LGBT Rights At UCI

All eyes are on California’s voters to repeal the marginally passed Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage.

Grass-roots groups across the state are pushing to have California as the first state to repeal the ban on same-sex marriage by way of a voter’s “veto.”

Five states have already legalized gay marriage through legislation and judiciaries.

While some proponents of the repealing movement suggest waiting until the elections in November 2012, many feel the need to push it for next year.  In order for such a push to go through, they need 1 million votes by April 2010.

Since they have only begun the campaign in fall of 2009, they may need to push further in order to reach the five-month deadline.

While gay rights activism has made for heated national headlines, here at UC Irvine, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) students and organizations are pushing for other rights.

The UCI LGBT hosted TransAction week Nov. 16-20 on ring road; they  promoted transgender awareness and tolerance, illuminating the history of violence and harassments that were the results of insensitivity and intolerance.

“TransAction was [held] for the purpose of increasing visibility of the issues that transgender people face here on campus and around the world,” LGBT Resource Center Representative, Genice Sarcedo, said. “Rather than having an event in honor of the victims, we strived to educate others on the violence and problems that the trans[gender] students faced.”

According to Sarcedo, UCI’s campus as a whole has been very welcoming of transgender and gay students.

However, “While there is not a large number of these types of complaints on our campus, discrimination and harassment of all types often goes unreported,” Assistant Executive Vice Chancellor of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity at UCI, Kirsten Quanbeck, said.

As intimidating as gender-neutral bathrooms may sound to many UCI students, it does not suggest a complete reformation of the entire campus’ restrooms.

“All the current bathrooms on campus will remain.  However, we are looking for potential gender-neutral bathrooms around campus,” Sarcedo said.

She further explained that if UCI were to go through with the plan, the bathrooms would be single-stalled, synonymous to that of the on-campus Starbucks’ restrooms, but without gender-specific signs.

The push began this year, as a response to the increasing number of transgender students and faculty on campus.

LGBT hopes to increase sensitivity to the transgender population on campus by making sure they share the same everyday rights that the rest of the campus realizes, such as name change, bathroom use and mental health and emotional safety.

UCI’s current gender specific bathrooms are a form of gender discrimination. Transgenders do not fit the dichotomy of either male or female and are forced to choose.  LGBT hopes to increase sensitivity by the process of proposing gender-neutral bathrooms around campus.

While the opposition is mild, there is still an issue of safety.  If a man is able to enter a restroom with a woman, many worry that this may increase risks of possible attacks and rape on women.

However, supporters of the restrooms contend that they are, single stalled so women can lock the door behind them.  Also, lack of signage will not catalyze the attacker’s plan any more than the gender-specific signage prevents an attack.
As the LGBT center at UCI continues to push for a more accepting campus environment, gay-rights activists continue pushing for a repeal of the California Prop 8. While LGBT boasts bi-partisanship, any of its students are politically active in hopes of repealing the current ban on same-sex marriage.