HAVERHILL, Mass. – Northern Essex Community College officials have said that a female to male transgender student cannot use the men’s locker room out of concerns that the student could be physically assaulted if he used it.
The student, 20-year-old Ethan Santiago, has since filed an affirmative action complaint with the school.
He has also contacted several gay, lesbian and transgender college groups in the state to support him.
Santiago said that he should be able to use the men’s locker room because he identifies as male and has lived as a male for several years.
“When you pass as the gender you are trying to present, I pass,” he told The Eagle Tribune. “I knew I’d be fine [using the locker room] and I don’t know what the problem was.”
The school says the problem is that Santiago still has female anatomy. Although Santiago has used men’s restrooms for the past two years, dresses as a man and is taking male hormones, he has not had gender reassignment surgery.
According to school spokeswoman Ernie Greenslade, Nita Lamborghini, a school dean, denied Santiago’s request to use the facility after consulting with the school’s lawyers.
Greenslade added that this was the first time the community college had faced such an issue.
“The school’s top concern was to ensure that no student would be discriminated against and that all students would feel safe and respected,” she said in a statement. “How to accommodate transgendered students is an issue that is being discussed nationwide among student affairs professionals.”
Greenslade added that Northern Essex officials plan to “develop a policy that will address this issue.”
Additionally, the Massachusetts legislature is set to debate a piece of proposed legislation – House Bill 1722 – in the upcoming session. The bill addresses protections for transgender students and employees, including their right to access public facilities such as restrooms.
Santiago’s story is similar to those of several transgender students across the nation. In December, Southern Utah University housing officials told transgender student Kourt Osborn that he can not stay in the male dorms because he has not had gender reassignment surgery.