The door creaks open for transgenders at UofM

By |2018-01-15T15:59:38-05:00October 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|

By Dawn Wolfe
Faced with activists at their regents’ meeting and GEO negotiators at the bargaining table, the University of Michigan may be on the cusp of providing necessary protections to some of the transgender and gender-non-conforming members of the university community.
On Feb. 17, six activists addressed the University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting to ask that the regents change the university’s non-discrimination bylaws to include sexual identity and expression, according to Denise Brogan, co-founder of Transforum, an organization for trans students, faculty and alumni.
“I don’t think they will be moved to action on the strength of this single presentation, but I do think we caught their attention,” said Brogan. Among the activists who addressed the regents were three trans allies, including a UofM alumna who had been accosted by a group of young males who threatened to show her “what it meant to be a real woman,” according to Brogan.
As for Brogan, she had harsh words for the regents when her time came to speak. “OSU (Ohio State University) not only beat us on the football field this year, they’ve beat us in providing this basic protection,” she said.
The next day, Feb. 18, negotiators for the Graduate Employees’ Organization came one step closer to winning protection against discrimination based on gender identity and expression – at least for graduate employees of UofM.
Andre Wilson, lead negotiator for the GEO team, said of the Feb. 18 talks, “They have accepted gender identity in our non-discrimination clause, which they had previously refused. They didn’t give us gender expression.”
As reported in the Feb. 6 issue of Between The Lines, the GEO and the university have been deadlocked on a number of issues, among them the non-discrimination clause and provision of health care coverage for transition-related health care.
There was no movement at the table on Feb. 18 regarding the health care issues. Wilson said that the GEO offered a counter-proposal on health care on Feb. 18 which will be discussed during talks on Feb. 22.
UofM spokesperson Julie Peterson said that the university changed its position on gender identity because it had to by law.
“There was a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case (Smith v City of Salem, 2004) in which the court ruled that the existing protections regarding sex discrimination also encompassed gender identity,” Peterson said. “We are bound by that decision.”
“We did not offer the gender expression language [on Feb. 18], but I don’t expect that gender expression will be a major sticking point,” she added.
If the GEO negotiating team comes to an agreement with the university on protections for gender-deviant graduate employees, perhaps the UofM Board of Regents will be moved to extend those protections to all members of the university community. This is what happened in the 1970s, when GEO won protections for gay and lesbian employees before such protections were part of the UofM bylaws.

Speak out!

Contact the President of U of M, who is also an ex-officio member of the Board of Regents, and the rest of the board and tell them why it is so important to extend gender identity and expression protection to the entire university community.
Mary Sue Coleman
President, University of Michigan
734-764-6270
[email protected]
David A. Brandon
Domino’s Pizza, Inc.
30 Frank Lloyd Wright Drive
P.O. Box 997
Ann Arbor, MI 48106-0997
734-930-3006
[email protected]
Laurence B. Deitch
Bodman LLP
34th Floor, 100 Renaissance Center
Detroit, MI 48243
313-392-1055
[email protected]
Olivia P. Maynard
Northbank Center, Suite 406
432 N. Saginaw Street
Flint, MI 48502
810-239-1535
[email protected]
Rebecca McGowan
2210 Melrose Avenue
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
734-668-8873
[email protected]
Andrea Fischer Newman
Senior Vice President-Government Affairs
Northwest Airlines, Detroit Metropolitan Airport
2601 WorldGateway Place
Detroit, MI 48242
[email protected]
Andrew C. Richner
Clark Hill PLC
500 Woodward Avenue, Suite 3500
Detroit, MI 48226-3435
313-965-8531
[email protected]
S. Martin Taylor
DTE Energy Company
2000 Second Avenue, Room 2476 WCB
Detroit, Michigan 48226-1279
313-235-7266
[email protected]
Katherine E. White
P.O. Box 1842
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-1842
313-577-1054
[email protected]

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.