Transgender man linked to Pitt bomb-threat investigation claims discrimination

A transgender man expelled in January from the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown for defying the school's edict not to use the men's locker room filed a complaint today with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, charging the school and its top officials with discriminating against him.

The complaint is the latest volley in Seamus Johnston's ongoing battle with Pitt over its transgender policy, one that has drawn the attention of FBI agents investigating bomb threats that have crippled daily life at the Oakland campus. Mr. Johnston's complaint was filed with the city commission because Pitt's main campus and top administrators are in Pittsburgh.

Mr. Johnston, 22, and his partner, Katherine Anne McCloskey, 56, a transgender woman, were interviewed by agents Wednesday at their apartment in Jackson Township, Cambria County. The next day, they were subpoenaed to appear Tuesday before a federal grand jury.

Transgender couple talk about investigation, complaint filing

Transgender couple Seamus Johnston and Katherine McCloskey talk with the PG's Mike Fuoco about the bomb threat investigation and a discrimination complaint filed with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations. (Video by Melissa Tkach; 4/16/2012)

Mr. Johnston said agents told him he was being investigated in the bomb threats because of his explusion from the university in January after repeatedly using men's locker room facilities on the Johnstown campus despite being told not to do so. Mr. Johnston also is awaiting trial on three misdemeanors filed in the campus incident. Ms. McCloskey said agents indicated to her that the couple were persons of interest in the probe.

The couple deny any involvement or knowledge of the more than three dozen bomb threats, many affecting multiple buildings. The threats continued today, forcing the evacuation of three university buildings.

In his complaint, Mr. Johnston alleges that the school violated the city code relating to discrimination on the basis of sex and handicap. Mr. Johnston, who was born female but who identifies as male, was adjudged as fully disabled by the Social Security Administration in May "for a variety of emotional liabilities that included gender identity disorder," the complaint notes. He has been taking hormone treatment for 10 months.

Specifically named as knowing of and allowing the discrimination to take place are Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, Provost Patricia E. Beeson, General Counsel Jerome Cochran and attorney Ted Fritz.

Charles Morrison, the commission's director, said after receiving notification, Pitt will have 30 days to respond to the complaint. After that, Mr. Johnston would have a month to rebut Pitt's response.

The commission would work with both parties to attempt to resolve the dispute. Failing at that, the commission will probe the matter further, a process that could result in a hearing.

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Michael A. Fuoco: or 412-263-1968. Bill Schackner: or 412-263-1977. First Published April 17, 2012 1:00 AM

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