In the news recently was the possibility of the California public university system adding to their demographics collection for applicants questions about their sexual orientation. I have mixed feelings about this depending on the question. For example, one of the news reports mentions a private school in Illinois that has “3% reporting to be homosexual, bisexual or transgender.” One thing that I have never understood is why 'transgender' is on a list of sexual orientations. It's not a sexual orientation, it's a gender history. A person can be a homosexual trans woman, or a bisexual trans man, or even something not even mentioned like a pansexual trans gender queer.
This gets into part of the problem I can see happening. According to the same news source the new law that asks universities to allow students and staff to be able to “identify their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression” This would be really cool and validating if it was done right but from what I can tell so far the question is mainly going to be about sexual orientation, and the only orientations I have seen listed yet are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and questioning. This is really invalidating to the students who don't identify with this limited list of orientations. If it was a fill in the blank, or even had the option of 'other' it would be a little better. Even though 'other' is still rendering a person into that status and is dehumanizing at least then their voices could possibly be heard but as is it isn't looking likely.
Another disheartening part of the stories is the discussion of the UC Undergrad Experience Survey which listed gay/lesbian or self-identified queer together and bisexual and questioning as separate categories. My first response was 'wait what?' This is completely ridiculous and tells me that whoever designed the survey questions has no idea what the different orientations are.
Elmhurst College was also reported but they seemed to do things a little better by asking “would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT community?” See, while that isn't perfect it is at least a bit better. There they are asking what they want to know – are you part of the community we are interested in serving. It feels like they aren't doing lip service to wanting to actually know about the sexual orientations of the people on campus but actually asking the question of if you would use the services provided for LGBT people. This doesn't have as much pretense as questions on your actual orientation.
More services for QUILTBAG students is great and a worthy goal so I am glad that the uni's are trying to do something to help ensure that these students are getting the services they need but it needs to be done right. At the moment, I have little faith that the schools will be putting questions on their admittance forms that validate non-binary students, especially given that most still have 'sex: male/female' on there. Maybe this is a step in the right direction but it seems to me like another way to keep rendering those who aren't binary in gender and orientation, or those who aren't sexual, invisible.
All of the quotes in this are from LA Times, the article can be found here.