Transgender Professor Denied Tenure

After completing her transition, a transgender professor was denied tenure and terminated. The professor also experienced harassment specific to her situation: she was told that she could only use one bathroom on the campus, a restriction that was placed on no other faculty member. After her tenure review, the professor was told that the dean and vice president of academic affairs found her “lifestyle” inappropriate, so she was going to be made to leave.

There are no transgender anti-discrimination laws in the state of Oklahoma, nor are there specific laws about hate crimes based on gender or sexuality. Thus, there may not be any recourse for the professor, even though the president of academic affairs has openly stated that the professor’s lifestyle “offends his Baptist beliefs.” The deep misunderstanding that the president demonstrates about transgender identity–calling it a “lifestyle” rather than accepting it as a serious part of the person’s identity–is unfortunate, and without any repercussions to force the president to learn about this aspect of sexuality, it’ll likely go uncorrected.

The tenure denial returns to the issue of sex identities in academia, which are being hotly contested by both parents and authorities. The people getting hurt, however, are the educators who dare to deviate from the norm, as well as the students who no longer benefit from their perspectives. Students are supposed to be learning about different aspects of life, so why would having a transgendered professor hurt their educational experience?

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About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.