Thirtieth Anniversary of Andover’s GSA and Trans Rights

This weekend, the Andover community celebrates the thirtieth annual weekend gathering of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance (G.S.A.).  This important milestone merits attention and reflection.  The G.S.A. has played a central role in supporting students (and adults, for that matter) of all genders and sexualities on campus at Andover.

This week also marks the publication by the New York Times of a memo obtained by the Trump Administration about a proposal to “define out of existence” transgender persons.

I stand with the editors of the Phillipian, Andover’s independent student newspaper, in their opposition to this policy.  They note, correctly, that this proposed policy “has cast a shadow over the celebrations” of the G.S.A.’s thirtieth anniversary.  In this week’s paper, the Phillipian editorialized:

Regardless of this legal statement issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, we hope that the members of the Andover community will continue to support and love each other, and accept everyone for their unique identities and backgrounds. Andover is a community thoroughly and perpetually committed to diversity, and no announcement or any administration will change that commitment. In the face of these alarming news headlines and government-issued statements, the Andover community must recommit to its values of Non Sibi, compassion, and kindness, and never succumb to the pressures of fear, difference, and hate.

My friend Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, also published an article on this proposed policy that made me think — as all Joi’s writing does.  I’m with Joi when he writes:

And so, in the face of an appalling and nonsensical step backwards in government policy, I’d like to offer my support to all trans, gender non-conforming, and/or nonbinary members of the Media Lab and MIT community. More broadly, I’m calling on leaders of academic communities to speak out on this issue and be very clear that they see, they support, they affirm, and they will protect trans people in their communities.

This proposed policy is inconsistent with our belief in not only bringing Youth from Every Quarter to Andover but also in supporting them during their growth, no matter their gender or sexuality.  It is also inconsistent with Andover’s Statement of Purpose in which we affirm our commitment to “a deeper awareness of the global community” and our non-discrimination policy affirming that “we do not discriminate on the basis of gender, gender identity, gender expression…and sexual orientation.”  We affirm the full humanity and diversity of our students and all those in our adult community.

This issue of equal rights for all is not only a matter of federal law and policy.  Those who live in Massachusetts have a chance to weigh in on this topic on Election Day — November 6, 2018 — as well.  The topic of transgender rights is on the ballot as Question 3.  The official description of all ballot questions appears on the Secretary of State’s website.

Adolescence is a complicated time no matter who you are.  Those young people who are questioning their gender and sexuality deserve support, affirmation, and love, just as all students do.  No federal or state policy can change that in our community.

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