California Baptist University Expels Transgender Student

by Sylvia Rodemeyer

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday November 4, 2011

California Baptist University nursing student Domaine Javier recently received a letter that said she had been expelled from the private school. She was not expelled for academic failure or drug use, but because administrators discovered that Javier is a transgender woman.

Cal Baptist officials decided that she was "committing or attempting to engage in fraud or concealing identity by checking the box identifying herself as female." And this move is perfectly legal.

State law prohibits discrimination based on a person's gender identity and expression in employment, housing, government, insurance, public universities and other areas. Cal Baptist and other private universities do not fall under this legislation.

Javier, 24, participated in an episode of MTV's "True Life," in an episode titled "I'm Passing As Someone I'm Not" last spring. The episode documented Javier's struggles with dating and the decision of whether or not to reveal her gender identity to the men she met. Cal Baptist officials became aware of the episode during a background check.

The university's code of student conduct includes abstinence "from sexual conduct outside of marriage" as defined in Baptist teachings.

"Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime," it says. "It is God's unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and his church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race."

While campus officials refused to comment on Javier or any other students' disciplinary actions, it is likely that they used this code justify her expulsion. She is now a year behind in her quest to obtain her nursing degree because she cannot enroll elsewhere until the fall semester.

"Because of their standing as a private religious university, Cal Baptist is within their rights," noted Ross Murray, director of religion, faith and values at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "They are certainly not the first and not the only to dismiss LGBT individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender presentation."

Another private Baptist college, Shorter University in Rome, Ga., released a new "personal lifestyle statement" on Oct. 21 that lists "premarital sex, adultery and homosexuality" as biblically unacceptable sexual activity. The school further said employees who refuse to sign this pledge could potentially lose their jobs.

Although the university claims that the statement is not particularly different from previous university "lifestyle" guidelines, the inclusion of homosexuality is unsettling to some. Both Cal Baptist and Shorter University are part of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"As discriminatory as these universities are, there are other religious organizations that openly accept and recruit LGBT students," said Murray, who cites his alma mater, Augsburg College of Minneapolis as a private religious school that welcomes LGBT students. The American Baptist Churches and the Alliance are far more socially progressive than the Southern Baptist Convention.

Javier had already been living as a woman when she arrived in the United States from the Philippines eight years ago. She went on to become the valedictorian of her high school class and her classmates at Riverside City College elected her homecoming queen. Javier had hoped to attend Cal Baptist because it was a few blocks away from her home-she even turned down a position at Cal State San Bernardino, a public university that cannot discriminate against trans students.

"It's very brave of her to be a part of such a visible show," said Murray. "It's through venues like "True Life" that the general public has become more understanding and supportive of transgender issues."

As for Javier, she maintains that she did nothing wrong and has no regrets about participating in the show. She is back at RCC looking forward to the fall semester when she can pursue her nursing degree on a more trans-friendly campus.