Seeing both sides of the und transgender policy


The question of whether or not it is, in an academic environment, harassment to knowingly misgender a transgender person is a legitimate one to ask. In trying to find something relatable to this conversation, I thought about what it was like being Jewish at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Most people on campus had clearly learned about Jewish people from other people. People that were not Jewish and sometimes anti-Semitic.

Some people did mistake me for being Christian or an atheist, as if those were the only two choices. People who knew I was Jewish made anti-Semitic “jokes,” assumed that I was wealthy, and acted as if I was libel for every bad thing that other Jewish people, and the Israeli government, did.

Much like with transgender people, my creed was treated as something that needed to be “fixed” through evangelicalism. Whereas Jews are typecast as being unfairly good with money, transgender people are typecast as being unfairly good at athletics.

I can sympathize with the argument that a public university should respect the free exchange of ideas as well as the argument that harassment interferes with the right of students to pursue an education on the basis of equal opportunity.

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While it is not a part of my faith, the First Amendment cannot protect my liberty, if it does not also protect the equal liberty of say, transphobic Catholic bishops. Public colleges and universities must respect the First Amendment.

I was not raised to be politically correct and I do tend to think that the solution to offensive speech is more speech. I also think that cancel culture is something that people on the political left and the political right have become addicted to using.

Yet, I also sympathize with the argument that transgender people make about harassment. In my case, the free exchange of ideas was not always so free.

I did not always feel safe in responding to anti-Semitic speech, and I did not always have a network of supporters to lean on. The prospect of having to educate faculty and students was overwhelming.

I frequently felt like I was, at best, part of the “college experience” for wide-eyed undergraduate students or, at worst, an alien. These circumstances were not good for my mental health or my academics.

The University of North Dakota deserves credit for starting the conversation, even though they made the mistake of thinking it was going to be a quick chat, before policy implementation.

I hope that this is the beginning, not the end, of a conversation about how public colleges and universities can protect the First Amendment as well as ensure equal opportunity for all students.

Edward TJ Brown lives in Parkers Prairie, Minn.