As of today, while the University Recreation Locker Room policy draft is still being discussed, there is no policy for transgender students for the locker rooms at UW-Milwaukee’s Klotsche Center.
Despite the ongoing debate over this draft, transgender students are able to use the locker rooms of their choice, but they first have to speak with a Klotsche staff member.
Members of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for LGBT+ Advocacy last month discussed the idea of having a Town Hall meeting as a way for people to come together to talk about transgender students using the locker room of the gender they identify with. Some members were worried people may get aggressive.
The meeting was shortly before controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulos came to campus and singled out for public mockery the transgender student, Adelaide Kramer, who has fought for a locker room policy. That student, who has now left the university, then penned an emotional, expletive filled email condemning the university and its chancellor for its handling of transgender issues.
The committee, meeting not long before that showdown, ultimately decided to work with LGBT Studies to create a pamphlet that could also be online. The pamphlet could be used to educate students that everyone can use the new private changing and showering facilities in the Klotsche locker rooms.
However, officials confirmed that, months after controversy first broke publicly over the university’s handling of transgender people in locker rooms, there is still no policy.
In an email, Director of University of Recreation Steven Mohar said: “While there is no policy in place at this time, UWM students are free to use the locker room that aligns with their identity. In the event an individual requests a locker in a space that does not align with that user’s sex (as indicated in PAWS,) a member of the University of Recreation staff (Klotsche management) will need to override the locker assignment software to complete the locker assignment and will, at that time, also request a brief conversation with the user to discuss the user’s needs. In this manner, University Recreation seeks to ensure all Klotsche users are accommodated and able to full enjoy Klotsche facilities.”
Cary Costello, the LGBT Studies Certificate Coordinator, and other members spoke about their concerns with transgender students having to speak with a Klotsche staff member first before using the locker room of their identified gender.
“It’s supposed to be gender identity that we are protecting, not somebody else’s assessment of how authentic they feel your identity is…” said Costello.
In April, Media Milwaukee covered one of the committee’s meetings as some said that the draft policy still under discussion months later discriminates against LGBT students.
According to Jeff Guenther, co-chairperson of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee, in the beginning, the committee proposed two options to campus administration last spring. Both options say users can use the locker room they identify with. One option is transgender, cisgender, or intersex individuals cannot expose their genitals in the locker rooms. The second option is that everyone can expose their genitals without any sort of fear of punishment.
“That was our proposal for fairness and equality sake,” said Guenther.
Guenther said that is when the chancellor’s office in consultation with Student Affairs and Legal Affairs ultimately decided to go with the University Recreation Locker Room policy draft.
The Inclusive Locker Room Policy draft states that transgender students can use the locker rooms of the gender that they identify with. Individuals, however, cannot expose their genitals. That means if an individual has breast or female genitalia, the person cannot expose them in the men’s locker room. An individual with male genitalia cannot expose their genitalia in the women’s locker room, according to the article from last spring.
In the November 2016 minutes, Chancellor Mone told members of the committee that he supports Legal Affairs’ recommendation for the University Recreation Locker Room policy draft. He said that there is a need to balance rights for transgender people who need access to the facilities and non-transgender individuals who want privacy, according to the minutes.
Guenther looked at his notes from old meetings with University Legal where the latter said the policy draft was made to guard the privacy rights of individuals not to be exposed to genitalia of the opposite sex.
In the beginning of the meeting, committee members expressed their disagreement with the Inclusive Locker Room policy draft.
“So you’re allowed to access the changing room, just can’t become naked in it,” said Costello. “Which is sort of the purpose of a changing room.” That was followed by a few chuckles in the group.
What is happening in Klotsche is retro-fitting some spaces that already exist, particularly in the men’s and women’s locker rooms, according to Guenther.
Guenther said private showers and changing spaces are being developed by taking some sections of the public showers and changing areas and closing them off in the gender locker rooms.
As of now the committee and Klotsche are in limbo, waiting for a definite policy for the locker rooms.
Mohar said in his email that he was not able to disclose information about how, if any, transgender students had to speak with Klotsche management about wanting to use the locker space that aligns with the gender they identify with due to FERPA and general privacy concerns.
“Individuals needs are discussed on a case-by-case basis,” said Mohar in the email when asked if transgender students need to follow certain rules that non-transgender students do not (like in the Inclusive Locker Room Policy draft).
University Recreation does not track complaints to specific to transgender students, according to Mohar. He said that UREC staff is trained to handle the situation.
Mohar said that there is no timeline available for when there will be a policy placed and that the draft is being considered by UWM Administration.
“My position is to ensure a positive experience for all Klotsche users,” said Mohar.
There were more ideas than action at the committee’s meeting. They were coming up with ideas for education about the private facilities in the Klotsche locker rooms.
Cary Costello was for more of an educational and informational project on university policy rather than a debate format.
“It surprises me that we don’t want to spearhead the side of it that’s research and education based with being the university in general and also being notably recognized for LGBT friendliness,” said committee member Katie Rose about coming together with a vision of what any kind of facility in the future could look like.
She said they should get the support of staff instead of just students. Guenther said that they do need the students support since Klotsche is supported through student segregated fees, as said in the November minutes.
Costello asked some students in the meeting what would be the best way to educate students.
Sarah DeGeorge, a SA Graduate Student Appointee of the committee, said the idea of a public forum scared her.
“It is a lot emotionally to take on,” said DeGeorge.
DeGeorge mentioned the Gavin Grimm case in Gloucester, Virginia. She brought up that the 17-year-old high schooler did an op-ed in the Washington Post.
DeGeorge references the part in the video where Gavin Grimm said he felt humiliated when a school board meeting had a discussion about his genitals and how he shouldn’t use the boy’s bathroom.
“I’m definitely for a public push of education and getting people on board,” said DeGeorge. “I just want to be cautious and mindful of kind of what that’s going to put on all of our trans students who are willing to sort of be at the center of that and be the face of it.”
Members appeared to be leaning more towards an online module for education when it comes to Klotsche locker room usage.
SA Undergraduate Student Appointee Elijah Walker said in the past as the Student Association LGBT+ advocacy senator they have offered options of education for Klotsche staff.
“We’ve supplied the administration with a lot of things they could be doing, and it’s all either emails don’t get responded to or there’s push back like the head of Klotsche doesn’t want the student staff members in Klotsche to be educated.”
Warren Scherer, Inclusive Excellence Center Appointee of the committee, brought up how Jen Murray, co-chairperson of the committee who wasn’t at this meeting, keeps emails she received from Steve Mohar.
Scherer said that Murray was invited to some training before a semester for the staff. It was cut short, according to Scherer. He said Murray tried to follow up with Mohar and she had more information that wasn’t covered. Scherer said Murray asked if he would like to reschedule. Murray did not return an email seeking comment.
“My interpretation of this was quite curt,” said Scherer about Mohar’s email. They’re like, ‘no, I think we’ve got enough, thank you.’”
The committee then started talking about possibly creating a pamphlet that could be online.
Guenther said the committee was charged by Chancellor Mone to create educational materials about inclusive facilities on campus.
In a separate meeting, Guenther said the only thing the committee did decide on is that there will be a draft of a pamphlet and they agreed to work with the LGBT Studies program to develop it. Guenther said the committee would look at it and then allow the chancellor’s office and Legal Affairs to look at it to determine if it is acceptable educational material.
One member brought up the need to write the information in the pamphlet in a way that doesn’t jeopardize a transgender individual.
DeGeorge said that she has signs for the facilities that direct students where the private rooms are located.
As of now the committee does not know what will exactly be in the pamphlet. In a separate meeting Guenther and Murray said they could not say much of the locker room policy situation.
Murray said they could only express where the committee has stood and what has been previously published.
“I think what we could safely say is that the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for LGBT+ Advocacy continues to try to investigate ways that we can make UWM more of an inclusive place for LGBT+ individuals,” said Guenther