Soulforce Responds to Discrimination at Southern Utah University

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: December 21, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Minneapolis, MN) — Southern Utah University has denied a transgender student the right to apply for campus housing. Kourt Osborn, a former Soulforce Equality Rider, was informed last week that the University would not accept his application to live in men’s housing unless he provided a letter from a therapist with a diagnosis of gender identity disorder and official documentation that he has undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Soulforce joins other LGBT activist organizations around the country in decrying these standards as discriminatory, irrelevant, and intrusive.

"For an institution committed to research and critical thinking, Southern Utah University has shown itself to be surprisingly uninformed about transgender people," says Haven Herrin, Director of Soulforce Q.

"The university’s decision to treat being transgender as a medical issue is not in keeping with the majority of university policies, which tend to address being transgender as an identity issue," says Dr. Kristen Schilt, a sociologist at Rice University who studies transgender men in the workplace.

"By diverging from these generally accepted university guidelines, Southern Utah University is effectively penalizing a student for his decision to openly identify as transgender. It is difficult to imagine residential officials asking for documented proof in reference to other comparable personal identities, such as race or sexual orientation, which makes it appear that transgender students are being singled out in this situation."

According to Herrin of Soulforce, "this situation demonstrates that dialogue and education is needed at secular institutions, as well as avowedly religious schools. We continue to hope that they will use Kourt’s application as an occasion for campus-wide learning."

Osborn has filed a formal grievance with Southern Utah University.

Thirty leading universities have instituted gender-neutral housing options, including the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, and New York University. Resources for educators committed to building safe learning environments for all students — regardless of gender identity or expression — can be accessed through the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition, the National Student Genderblind Campaign, Campus Pride, and www.equalityride.com.


Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.

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