When the Reverend Martin Niemoller was rescued from German concentration camps, he was asked why even he, a respected and well-known preacher, was targeted by the Nazi government. He answered, “first they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.”
I’ve realized that, too often, I’ve chosen to stay quiet about issues just because they didn’t affect me. When my journalism teacher told us the story of Reverend Niemoller, I began to understand the consequences of silence. Injustice concerns us all, even if sometimes we don’t see how we relate to those being unjustly treated.
For almost a decade now, the gay and lesbian community has accepted transgender people as part of their movement. Although many transgender people are not gay or lesbian, they have suffered the common foes of ignorance and intolerance from those who embrace equality as an exclusive privilege instead of an inherent right. To date, the efforts of what is now known as the GLBT community have yielded amazing results. Two states and 41 counties and cities across the country have added gender identity to their non-discrimination laws, ensuring that everyone is equally treated in the areas of employment, housing, credit and finance.
Gender identity, however, does not only protect transgender people. It applies to anyone who breaks or even bends gender boundaries. This can be as simple as a man wearing an earring or a woman preferring dress pants over skirts.
Although a topic of discussion in many areas of the country, it has gone ignored at the University of Miami. The only group on campus that may even understand this issue, the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Community (GLBC) is still missing a “T,” while most other campus organizations around the country have already added transgender to their name. Although the GLBC president has assured me that a more appropriate name will be decided upon during this school year, it’s a shame we are to be one of the last to achieve inclusiveness.
UM should broaden the scope of diversity to include gender identity now, before it’s too late, and let the world know the University of Miami truly understands the meaning of equality.
Jean-Paul is a senior majoring in journalism and political science.