Arts & Entertainment
Editorial: Transphobia should be fought on all fronts, even at home
Originally printed 2-15-2007 (Issue 1507 - Between The Lines News)
For 15 years, Julie Nemecek has worked as an associate professor of adult studies, teaching business and communications at Spring Arbor University.
All of this changed last week when the university decided to not renew Nemecek's contract.
The problem? Until 2003, Nemecek worked for the school as John. That year, Nemecek transitioned to Julie.
Spring Arbor says Nemecek's decision to live as a transgender woman is "in direct conflict with the ideals we uphold," according to a statement submitted to Between The Lines.
Instead of backing down, Nemecek has chosen to stand in her truth. A mediation session between the parties is scheduled for March 6. Students have rallied around their professor, organizing protests and discussion panels to examine transphobia.
Unlike gay and lesbian employees, who have no federal job protections, transgender employees who experience discrimination have a better case in court, said her attorney Randi Barnabee.
"I understand Spring Arbor may have some difficulty with the situation, but if they accept federal funds, they are subject to federal law," Barnabee said. "Federal law says its illegal for an employer to discriminate against a person if that person fails to meet the employer's sex stereotypes. That's the way the law has been interpreted."
Gender is a spectrum, and we are not easily boxed. How a man or woman falls along that line does not impact their abilities, whether it is teaching, serving as a police officer or a doctor.
Gender is complicated. Our society is built upon the two-gender model, girls who should wear pink and boys who should wear blue. When we dare to step out of that mold, we begin to tear down the sexist and homphobic infrastructure of our country.
Gender is fluid. And still such a fiery topic, that it continues to divide our community. As we continue to face oppression on streets, at our jobs, in our families, a fierce debate rages on whether transgender issues are lesbian/gay/bisexual issues.
While LGBT is the rally cry, all too often the T is left out of general discussion. This week, Between The Lines introduces a new trans comic, "$64,000 questions," by Jay Sennett, a trans man living in Ypsilanti. This is just one step toward continuing the dialogue within our rich community.
To a large extent, trans people are invisible to our society, and to a greater and more painful level within the gay community. Julie Nemecek is actively breaking down walls, daring to be unapologetically visible. There is a lesson we all can take from her bravery. Sexual oppression, whether it is based on orientation or gender identity, affects us all. We must stand beside Nemecek, and refuse to accept gender-based discrimination.