Penn ranks as top trans-, gay-friendly school
by Jen Colletta
Aug 23, 2012 | 1138 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LGBT college group Campus Pride last week released its inaugural list of the nation’s best schools for transgender individuals, and a local university made the cut.

University of Pennsylvania was among the institutions included in the “2012 Top 10 Trans-friendly Colleges & Universities,” presented in partnership with The Advocate.

The schools were selected based on an analysis of the past five years of the Campus Pride Index, which ranks colleges and universities on LGBT-friendliness based on an array of policies, programs and practices.

Joining Penn is Ithaca University and New York University in New York, Princeton University in New Jersey, University of California’s Los Angeles and Riverside campuses, University of Massachusetts’ Amherst campus, University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus, University of Oregon and University of Vermont.

Penn incorporated gender identity into its nondiscrimination policy in 2003 and began offering transgender-related health coverage for students in 2010. The plan, which includes up to $50,000 in coverage for counseling, hormone treatment and gender-reassignment surgery, was extended to staff last month.

“When I first started at Penn, nearly 30 years ago, hardly any attention was paid to people who identified as trans,” said Bob Schoenberg, director of the university’s LGBT Center.

In recent years, LGBT advocates secured single-stall showers in locker rooms in Penn gymnasiums and are working with the administration to ensure all new construction and significant renovations will include unisex restrooms, Schoenberg said.

“It’s really been in the last 10 years, since the city included gender identity in its Fair Practices Ordinance and the university followed shortly after, that the great number of changes and amount of attention has been directed toward the transgender community,” he said.

On Tuesday, Campus Pride released its new “Top 25 LGBT-friendly Colleges and Universities” list, which includes both Penn and Penn State.

While Penn is leading the way in trans-inclusion, Schoenberg noted that there are still strides that can be taken.

He said LGBT leaders are working with the Registrar’s Office and other university departments to ensure that name changes are completed smoothly and respected in and out of the classroom. Efforts are also underway to allow transgender-identified students to access single-room living arrangements without an added fee.

“We’ve done a lot, and we hope to do even more,” Schoenberg said.

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