Review Article Misrepresents Trans* Policy

Emily Clarke

To the Editor:

I was interviewed for Kristopher Fraser’s article “Athletics Department Adopts New Trans* Policy,” in the May 2, 2014 issue. While I am happy that the Review took time to cover the work of the Transgender Participation Advisory Committee, the article did not accurately reflect my conversation with the writer.

Firstly, language throughout the article credits Oberlin as an institution rather than the actual people responsible for work: “Students arguing for revision initially provoked the policy change, in keeping with Oberlin’s demonstrated interest in issues of gender and sexuality.” Although I remember mentioning specific names in the interview, this sentence erases the work of students, particularly Erin Berg ’12 and Kye Campbell-Fox ’15. Later, a quote from Betsy Bruce is used that does not specify the “somebody from the MRC” who helped craft the latest draft: Lore Espinoza Guerrero and Dio Aldridge, the LGBTQ community coordinators for ’13–’14 and ’14–’15, respectively, have contributed importantly to this draft and the Transgender Participation Advisory Committee as a whole.

Secondly, the article incorrectly states that transgender student-athletes will no longer have to deal with paperwork, medical records and personnel. The fact that the first contact person has been changed from the Athletics Director to the Director of NCAA Compliance does not change the NCAA’s requirements for medical documentation of hormone replacement therapy, for example. However, it does streamline the process and reduce the number of people that a student’s medical information is shared with — since the Director of NCAA Compliance is the person responsible for sending that documentation to the NCAA, they are a necessary contact point.

Third, the aim of the policy is not to “develop a greater sense of comfort” in transgender students; it’s to change the way that administrators, coaches and teams can be held accountable for the ways they do or do not support transgender student-athletes, and to make sure that resources are moved toward that support. Comfort is important; so are accessibility and safety, and those need to come first.

Fourth, I am quoted as saying, “I know there are transgender students on campus,” despite never saying this. The presence of transgender students on campus should be a surprise to no one, and it was the activism of transgender student-athletes around their own experiences in athletics that led to the committee I’m on — I got involved through being on the Rhinos, the women and trans*-inclusive rugby team. Putting those words in my mouth invisibilizes the work of transgender members of the Transgender Participation Advisory Committee, who put serious time, energy and vision into the latest draft.

Fifth, I never said that Oberlin is “fairly progressive.” I think Oberlin has a progressive reputation and that Oberlin sells itself on that reputation, which is why I think it’s important to point out where the College falls short of that reputation, as well as where it’s facilitating and supporting moves forward. I have no idea if we have more transgender students than a “typical” college, and I don’t believe Oberlin as a whole can be a “safe space” for transgender students, yet I am quoted as saying both of those things.

Sixth, I spoke in the interview about the excellent feedback people provided us at the forum on April 24. That feedback was supportive, but students also made it clear that there is a lot of work to be done — particularly in clarifying where our guidelines are determined by the 2011 NCAA policy, and in further stipulations for education and support. We are still seeking student feedback on the latest draft; an email was sent to the student body and the A&PS staff on April 24th with the draft, a summary of changes and a link to the previous guidelines. Please feel free to send feedback, thoughts, questions, etc. to me ([email protected]) or any other member of the Transgender Participation Advisory Committee.

Additionally, the new draft is of the “Guidelines for Inclusion and Respectful Treatment of Intercollegiate Transgender Student Athletes.” Including the actual name, rather than “a new set of athletic guidelines,” would have been more helpful for people trying to find the policy.

Lastly, I am a College junior, not a senior.

I know that your writers work on tight schedules, and I also know that section editors tend to not allow writers to share drafts with interviewees. However, I asked to see a draft, and this article was published without me ever seeing one. The misrepresentation of my words seems to indicate bigger issues with the way the Review works. I have seen other letters to the editor this year from people complaining of being misquoted, of their words being edited to mean something entirely different. In retrospect, I wish I’d made it clear that I didn’t want my name used without being able to see what words were attributed to me first. I understand that there are difficulties in transferring spoken words to text, but I hope the Review staff can prioritize accuracy over immediacy in the future.

– Emily Clarke