Discrimination Based on Gender Identity & Gender Expression

The University of Michigan prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender expression and gender identity. “Gender identity” refers to a person’s internal knowledge of his/her own gender, and a person may identify as a gender that does or does not appear to correspond to the sex assigned to that person at birth, or the person may not identify as either female or male. Of those people who feel that their birth sex and/or physical bodies are mismatched with their sense of self, not all identify as transgender. Some individuals whose internal knowledge of their gender is inconsistent with their birth sex may undergo sex transition services.

A person’s self-presentation of themselves as female, male, androgynous, or as another gender, as evidenced by their manner of dress, speech or other physical expression of themselves, is referred to as “gender expression.” While the gender expression of most people appears to indicate a close match between their birth sex and their gender identity, the gender expression of others may appear not to match either their birth sex, their gender identity, or both.

Individuals are protected from discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. For example, it would be inappropriate for a supervisor not to promote a qualified person who is transitioning their sex because the supervisor is aware that the employee’s co-workers are uncomfortable with this change.

In order to facilitate an inclusive and supportive working and learning environment, those who interact with transgender persons should make every effort to use the appropriate pronoun (she/he/ze or her/him/hir) requested by the transgender person. See examples of prohibited discrimination for examples of the types of gender identity and gender expression discrimination prohibited by the university.

Hostile Environment
Gender Identity or Gender Expression Harassment

The university will not tolerate the creation or existence of an environment that is hostile on the basis of gender identity or gender expression. Such a hostile environment is defined as harassing conduct (e.g., physical, verbal, graphic or written) related to gender identity or gender expression that is sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent so as to (1) interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from the university’s programs and activities or (2) unreasonably interfere with an individual’s work or academic performance by creating an objectively intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or learning environment. Whether the harassing conduct is considered severe, persistent or pervasive depends upon the context in which the behavior occurred. For further discussion of what constitutes a hostile environment, please refer to the discussion of hostile environment in Section XIII.

Where to go for Help

If you believe you are experiencing discrimination or harassment based on gender identity or gender expression, you are encouraged to contact the appropriate university official (dean, director, HR Representative, etc.) and/or the Office of Institutional Equity (see contact information in Section XIX). There are also many resources on campus that provide assistance, support and information to individuals experiencing discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. A list of these offices and a brief description of their services appear in Section XIX. If you are unsure which office to contact, contact the office that seems most appropriate, and that office will either assist you or help you make contact with a university office that can.