Letter To The Editor: On Discrimination Against Transgender Individuals

On behalf of the entire Psychology Department

A recent paid advertisement in The Torch included statements from a professor from the Philosophy Department that might justify or encourage discrimination against Transgender or Gender Nonconforming (TGNC) individuals. TGNC students at St. John’s University, like all students, deserve the opportunity to pursue their education free from the burdens imposed by prejudice and discrimination. The Psychology Department wanted to communicate accurate information and underscore the need to protect Gender and Sexual Minority (GSM) students against discrimination.

The professional associations of psychologists, physicians, and psychiatrists have all reviewed the evidence on best practices for providing care for GSM and TGNC individuals. The practice guidelines of the American Psychological Association state that gender is a nonbinary construct and that TGNC identities are a part of a natural continuum of gender identities and expressions. The American Medical Association states that clinical efforts to change TGNC individuals’ gender identities to conform to what they were assigned at birth have proven to be a failure and were harmful. Instead, the AMA advocates assisting TGNC individuals in living in accordance to their identity.

Discrimination against Gender and Sexual Minority (GSM) individuals is both prevalent and harmful. Most important from the University’s perspective, discrimination against GSM undermines educational achievement. GSM youth are more likely than their heterosexual or cisgender peers to be absent from school because of concerns about safety. GSM-related discrimination is linked to lower education aspirations and lower levels of achievement (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 2012; Pampati et al., 2018; Kosciw, Palmer, Kull, Greytak, 2013).

Institutional, cultural and political support reduces discrimination and protects the educational outcomes of GSM individuals. Specifically, school-based support for GSM students including supportive educators, anti-bullying policies and an inclusive curriculum are all associated with improved educational outcomes, including higher GPA and reduced absenteeism (Kosciw, 2013).

The evidence on the effects of discrimination on educational achievement makes it imperative that the St. John’s University community work together to reduce discrimination, mitigate its effects and make a more inclusive environment for GSM students. If we work together, we can support all students in their efforts to achieve.