Politics & Policy

Microagression Chips

LGBT students throw a hissy fit as a university screws up its own database for transgender pronouns.

The University of Vermont set up an entire system in its online database so transgender students could list their “preferred name and/or pronoun” – only to be slammed for creating a hostile environment when that system suffered a glitch. 

The service lets transgender students choose from the pronouns “none (nothing listed), she, ze, and he,” as well as “prefer name only,” apparently for students who are offended by the idea of pronouns entirely. Students can also indicate if they prefer to be called by a name other than their birth name.

The university put a considerable amount of effort into creating an “inclusive” environment for it transgender students by creating the database – but some say it’s still not enough.

In an interview with Vermont Public Radio, 2014 graduate Lindsay Whittaker said the school was clearly not doing enough because sometimes transgender students were still called the wrong pronouns.

Whittaker said the “preferred name” database was inadequate because, as often happens with technology, the system suffered a glitch last year.

Whittaker – who prefers the pronouns “they” and “them” – described the horrors that one female-to-male trans student had to endure because of it.

“They put this person’s birth name on their name tag,” Whittaker said. “A female birth name. You can’t do that.”

The problems almost caused Whittaker to quit their own residence-assistant job, because of what they saw as intolerable hostility from the school.

“Maybe if Lindsay is gone, things will be easier,” said Whittaker. “That’s how I felt.”

Other students have complained that the term “preferred gender” is in itself offensive.

“The student who brought it to my attention said, ‘It’s not my preferred gender, it’s my gender,’” LGBTQA Center Director Dot Braur told VPR. “This isn’t about what color socks I like.”

UVM developed the database service in 2009.

– Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.

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