate situation, and one of the things I hope to come out of this is a greater understanding [of others] and for all students, staff and faculty to be more open. I'm committed to seeing some of the recommendations through, and doing whatever we can do as an institution to make it a better overall educational experience."

Loera responded to allegations that the university did not act quickly enough to alert others. "I can understand the others' perspective on that, [but] based on when the information was received, we acted in a timely fashion to get out the information." She added that the university administration needs to be more open and responsive to people's needs.

Hahn, Horan and ASWSU Senator Lauren Edholm also addressed the Pullman City Council Tuesday night. Hahn gave a brief summary of what students have been doing and talked about the rally. Horan told council members that they need to seriously address Transphobia, saying that there is a significant Transgender population in the city. Edholm asked where police stand on investigation, if city council would support measures to keep all GLBT people safe and if the council would be willing to support initiatives to get Transgendered people covered under hate crimes laws. She also asked if the council would issue a public statement about the hate crimes.

Horan said the council's response was not inspiring. "I felt like they were playing politics. On the topic of releasing a statement, they said they needed more information, and talked about procedures they [must] follow to issue a statement. It drives me insane because they could just sit down and release it. It's not that hard," she said, stating that the ASWSU passed a similar statement after only one meeting. She said the council would be willing to push for Trans-inclusion in hate crimes.

"I feel like the more press we get, the more people start pressing the issue, then the administration might start doing something," Horan added. "It's not like we want rocket ships and the royal jewels. We want safety. Safety is a right, not a privilege. We hope to get a positive response from the administration. I think that's very possible, but it's going to take a lot of work. I'm not holding out much hope for Pullman City Council to do anything. I'm not holding hope that the attackers will be caught. [There are] possible strong leads on one attacker, but we don't know how many there were, and we don't think police will be much help."

Even so, Horan is optimistic about the progress he hopes to make. "In the future, more will come out of student groups. We are looking at bringing in public speakers. We have a list of possibilities. There is also talk of all-day student panels with a speakers' bureau every hour of the day for students to talk [about this issue]. We also hope that residence halls and Greeks [fraternities and sororities] will host speakers to address these issues," he said.

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