Friday, January 31, 2020

Transgender professor at Kingsborough College sues school over gender discrimination

Red Washburn

A transgender English professor at Kingsborough College says colleagues’ failure to use up-to-date they/them pronouns partly justifies they/their lawsuit against the school for gender discrimination.

Red Washburn, who uses they/them pronouns and has taught English and Women and Gender Studies at the CUNY Brooklyn community college since 2011, alleges in a Brooklyn Federal Court lawsuit filed Friday that the school began discriminating against them in 2017 when they came out as transgender.

Washburn’s boss continually referred to the professor by their ["dead name" (former name)] despite the fact that Washburn legally changed their name to “Red.” Colleagues also continued to use the pronouns “she” and “her” for Washburn, despite the fact that the professor repeatedly advised them to use they/them pronouns.

“While occasional misgendering could be attributed to innocent error, the protracted and continuing misgendering of Dr. Washburn, despite continued notice, created a hostile environment based on gender,” the lawsuit says.

Washburn claims the school defunded the Women and Gender Studies department soon after Washburn came out as transgender.

“Six months after I came out as trans at work by requesting a name and pronoun change and sharing that I was getting top surgery, Kingsborough’s administration announced that it was defunding my concentration,” Washburn wrote in an op-ed for the Daily News in June.

Top surgery is reconstructive surgery to a transgender person’s chest.

Washburn also alleges in the lawsuit that they were moved into a new office at the school that was no more than a tiny storage closet, claiming the room did not even have space for a desk.

In the fall of 2018, the day before classes started, Kingsborough College cancelled Washburn’s Sexuality and Literature class, claiming the enrollment was too low, the lawsuit said.

“This explanation was incorrect, as the amount of enrollment was the same as that considered sufficient for other classes,” the lawsuit said.

“[Kingsborough College] is, I believe, a safe place neither for gender non-conforming and trans faculty to work, nor for such students to learn,” Washburn wrote in their op-ed.

Noah Goldberg
New York Daily News
Noah Goldberg covers Brooklyn supreme and federal courts for the New York Daily News. He previously covered criminal justice for the Brooklyn Eagle.