Gender expression

Tufts expands anti-discrimination policy

Tufts has broadened its non-discrimination policy by including new language that protects people regardless of gender identity or expression. The language was unanimously approved by the Tufts University Board of Trustees and expands the categories protected in the general anti-discrimination policy, which include race, religion and sexual orientation.

Dona Yarbrough, director of Tufts’ Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center, said the policy came about because of student activism as well as her own advocacy for transgender students in particular.

“It was certainly something that I saw as part of the future at Tufts,” she said. “It’s a national trend at colleges and universities and was student-driven.”

Yarbrough said the new policy is something that protects everyone at Tufts because it prohibits discrimination based on how people express themselves. “Gender expression,” she said, “refers to any of the visual representations of gender that we all have. It could mean hairstyles, whether you wear jewelry or not and what kind, and whether you wear skirts or pants or makeup. It could also be your posture, the way you walk and your voice. All those things are cues to people about gender.”

The new policy protects people from harassment, from being fired and from being told they have to dress in a particular way based on gender. A direct result of the new policy will be to change single-stall restrooms on all three campuses to gender-neutral restrooms—a change that will protect transgender people. Yarbrough said it could also help people who have children of the opposite gender and need to help them when they go to the bathroom or those who are disabled and have a caretaker of the opposite gender.

Yarbrough said she has provided training on the Medford/Somerville campus and will be providing further training on the other Tufts campuses to alert people to the changes in the policy.

—Marjorie Howard