A group of LGBTQ+ student leaders at Kenyon College have issued a list of demands in order to push their college administration to speak out more explicitly against transphobia and transmisogyny, including that which has been directed at a member of their own campus community.
On January 24, Dr. Dorian Rhea Debussy (they/them)—the Associate Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Kenyon College, a private liberal arts college in Gambier, Ohio—resigned from their role as a NCAA Division III LGBTQ OneTeam facilitator, following the announcement of the NCAA’s updated transgender participation policy.
In releasing their public resignation letter, Dr. Dubussy also gave an interview to Sports Illustrated, which was then picked up by a variety of other national and international news sources, including Fox News, Fox and Friends, The Daily Mail, RT (i.e. Russia Today), and other neo-conservative and alt-right sources.
In many of the neo-conservative and alt-right articles, Dr. Debussy was purposefully and repeatedly misgendered, and the comment sections for these articles provided space for these publications’ readers to refer to them with transphobic slurs, to discuss their genitalia, and to threaten their physical safety.
Sean M. Decatur, the president of Kenyon, was asked by Kenyon students, employees, and leaders of Ohio LGBTQ+ community organizations—like Equality Ohio and TransOhio—to issue a public statement of support that condemned transmisogyny, so that some of the attention would redirect onto the institution (instead of Dr. Debussy as an individual).
While a brief remark was given to the campus newspaper two weeks later, the official statement was not released for an additional four weeks. To the concern of campus and community leader, that public statement failed to acknowledge or condemn transphobia, transmisogyny, or threats of violence against Dr. Debussy.
“TransOhio stands behind Rhea, and we had expected Kenyon to do the same,” said James Knapp, board chair of TransOhio. “The silence of allies during this unprecedented time of legislative attacks on trans youth is noticed throughout the community.”
When reached for comment, Kenyon officials provided The Buckeye Flame with the following statement:
As diversity facilitator for the NCAA’s Division III LGBTQ OneTeam program, Dr. Debussy worked to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion in college athletics and build safe athletic environments for trans athletes. We respect and support Dr. Debussy’s decision to withdraw from the position when it became clear the program no longer aligned with their advocacy efforts. Dr. Debussy has been a leading voice for LGBTQ+ inclusivity, including here at Kenyon, and we recognize the many contributions they have made through their advocacy.
On March 2nd, Kenyon students held a campus community conversation entitled, “Transmisogyny & Effective Allyship,” after which the students delivered the following demands (via protest signs) to the Office of the Kenyon President.
“I’m glad I got to share my perspective and participate in the action of making and delivering signs responding to Kenyon’s complicity in and/or apathy toward transmisogyny,” said Ilan Magnani, a sophomore at Kenyon.
The demands included:
- Ending trans-coverage exclusions in both the student and employee health insurance plans
- Holding true to Kenyon’s commitment as a member of the Equality Ohio led coalition—Ohio Business Competes—and publicly speaking out against anti-trans bills in the Ohio Statehouse
- Investing in the creation of specific resources for the trans femme community at the college
- Identifying concrete ways to show value and respect to transgender people—and especially trans femmes—at the college
- Creating more affordable single-occupancy rooms for gender diverse students who need a more private living space (without requiring them to make an ADA claim due to a diagnosis of gender dysphoria to access that)
- Re-issuing a public statement of support for Dr. Debussy
Kenyon students expressed hope that the demands would lead to change for their campus environment.
“As a trans masculine person, I am aware that some of my trans feminine peers are not as involved in queer campus life as they would like to because there is a greater risk that come with being visible on campus, and I hope we can create specific resources for the trans femme community here,” said Ocean Wei, a sophomore at Kenyon. 🔥