Making Southern transgender inclusive

Dylan HavilandGeneral Assignment Reporter 

Seth Wallace, a graduate student in social work, is currently enrolled in his first year at Southern Connecticut State University.  Wallace earned his bachelor’s degree at Connecticut University and has a 10-year history of diversity advocacy in the New Haven and surrounding areas.

Wallace, a transman, has reached a few obstacles this semester with Southern administration towards gender transitions, especially with the gender and name status on Black Board 9 and student emails.

“When I came to campus I was unsure about coming out to classmates. I made the decision not to come out at first. I just didn’t want to share that with everyone yet,” said Wallace.  “I was looking forward to an academic experience where I could just be seen as a person instead of a trans person, and focus on my program completely.”

The issues that have arisen over the technical aspects of administration have created several issues for Wallace, the student wishes Southern to be more inclusive towards transgender students and the rest of the LGBTIQQAA [Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, asexual, ally] community.

Wallace mentioned that constant updates kept him from keeping his name Seth and male gender on Black Board 9 and email, constantly reverting him back to his former female name.

“In September,” said Wallace. “I first contacted the graduate school administration with the request to have my name and pronoun changed across all systems. That includes my email and BBLearn. At this point, every email I sent had my old female name on it. There wasn’t a way to change it. I can’t describe how that felt, to have to send emails out to professors and classmates with the wrong name. It was a horrible way to begin my graduate school experience.”

Recently, Wallace has received a special code on Black Board 9 to permanently change to his preferred name and pronoun, he suggests that this process should be made easier for students.

“Throughout this whole transition process I’ve been getting the impression that no one knows how to deal with these things,” said Wallace.  “That I need some special accommodations that are difficult to put in place, when all I wanted was a peaceful academic experience. I don’t think special accommodations is enough. I think things like this need to inform policy and system changes and made easier for others who are going through this. There isn’t an avenue for doing any of this at the moment.”

He plans in the future to reach out to the S.A.G.E Center in the Adanti Student Center at Southern.  S.A.G.E is an office at Southern that works and provides guidance to members of the LGBTIQQAA community.

“This is a place students can be who they are, without stares, without homophobic or transphobic comments, without violence and just know they are at home,” said Lauren M. Todd a graduate intern at the S.A.G.E center.

The office provides discussion groups for students in a comfortable environment.

In addition to the S.A.G.E Center, Wallace wishes to continue his work towards making Southern an accepting environment with administration and Southern students.

“At this point I’m very glad I have my ID, email, and BBLearn account changed. That’s a huge step in the right direction and the administration helped with that. I wrote and thanked them. I’m going to try to make positive steps towards an inclusive campus climate,” said Wallace.  “I think change is necessary, but I’m at least grateful to be able to be safe on a daily basis now.”

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