Students at the University of Oklahoma are increasingly diverse. They are embracing their individualism and adopting identities, names, and pronouns that most closely align with their personal experiences. This is amidst a cultural climate that is more reflexive, introspective, and supportive of gender diversity than ever before. For example, Facebook now has 71 gender options as well as a “fill in” option to allow its US English-platform users to identify themselves in ways other than the male/female dichotomy. Some people are moving away from “he” or “she” pronouns and opting for “they” as a reflection of their gender identities. Transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, pangender, and gender fluid are just a few identities that represent the diverse gender spectrum of the OU student body.
“The University of Oklahoma, in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, age, religion, disability, political beliefs, or status as a veteran in any of its policies, practices, or procedures. This includes, but is not limited to: admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services.”
–OU’s Equal Opportunity Statement
At OU, there is increasing interest in supporting gender diversity. For example, in June 2015, OU’s Equal Opportunity Statement was updated to be inclusive with respect to gender identity and expression. OU supports the right for individuals to use restrooms where they feel the safest, and there are 13 gender-neutral restrooms on campus. To better reflect their gender identities, students who have transitioned away from their birth names can now choose a “preferred name” to be listed on their Sooner Card, Canvas, OrgSync and Ozone profiles. The LGBTQ+ Ally Program offers resources and training for any interested students, staff, and faculty to learn more about these issues.
My own research indicates that OU is generally supportive of LGBTQ+ individuals, but amongst these groups, transgender people experience the most stigma. At OU, students are assigned to living spaces based on their birth sex unless sex reassignment surgery is complete and their legal sex marker has been changed. Although some “gender sensitive housing options” are available on a case-by-case basis, some students feel burdened by OU’s seemingly strict reliance on the male/female dichotomy. OU also requires students to identify only as “male” or “female” on compulsory forms and does not currently have a system in place to allow students to select preferred gender pronouns.
Even so, OU hosts numerous events across campus that are supportive of gender diversity, most of which include sponsors such as the Gender + Equality Center, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and the Center for Social Justice. The Queer Student Alliance offers a social space for LGBTQ+ people, and student counseling services are dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ students as well.