On-campus Organization Discriminates Against Transgender Women

by Anonymous

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There has been a lot of talk about SAI on the Puget Sound campus over the past few months. It’s time to bring some things to light.

Sigma Alpha Iota is a music fraternity for women that has been present on the Puget Sound campus since 1948 and currently has 223 active chapters nationwide. The fraternity is composed of women who have a strong commitment to music and are dedicated to promoting the development of music throughout the world.

SAI has many noble ideals and is well regarded as a great supporter of women in music. However, this organization also has a problematic transgender policy. The policy, which can be found on the SAI National website, states:

“If a person is medically and legally a female at the time of pledging and through the time of initiation, she may be invited to become a member of SAI. If at any time following initiation she elects gender reassignment, when considered legally and medically of the male gender, then the Fraternity requires that her membership will be moved to the category of Distinguished Member. The official badge, membership card, and certificate would be turned in and a special ritual ceremony performed to transfer the membership to the appropriate Distinguished Member category. The member would then be presented with the appropriate pin, membership card, and certificate.” (2013 SAI Chapter Procedures Manual, Appendix A).

This policy is problematic because it is not inclusive to all women and it requires certain members to prove that they are “legally and medically female” while others are not required to show this information. It sets an arbitrary and unclear definition of what it means to be a woman, thereby excluding many women from membership.

The transgender policy became a major issue for the SAI chapter at Puget Sound last semester when they tried to initiate an individual who identifies as a transgender woman. This individual was ultimately barred from initiating by the SAI National Executive Board on the basis that she is not “legally and medically female”.

SAI’s main argument regarding this issue is that initiating a transgender woman who does not meet their transgender policy requirements would jeopardize the organization’s Title IX exemption status. This is a status that allows SAI to exist as an organization exclusively for women. But would this legal status actually be in danger by allowing transwomen to join? The answer seems to be no. There are several examples of Title IX exempt organizations that are inclusive to transgender people. Girl Scouts, Sigma Phi Beta Fraternity, Delta Xi Phi Multicultural Sorority, and Gamma Alpha Omega Sorority are all “single-sex”, Title IX exempt organizations that explicitly state that they do not impose barriers to membership for transgender individuals. Based on this information, it seems that SAI’s transgender policy is not necessary for it to remain classified as a Title IX exempt organization, and yet the organization continues to uphold a policy that allows for transgender discrimination.

The SAI National Executive Board’s actions following their decision are almost as frustrating as the decision itself. They refused to allow the chapter to talk about this issue with anyone outside of the chapter, and they denied a request by the chapter to disclose information concerning this issue to the Puget Sound community. On February 2nd, the National Executive Board temporarily suspended the Puget Sound chapter for talking about this issue with another chapter of SAI. The Puget Sound chapter has made many attempts to discuss this issue with the organization and appeal to the National Executive Board, and each attempt has been met with an unreasonable amount of resistance. It has been effectively impossible for anyone in the Puget Sound chapter to do anything about this issue because they are not allowed to talk to anyone about it and the National Executive Board refuses to back down from their position.

Based on how I understand it, there is no real reason why SAI’s transgender policy cannot be repealed. And yet, the National Executive Board is working to make sure that this policy remains in place and that no voices of dissent are heard. This is not something I can tolerate. I refuse to let this discrimination and transmisogyny be swept under the rug and go unnoticed by the wider community. Organizations that deny membership to transgender people need to be called out and held accountable for their actions. Transphobia everywhere needs to be addressed and condemned, and this is no exception.

If you would like to let Sigma Alpha Iota National Headquarters know what you think about their policy and their actions, you can do so by emailing them at nh@sai-national.org

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11 Comments Add yours

  1. Collin Hoover says:

    This title is very misleading, please do not believe that there is a group of students on campus that would see transgender women discriminated against. As a member of the Puget Sound chapter, we ALL support trans rights and are doing our best to address this issue. The article does a good job making that clear but the title does not.

  2. The title is not misleading. Because of the policy in the national regulations the on-campus chapter is discriminating against transgender women. The on-campus chapter will be discriminatory until the policies which govern it, which here happen to be national, are no longer in place. The fact that the governing policies are national does not mean that they do not require campus chapters to discriminate against transgender women, which they do. Discrimination is an effect of policy; it is not an attitudinal descriptor. The intentions of the chapter members are irrelevant to whether or not their organization discriminates or not.

    1. = says:

      Your interpretation implies that the members of the group have failed to appeal or contend the discriminatory policies, which is not the case by any stretch of the imagination. This specific chapter (by which I mean the organization at the University of Puget Sound and the students members thereof, to make it absolutely clear) was nothing but welcoming to the individual or individuals in question. They were required by the strictures set forth and upheld by the national body to discriminate, and what you’re doing certainly seems to constitute an attack on the members of the UPS chapter, who have been doing their utmost to fight and overturn these policies while you simply insinuate, either through sheer negligence or misplaced malignity, that they are no better than the bigots who threaten them.

      1. UPS Student says:

        The chapter is not allowed to include transgender women. Therefore, it is discriminatory. People in the chapter may want to include transgender women, but this does not change the reality. Now can we stop fussing over the title and start fighting for transgender individuals?

  3. = says:

    @UPS Student
    You are wrong. Did you fail to understand my comment? Was it somehow unclear? The chapter HAS been fighting for transgender individuals, and all your self-righteous quibbling cannot change the fact that you’re just late to the party. Don’t you DARE impugn a group of people who have been tirelessly campaigning to change the rules, despite being students with their own lives, students with more than enough work to do as it was. You are the one who hasn’t been fighting. We forgive you for your tardiness, but I certainly don’t forgive these comments which constitute attacks on the people who’ve been fighting for equality since day one.

    1. Anon Trans Student b/c I don't need that drama in my life says:

      It’s pretty disturbing that the only talk this article seems to be generating is about the decision of the words “on-campus.” I mean I get that it might be hurtful to be lumped in with the terrible decision of the national headquarters but in a lot of ways the fact that you’re freaking out way more about the title, rather than actually acknowledging that someone stuck their neck out to bring the discrimination of transgender women by an organization that is on campus (as in: UPS the institution, allows SAI the institution to exist on its campus and discriminate against trans women) to light makes you complicit in what’s happening. You’re blocking the real issue & real discussion to be had on campus with personal stuff. Now everyone is talking about how upset SAI people are about the title or that one of their friends saw some angry comment that was funny rather than saying, “hey discrimination of a student! That’s screwed up! we want transparency from this school!” People needed to know this was happening because the community deserves to know that this is happening.
      I don’t think anyone is trying to insinuate that the members are transphobic. This is clearly a pretty heated issue, but as a trans student on this campus, I’m just happy someone is putting this information out there. I personally didn’t see the title as being about the members until I read and heard about the comments. And honestly it’s pretty indicative of the way I feel here at UPS. Someone tries something and everyone reacts by bringing up how it burdens them & their image. Sorry the title makes you slightly uncomfortable or annoyed at the author? But I’m more sorry that you can’t get past that and recognize who is really being hurt in this situation? Trans women. Not just here, but at other schools and other times I’m sure. Sorry you’re irritated but also trans women get harassed & discriminated against on a daily basis and it needs to be talked about. If someone is coming up to you and harassing you and calling you transphobic BECAUSE of this article, then I apologize and I would suggest contacting someone from Wetlands but if no one is running up to you and calling you a bigot and harassing you/bullying you, then I really don’t see how your burden taken on by this ambiguous title is greater than that of the larger issue.
      The title is not an intentional personal attack on each and every SAI member and honestly if you’re going to make this about you instead of about the discrimination and oppression of transwomen then how can you even say you’re supporting and fighting for any sort of equity. Finding justice for someone is not about the way you look or what kind of attention it brings you, it’s about the ultimate outcome for the oppressed group or person.

      Good luck on moving SAI National HQ on this issue. I wish the best to everyone seeking justice. But ho
      nestly, it’s really appalling to me that you would turn on each other & on other people seeking justice rather than turning on the imaturities who hold power. You’re all basically helping the process of oppression by being divided & fighting about who’s way of seeking justice is more correct. That’s what institutions rely on, you being preoccupied and divided. You’re all trying to move in the same direction, does no one see that?
      And if you’re going to get nasty and tell me how wrong I am too, because I’m also not in SAI. I would challenge that you don’t get the bigger struggle because you’re probably not trans, and especially not a trans woman/feminine identified person.

      Last, I’d like to point out how all about the burden of cis students you seem to care about. You’re all students with your own lives and more than enough work as it was? Like I’m sorry. Do trans students owe you for your time & services? Do trans people not also have school and work? Oh and during all of that, we have to deal with transphobia & trans misogyny. You have a really screwed up way of fighting for trans students rights if you think it’s such a burden to your already so busy schedule. Sorry that you have to be bothered with fighting for fair treatment despite having your own life. If we could just have equal rights we would, trust me.

      Internet comment fights are dumb but I really cannot sit back & watch you harass people trying to point out the larger issue. Hope you’re a bit more clear at this point about why this is still more about trans discrimination than it is about implying anything about the members. Any mischaracterization has been accomplished by your words here, not the title. Sorry if you still think this whole thing is about you & your character.

    2. UPS Student says:

      Yes, the chapter has been fighting for trans women. This is an indisputable fact. I only meant that discussion of the post needs to shift away from the title, a title which is completely factual, to things that will be more productive in ending the discrimination of trans women in SAI. An oppressed group of people is barred from your organization and all you seem to care about is your image. Like wow I’m sorry people might view you sort of poorly until they actually read the post. This issue isn’t about the chapter’s image or the hurt feelings of its members: it’s about trans women having the right to become members. Also, when working to support people who are oppressed, don’t complain about how hard the work is for you. No one owes you anything for supporting trans women so stop acting like you deserve to be congratulated.

      1. = says:

        MY image? Good try, but I’m not in the chapter. They’re the ones working tirelessly and thanklessly, I’m just trying to see that they get their due. The focus on the title is mostly your fault, you great dithering heap of idiot. Collin was trying to clarify before you stepped in and did your whole “Well they absolutely are discriminating” spiel. You are a hypocrite and a moron. Leave.

    3. This isn’t about the members of the chapter except insofar as the chapter are not allowed to make trans women members in an equal sense w cis women. That’s discrimination. The organization is on campus. They follow national policy. National policy which makes them discriminate. They don’t want to be seen as transmisogynistic? Then change the policy. Representing the members of a discriminatory group positively does nothing for trans women, does not change policy, and is a secondary concern. The organization is discriminatory and to contend otherwise is silly and ridiculous in light of recent developments.

  4. Trans 8 says:

    Question, would “On-Campus Organization Forced to Continue Discrimination Against Transgender Women” be better?

    This title shows the clear continuation of discrimination, but also acknowledges the plight of the chapter itself in their endeavor to fight these issues. While the fact of discrimination shouldn’t be whitewashed, I don’t think the endeavors of the chapter should be misconstrued just for click bait purposes.

  5. SAI-collegiate officer says:

    We have a new policy that states “if a person, in good faith, identifies as a woman, then that person is a woman for the purposes of the fraternity’s membership criteria.” The language appears to be much more inclusive, which works for me as I am nonbinary myself. It’d be nice to see a follow up piece to this article and see how the local chapter and NH handled this?

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