Lesbian, gay, bisexual give Mason 7.5 rating where as transsexual give 4.5

On Jan. 29, President Angel Cabrera tweeted that satisfaction ratings for the LGBT community on campus was 7.5 for “LGB” and 4.5 for “T”.

Cabrera was able to glean this rating from his visit to the Office of LGBTQ Resources, where he asked students to give Mason a generalized rating out of 10 based on their satisfaction with its LGBTQ policies and their overall experience with their fellow students and faculty.

For lesbian, gay and bisexual students, the rating was relatively high. According to the Campus Climate Index, a national listing of LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities, George Mason University scored a 4/5 based on elements such as LGBT academic life, student life, campus safety and counseling and health.

Two areas in which Mason scored poorly were LGBT policy inclusion and housing and residence life. Ric Chollar, Associate Director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources, says the problem starts higher up.

“Being in the state of Virginia, and being a public institution, the restrictions on LGBTQ folks in Virginia apply to us as well.”

According to Chollar, there is currently no protection for transgender and gender variant students and faculty from discrimination; staff could potentially be fired for being transgender, or students could be denied housing, and there would be no recourse.

On February 12th, 2013, a subcommittee in the Virginia Senate tabled a bill to provide protections for LGBT people in the workplace, effectively killing it for the remainder of this session despite support from thousands of Virginians.

“The administration is hesitant to build into policy anything that the state sees as going against the state’s conservative views.”

Though George Mason University is seen to be a progressive institution, there are currently no domestic partner benefits or policies regarding gender neutral housing. That, however, is subject to change.

“We’ve got about 90 recommendations that we’re going to be asking different departments and the top administration to put into place to make this an even better campus.”

Amongst these 90 recommendations is a request for more single stall bathrooms for use by gender variant students and faculty. At present, transgender and gender variant students have the most trouble finding a safe environment in which to simply be themselves. Ric Chollar and his office are working towards educating faculty, staff and students about transgender students and LGBT issues in the form of Safe Zone training programs and public speakers.

Amena Johnson, the program coordinator for the LGBTQ Resources office, explains that the office collaborates regularly with other offices on campus to not only spread the word for LGBTQ tolerance, but also for tolerance and acceptance of all demographics here at George Mason University.

“Our office works very closely with Woman and Gender Studies and the Office of Diversity, and they are very open to the LGBTQ cause.”

The general attitude in the office was one of Patriot pride; students and faculty alike have reported that George Mason’s on-campus climate is one of openness and tolerance. Despite Virginia’s conservative policies, President Angel Cabrera and his staff are making every effort to provide a safe and accepting environment for all students to come and learn, while also taking advantage of all the opportunities that Mason has to offer. However, there is always room for improvement; gender neutral housing, bathrooms, and sensitivity training are sorely needed to improve the transgender satisfaction rating.

Despite this, it is good to keep in mind that activism starts at the grassroots level; much like the Stonewall riots in the late 1960s that fueled a national movement for LGBTQ rights, the greatest form of revolution is simply standing your ground and being proud of who you are. In the words of comedian Margaret Cho, “for [women, people of color and LGBTQ people] to have self-esteem is truly an act of revolution. And our revolution is long-overdue.”