Pitt denies charges of transgender bias

Rainbow Alliance complaint called completely baseless

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The University of Pittsburgh has called allegations that it discriminates against transgender students unsubstantiated.

Pitt filed a motion last week to dismiss a complaint filed April 25 by the Rainbow Alliance, an organization which advocates for what it describes as the interests of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer and allied community at Pitt. The complaint accused the university of unfairly targeting transgender students in its policies regarding dorm, locker room and bathroom use. But the university's response said the complaint failed to identify a single student who had been adversely affected by university policy.

"The complaint does not identify any actual instance of alleged discrimination or any actual alleged harm incurred by any member of the university community," the motion said.

Pitt spokesman John Fedele said the university does not discriminate against any of its students. Vice Chancellor Robert Hill said Pitt believed the complaint lacked merit, adding that the school would not comment further on pending litigation.

Rainbow Alliance plans to rebut the motion to ensure that transgender students feel safe on campus, said alliance president Tricia Dougherty, who penned the complaint. Charles Morrison, director of the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, said the alliance has 10 business days to respond to the motion, though this deadline can be extended.

The original complaint was a response to the university's policy of allowing students to use only restroom and locker room facilities that match the gender on their birth certificate.

"The current policy equates gender and sex, which goes against the definition of transgender," alliance vice president Darren Pifer said, adding that changing sex information on a birth certificate requires gender reassignment surgery, a costly and invasive procedure that transgender students may not want or need.

"With this policy, you have someone who identifies as a girl, acts like a girl, looks like a girl, being forced into using the boy's bathroom," he continued. "This is a big problem for people who don't look like they belong, and there's a lot of harassment and bullying that goes along with that."

Ms. Dougherty's complaint is not the first this year to allege discrimination against transgender students.

On April 16, transgender man and former Pitt Johnstown student Seamus Johnston filed a complaint with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations after the university expelled him for continuously using the men's locker room. Before issuing the complaint, Mr. Johnston had been named a person of interest in a series of bomb threats at Pitt made since Feb. 13.

Pitt filed a motion to dismiss Mr. Johnston's complaint on May 17.


Nikita Lalwani: nlalwani@post-gazette.com. First Published June 11, 2012 12:00 AM


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