by Michael Vine
Staff writer

Students in Middle Tennessee State University's gay-straight alliance, MTLambda, added gender identity to the group's constitution last month. Now, the group's vice president is asking the university to update its anti-discrimination policy to include gender identity, as well.

The MTLambda's updated their constitution in order to better focus the group’s mission by highlighting the group’s least considered segment, according to MTLambda vice present and MTSU Student Government Association senator Brandon Thomas.

That acknowledgement inspired Thomas to make a proposal to the university to update it's policy.

Thomas said the clause is meant to explicitly take account of transgender persons, who are not adequately protected by the current anti-discrimination policy which includes sexual orientation.

"It goes along with gender identity, but it kind of defines it a bit more," Thomas said. "[The amendment] is all about inclusion, and I think this is the way to do that. It’s basic anti-discrimination—adding it to the policy.”

Thomas asserts that “anybody that expresses themselves out of the norm: tom boys, guys that are a little bit more on the feminine side” would be protected under the amendment.

The first senate hearing on the proposed amendment is scheduled for late August, when students return for the fall semester. If passed, the amendment proposal will then be presented at a second referendum in late September, around Homecoming. Because campus is relatively quiet during the summer semester there has been limited reaction to the proposal so far, Thomas said. He feels the amendment stands a good chance of passing in both sessions.

If successful in the SGA, Thomas and other supporters of the gender identity and expression amendment intend to pursue making the improved anti-discrimination policy university-wide.

“The [current] political climate calls for this kind of amendment,” Thomas said. “Six states have legalized gay marriage, Shelby County has a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance, and [the University of Tennessee at Knoxville] has gender identity in their anti-discrimination policy.”

As much as our universities are charged with facilitating the dissemination of information and fostering learning and discovery, their halls open to the progressive thinker and the unrepentantly regressive mind alike. As some young minds fight for equality, there are other young minds that struggle to conserve inequality.

“We have to be proactive and not reactive,” Thomas said. “Why wait for hate crimes?  We should fill in the gaps where our government has conveniently omitted the facts. We are diverse. We have to be. And we’re not going to let anything happen to anybody.”

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