Thursday, April 16, 2009

Law Professor's Editorial is Misguided

Monday's Hatchet featured an editorial by GW law professor John Banzhaf, who commented on a story that the Hatchet posted about students trying to change GW's non discrimination policy.

Both the editorial and the original story featured errors about the transgender community as a whole, as well as GW's non-discrimination policy.

The Objective
Trans Education and Advocacy(TEA), a committee of Allied in Pride, is spearheading an initiative to amend GW's non-discrimination policy, not the Student Code of Conduct. TEA is seeking to amend the GW's Non-Discrimination Policy to add "gender identity or expression" to the list of protected classes. Statistically transgender students face more harassment then their peers, and this simple change would protect transgender students discrimination and harassment. For example, this year one transgender student faced harassment, but was not able to take substantial action on the issue since GW's non-discrimination policy did not include gender identity or expression.

Basic Grammar
Transgender, not transgendered is the correct usage. As the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Guide points out:
Only verbs can be transformed into participles by adding "-ed" to the end of the word, and transgender is an adjective, not a verb.

In the editorial, Professor Banzhaf asked:
Since discrimination based upon "sexual identity" is already prohibited, why is there a need to add new language to protect against discrimination based upon "gender or identity expression"?
There is a difference between sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. GLAADs media guide can clear up any confusion:

Gender Identity

One's internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or a boy or girl.) For transgender people, their birth-assigned sex and their own internal sense of gender identity do not match.

Gender Expression

External manifestation of one's gender identity, usually expressed through "masculine," "feminine" or gender variant behavior, clothing, haircut, voice or body characteristics. Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression match their gender identity, rather than their birth-assigned sex.

Sexual Orientation

Describes an individual's enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Transgender people may be heterosexual, lesbian, gay, or bisexual. For example, a man who becomes a woman and is attracted to other women would be identified as a lesbian.

Professor Banzhaf also expresses concern over the fact that perverts and degenerates might take advantage of the policy.

In reality, hundreds of universities have implemented this policy and this has never been a problem. Ever.

Over 260 universities have added gender identity or expression to their non-discrimination policies, including American University and Georgetown. TEA is currently lobbying the GW Faculty Senate to support this proposal, so that the amendment can be reviewed by President Knapp and the Board of Trustees.

Full Disclosure: I am the former president of Allied in Pride, GW's largest LGBT organization.


Steve said...

It is unwise to criticize another publication for grammar mistakes while misspelling a word in your headline.

As Bill Flanigen would say:

Stones, glass houses, and all that.

Devin said...


Did you even read the Hatchett article written by professor Banzhaf?
If you had you would realize that spelling is not the issue here. The article he wrote was completely inappropriate and misguided. Neha corrects those errors in this blog. For your own sake try using intelligence before commenting on an issue that affects the lives of countless GW students.


Steve said...


It's fine if you think that Professor Banzhaf's article was misguided. That's not my concern here.

Neha criticized the article's grammar and word usage. To do so while making similar mistakes, makes Neha look - to be frank - stupid.

Actually, let's just say this. Misspelling anything in a headline makes you look stupid. Game over.

Neha said...

Steve is right, I should have noticed that mistake.

However, I do think there is a difference between hitting the "d" key instead of the "s" key, and incorrectly referring to a group of people.

Steve, do you have thoughts on the proposal? Or the editorial?

Rohmteen said...

Perhaps it would be a good idea to look at the actual body of the post. The points that are raised in this post are all valid, and its nice to see someone correcting Banzhaf's many gross inaccuracies.

Every time there is a campaign against protecting transgender individuals it inevitably centers around bathrooms. While I must admit this is a very effective scare tactic (creepy men will overrun the women's restroom... the horror!) Yet. as Neha points out, this nightmare scenario has never been seen in any of the hundreds of cities (including DC) or universities that have adopted similar language. There is simply no evidence for such a claim.

In any case, as Neha points out, anything scenario that could have happened should have already happened as DC law already states that transgender individuals are entitled to use the restroom that matches their gender identity.

More shockingly, reading Prof. Banzhaf's piece, I have no idea which bathroom he expects transgender students to use or if he thinks trans students should just not use public restrooms.

Anonymous said...

Steve you are missing the significance of the post. Neha isn't correcting professor Banzhaf's grammar, she's correcting his use of terminology in refering to a community that is often the target of discriminatory language.

It's important that she does this because it's a frequently overlooked problem.

One comment I'd like to contribute refers to the issue of bathrooms: why are people so worried about transgender individuals using public restrooms that correspond with the gender they personally identify with? Why is it that people think that if all the sudden such individuals are permitted to do so that creepy men will overrun women's restrooms? If a creepy man wants to enter a woman's restroom he's going to do it, and I doubt he will try to use the excuse that he is transgender. As Neha stated, other universities have instated the policy and this has not been the result.

Furthermore, they are public restrooms, so enough said. You can hear like five people peeing around you. There is no privacy factor to be disrupted. And there are stalls with doors, so it's not like men will be watching you go to the bathroom or vice versa.