long time reader, first time poster! i’m going to write this more informally as a way to process. a few of my friends have taken to creating something in order to better understand it, like visual notes and storytelling. hoping that the same technique works here.
a note on language: there may be places in the writing that have a less inclusive acronym because that was what was used in documents or reporting. you’ll also read me referring back to how this ruling impacts the trans/nonbinary community alongside LGBQ+. i tend to use queer as a big umbrella and also want to acknowledge that different communities will feel this decision in distinct ways.
waiting my turn and doom scrolling (more on being grounded and rest as resistance at a later date), a fellow anti-violence advocate shared that the baylor decision dropped. clicking to the news article (bypassing a paywall), i skim the words, dreading confirmation. then i find the quote.
“The U.S. Department of Education has recognized Baylor University’s right to religious exemptions from certain Title IX policies pertaining to LGBTQ students and staff. In the July 25th letter to Baylor, the department’s Office for Civil Rights declared the Baptist university is exempt from those provisions ‘to the extent that they are inconsistent with the University’s religious tenets’…The provisions in question broadly include issues such as admission, sexual harassment, housing, financial and employment assistance, and rules on private organizations.”
my heart sinks. i switch over to the work thread, where yesterday i was thinking i’d scrap my title ix topic…and now it feels important and timely to write this. i’m feeling a few different emotions. angry. sad. scared. there have been many attempts by people using the idea of “religious freedom” to harm the queer community. having title IX include gender identity/expression and sexual orientation gave so many students a layer of support and protection that wasn’t there before. now that’s gone. shifting to sadness because it’s yet another thing, another rollback to what was some sort of progress. when trans and nonbinary people say they wake up with a sense of dread, it’s because of moments like this. i’m also feeling scared. so much has changed so quickly. i think about how LGBTQ+ students in my city are starting college for the first time or getting into exploring their identity in their later semesters…i’m fortunate that the community here is vibrant and connected. and for a lot of places in my state (and across the country) that’s not the case.
out of my head and back to the post! ok, so let’s break the decision down into the basics.
who: baylor university
what: baylor president sent a letter to the u.s. department of education (department) saying the four complaints against baylor for lgbt discrimination under title ix should be dismissed because they are religiously exempt (free exercise clause of the u.s. constitution + other laws).
when/where: july 25th, Texas. related issues with this campus date back to the 1970’s.
what’s the impact? this is the first time a request like this has been granted by the department. it sets a precedent for faith-based universities to discriminate against queer students, including not affording them the same safety and supports as their peers (see the last FORGE blog post).
for example, the washington post reports one of the four complaints was around sexual harassment where the school failed to address homophobic slurs the student received from other students on campus and via social media. the student filed their lawsuit with the help of the religious exemption accountability project. in a statement the student said “I know many will not feel safe returning to campus, and rightfully so. If Baylor believes it has a religious liberty right to allow us to be harassed, there truly is no protection for us.”
more details about this specific case: the department letter states that the university is exempt from those provisions “to the extent that they are inconsistent with the University’s religious tenets”. this could mean discrimination in “admission, sexual harassment, housing, financial and employment assistance, and rules on private organizations”. it’s important to note this doesn’t exempt the university from title ix as a whole. future complaints about this institution will be evaluated by the department to determine if they are within the exemptions. for more news reporting see articles from the advocate, reuters, and the informative series from the chronicle of higher education.
ooof. that was (emotionally) hard to type. related sidebar, i wasn’t aware of the earlier title ix case involving baylor. ultimately, this all links back to intersectionality (circle image) and how connected we all are to one another. it can be easy to feel isolated. or to assume that issues only impact survivors or faith based institutions. to quote one of audre lorde’s famous lines, “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
take care of yourself.
-as a trans and nonbinary survivor / community member that can look like using self-care tools and a spectrum of connection. the student’s guide to radical healing may be useful too.
-as an ally or adjacent person, the same tools for community are helpful + finding a way to be supportive (if you have spoons).
be aware of your rights as a student + resources.
-outside of holding space (which is a radical and important form of emotional labor!), are there trusted local agencies? student organizations?
-talk with other students about title ix rights and what policies look like on your campus.
-what about national services? sometimes someone that you couldn’t possibly know in daily life feels like a better confidant. options could be The Network/La Red, Trans LifeLine, or Anti-Violence Project.
you deserve to be safe, no matter the circumstances.
-it’s difficult to heal when safe places are limited. even with the ever-changing landscape, there is support. we’re all having to be more creative as what worked in the past may not work right now.
deep sigh. this might be a good stopping point for now. thank you for reading! until next time…