A program at the University of Texas at Austin is hard at work protecting the citizens that the Trump administration is leaving behind, particularly transgender and non-binary students. UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center provides a long list of services for all members of the UT community, but their services for trans and non-binary students are particularly important at a point when their rights are under attack.
In recent months, Texas has seen a bathroom bill that would force transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex as it is stated on their birth certificates, and no new protections have been instituted for transgender employees. Because of these changes, a community that is already often overlooked find themselves with far fewer options and friendly faces to turn to.
Non-binary students, or those that feel as though they do not fit into either the traditional male or female categories, have a whole different set of hurdles. Transgender issues have come into the spotlight with issues like the bathroom bill receiving coverage, but many people don’t even know what it means to be non-binary. There are no specific protections for non-binary citizens other than those that are in place for other members of the LGBTQ community.
However, the CMHC boasts a number of groups that are offered specifically for the LGBTQ community, according to assistant director Katy Redd. They also have several diversity coordinators on staff, and interested students can select a counselor based on a number of specifics like gender identity and cultural identity that may make them feel more comfortable. Young people often discover who they are and who they want to be in college, and without services like this they may be at a loss as to where to go for advice or help.
In a year, the CMHC typically provides services to about 10 percent of the student population. For the LGBTQ population there are a number of therapy groups and the ability to meet with staff members, including psychologist and diversity coordinator Joey Hannah, who have specialized knowledge about gender, sexuality and diversity. One of the great services for transgender and non-binary students offered is the ability to get a letter that can be used to begin transition care. That little piece of paper can act as armor to a person struggling with their identity and looking for a way for their outside to match their inside.
For students that feel like Legislature is either ignoring them or, in some cases, attacking them, it is good to know that there is support — in walking distance, no less. Whether you are gay, straight, queer, or anything in between, there is a place to go. Even if all you need is someone to talk to, this program offers a place where you can be the real you.
Bonfiglio is a journalism junior from Oak Creek, Colorado. Follow her on Twitter @NahilaBonfiglio.