Transphobic Sign at UW Prompted by Trans Student Accepted Into Sorority
Last week, K2 Radio news reported that a church elder named Todd Schmidt hung up a sign on his table in the University of Wyoming Student Union that stated: 'Man Created Male and Female and [name of student] is a male.'
At the time, it was unknown why Schmidt specifically target that student but the editor of the University of Wyoming student newspaper, the UW Branding Iron, confirmed that it was in response to the student being accepted into a sorority in Laramie.
"What I believe was happening," said UW Branding Iron Editor Preston Harrison, "Was there was an individual who, in an attempt to persuade student opinion across campus, had a sign posted up that was more or less exposing his own political and religious views about the situation of a trans student being accepted into a sorority on campus."
[Editor's Note: The student has asked that her name be removed regarding the sign. We will respect her wishes and will not publish her name in this article, either].
"As reaffirmed by Vice President of Student Affairs, Kim Chestnut, [name of student] is the first openly transgender student to be accepted into and to participate in sorority and fraternity life at UW as of September, 2022," the UW Branding Iron wrote in October of 2022.
“I feel so glad to be in a place that I think not only shares my values, but to be in a sisterhood of awesome women that want to make history,” the student told the UW Branding Iron. “They want to break the glass ceiling, trailblazing you know, and I certainly feel that as their first trans member, at least in the chapter in Wyoming history.”
The decision, however, was not without its controversy, as illustrated by Schmidt's decision to target the student with his sign.
“I’m just trying to tell the truth and bring people to God," Schmidt said at the time. "That’s all there is. There are not any more genders than that. Biology teaches everybody about that.”
Read More: University of Wyoming Student Targeted by Church Elder in Student Union
The sorority, however, has specific guidelines regarding the inclusion of students. By their guidelines, set by the National KKG Guide for Supporting Our LGBTQIA+ Members, as well as by the National Panhellenic Council.
“Kappa Kappa Gamma is a single-gender organization comprised of women and individuals who identify as women whose governing documents do not discriminate in membership selection except by requiring good scholarship and ethical character. All chapters are expected to adhere to these documents.”
Those are the guidelines, but each local chapter still has the power to vote on its members. This student was accepted based on the majority vote.
“Our Greek life here on campus, and I think nationwide as well, offers so many resources and so many opportunities and I am really glad that people can partake in that and be welcomed and not afraid that they’ll be rejected,” the student said. "Things that shouldn’t matter like what their identity is or what their orientation is or what the color of their skin is."
But, orientation matters to some people, including Schmidt. Schmidt was, at first, asked to remove the student's name from the sign. After public outcry, University of Wyoming President Ed Seidel released a letter to the public, in which he announced that Schmidt had been suspended for one year from reserving a table at the University of Wyoming Student Union.
"Following a review of the Dec. 2 incident in the Wyoming Union involving the harassment of a UW student by an individual external to the university, we have determined that these actions violated the university policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment," Seidel wrote. "Given this, the individual’s privileges to reserve a table in the Union have been suspended for one year."
Read More: UW President: Church Elder with Sign Targeting LGBTQ Student Prohibited From Union for One Year
Schmidt is contemplating fighting that decision, as he believes it infringes on his right to free speech.
“People would rather believe a lie than see the truth," Schmidt said. "There is nothing more loving than being a Christian and preaching the gospel. I am trying to show people the love of God."
The student understands that she has, and will continue, to receive condemnation and criticism. She even says she understands what their mindset may be. She just hopes they could try to understand hers, as well.
“There does come a price to being a first, and it comes with people in our current political situation that are detractors that do not want that,” the student told the UW Branding Iron. “But to those detractors I say that I understand where you’re coming from, but at the end of the day I wish that they would see me as who I am.”
So, who is she?
“I am [redacted]. I’m from Lander, Wyoming. I went to high school here. I love this state. I love this campus and community. And I just hope that they’d see me as the person I am and not the ideology that they perceive me as.”