Trans student of color sues Lincoln University

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A transgender woman of color has filed an antibias lawsuit against Lincoln University, alleging that pervasive transphobia prevented her from getting a proper education at the school and caused her to become suicidal.

“Jane Doe,” 22, of New Castle, Delaware, filed a 73-page lawsuit against the school on Sept. 15. The case has been assigned to Chester County Common Pleas Judge William P. Mahon and a jury trial has been requested.

Doe seeks more than $50,000 in damages and remedial measures at the school, which is the oldest historically-Black university in the country. It’s located in Lower Oxford Township, approximately 50 miles west of Philadelphia in Chester County.

Doe has attended the school since August 2016. She’s currently a senior. But problems for Doe began early, when she was assigned to a male dorm, despite her protests. Doe should have been housed with cisgender females, where she would be safe. The living arrangement exacerbated her gender dysphoria, according to the lawsuit.

In 2017, Doe transferred to apartment-style living off-campus. However, she was harassed by Omega Psi Phi fraternity members who also lived in the apartment building. The fraternity members “subjected Doe on a daily basis to a living nightmare of transphobia and abuse,” according to the lawsuit. In August 2019, she returned to the on-campus male dorm where she previously resided.

On April 21, 2017, after Doe auditioned for the cheerleading team, fellow students denied Doe’s participation because “they didn’t know what to do with [Doe],” and university officials acquiesced to the alleged discrimination, according to the lawsuit.

In January 2019, Doe applied for the Lincoln Woman of the Year Award and was denied consideration due to her gender identity, according to the lawsuit.

In February 2019, Doe exited her apartment and a group of Omega Psi Phi fraternity members who were nearby mocked and misgendered Doe. She was called a “faggot,” and one of the fraternity members  stated, “He’s gay as shit,” according to the lawsuit.

On Feb. 13, 2019, Doe lodged a complaint with a university official about alleged transphobia at the school and specifically within Omega Psi Phi. However, Doe continued to be denied access to educational programs or activities including applying to be Miss Lincoln University 2019, according to the lawsuit.

“On March 20, 2019, Doe emailed Lincoln University President Brenda Allen to complain about the harassment and discrimination Doe was receiving because of Doe’s gender identity. President Allen turned a blind eye and exhibited deliberate indifference to transphobia, bias, and hatred against the transgender community occurring in her school against Doe,” the lawsuit states.”This constitutes sex discrimination, deliberate indifference, and is nothing short of cruel and abusive mistreatment.”

Allen couldn’t be reached for comment.

Throughout the academic year of 2018-19, Doe’s off-campus neighbors removed her personal items from her apartment and threw them down the hallway. Additionally, trash was left in front of Doe’s door. Moreover, the Resident Advisors on Doe’s floor were members of Omega Psi Phi fraternity and they harassed Doe on a frequent basis,  according to the lawsuit.

A spokesperson for Omega Psi Phi Inc. couldn’t be reached for comment.

In August 2019, Doe requested university-based mediation to alleviate the alleged harassment and discrimination. However, a campus minister who presided over the mediation session continually misgendered Doe. “[The minister] harbored religious bigotry and animosity toward [Doe],” the lawsuit states. “[Doe] was also openly harassed during the meeting by the [Omega Psi Phi] fraternity members with impunity as [the minister] did nothing to intervene to correct or remedy the problem of misgendering and harassment by the students during the meeting. [He] was willfully blind to it as it was occurring before his eyes.”

In October 2019, in another attempt to improve her conditions on campus, Doe filed a complaint against the university with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, alleging discrimination and harassment. 

“The PHRC has provided no meaningful assistance to Doe, has shown no sincere interest in resolving the matter, and the discrimination, harassment, failure-to-accommodate, and retaliation continued unrectified,” the lawsuit states.

A PHRC spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

Due to the alleged abuse, Doe became depressed and suicidal. She attended classes on a sporadic basis and her grades suffered. She continues to suffer from the effects of the alleged abuse to this day, according to the lawsuit.

Doe’s lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 in damages, along with LGBT-sensitivity training for all university workers and students; a policy allowing students to live in dorms consistent with their gender identity; a policy stating that gender dysphoria is a covered disability for which reasonable accommodations will be provided; a policy that students will be housed in accordance with their gender identity and permitted to use facilities that are consistent with their gender identity; a policy that students will be referred to using a name and pronouns consistent with their gender identity; implementation of appropriate anti-harassment grievance procedures; and university-wide anti-harassment training.

Neither side had a comment for this story.