Being expelled from a university is serious business. Students can get expelled for academic dishonesty or failure to uphold a GPA above a 1.5. Under such circumstances, expulsion is a rational consequence to a student’s behavior. But what about being expelled for expressing your self-identity?
This is the same question former California Baptist University student Domaine Javier found herself facing in 2011. Javier has filed a lawsuit claiming that CBU expelled her due to her gender identity. Javier was expelled from Cal Baptist University in August 2011 when she revealed her biological sex in an episode of MTV’s “True Life.” For its part, CBU and its attorney James McDonald justify this act of discrimination by arguing that her expulsion was due to her dishonestly identifying her sex as female in the admission application.
Javier’s failure to identify her gender according to social norms has resulted in her unfair expulsion from Cal Baptist. A student’s self-identity should not be a reason for being expelled from or denied admission to any university, even if it is a religious institution. Cal Baptist demonstrates its poor judgment if the school made this decision on the basis of a religious belief. A transgender person does not necessarily have to stop being religious, and a person can practice the religion of their choice regardless of how they identify themselves.
In fact, people who struggle with the confusion of gender identity seek hope and acceptance. John W. Kennedy of Christianity Today writes that many “religious groups are rallying around the transgender movement in the name of social justice.” Some religious groups have started to accept diverse gender identities. They acknowledge that faith comes from within a person and has nothing to do with their appearance.
Generations are changing; social norms are not the same as they were a few decades ago. Some traditional practices like slavery and denying certain people the right to vote are no longer applicable in today’s modern society. More people have become open-minded and have learned to accept this different reality. Some religious institutions may have a harder time, but denying a student the right to gain a higher education because they do not identify themselves according to social norms is not the right step toward learning to accept transgender students.
McDonald’s defending argument for Cal Baptist claims that Javier was expelled due to fraud by identifying herself as female rather than male. But Javier explains that she has viewed herself as a female ever “since I was a little girl.” A person’s gender does not change their talents, experience or other qualifications that grant them admission to a university. Javier was accepted because CBU believed she would be able to perform and produce quality work at the university — and this is true no matter which box she checked the on the application.
Not only does Cal Baptist’s decision to expel Javier demonstrate poor judgment, but it is also illegal. Section 51 of California’s civil code, also known as the Unruh Civil Rights Act, grants everyone in the state of California freedom and equality — everyone, “no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation.” Among the guarantees are that all people “are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.” Because a university provides education and other services for students who pay large sums of money, it can be considered a business. Therefore, under this law, Cal Baptist should not have been able to expel Javier when she openly discussed her status as a transgender student.
The courage it takes to be able to openly and confidently be oneself should be applauded since it is challenging for people to defy social norms. Javier’s lawsuit shows her determinedness in changing the way social norms discriminate against those who do not fall within the lines of those norms. This lawsuit serves as awareness to the diverse state that we live in. No two people are exactly the same even if they believe in the same religious values. If this lawsuit turns in favor of Javier, it would result in a big step toward the acceptance of the LGBT community. This acceptance can lead to future laws granting them equality.