HCC Recognizes Problems, Commits to Change

For Immediate Release
Houston, TX – In September a transgender Houston Community College (HCC) student requested that the Transgender Foundation of America (TFA) assist her in initiating an investigation after she was referred to as a “freak” in her English class. The comment was made during a classroom discussion of a paper written by the instructor, Donny Leveston, entitled “Taboo: Incest and Homoeroticism” in which the instructor invited the classroom to discuss how they felt about a transgender woman’s pre-operative genitalia. Leveston ended the classroom discussion by saying, “I don’t care what those people do, as long as they keep it away from me” said the student.

The student attempted to inform Leveston that the comments made her feel unwelcome in the classroom but Leveston responded stating that, “everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion” and that the student should respect his right to feel uncomfortable with transgender people, “Everyone has the right to his or her own preference,” wrote Leveston, “just do not go trying to push your views on me. Case closed.”

The student then approached TFA for assistance in resolving the situation. “I broke down as when I left the class. All I knew was that I needed to get to the [TFA Transgender] Center. By the time I got there, I couldn’t stop shaking. I wanted to quit school at that point. I felt hopeless.” said the student.

HCC recently closed the investigation acknowledging numerous worrisome issues with the behavior of Levenston. These deficiencies were innumerate in a letter of closure delivered to the student:

“… the Instructor failed to demonstrate sensitivity and treat the student in a respectful  manner in the following ways: 1) He did not show sensitivity in choosing the articles to share with the students, though he had prior knowledge that a student that was transgendered [sic] would be in class; 2) his email sends mixed signals by apologizing yet defending his own and the students’ rights to have their preferences and ends the comment with ‘case closed’ in essence dismissing any further dialogue; and, 3) failed to show concern for the student when she abruptly left the classroom and did not attend the next class period, yet the Instructor did not reach out to her to determine if there was a problem. Rather, it was the student who had to reach out to the Instructor.”

With mixed feelings about the investigation, the student said, “While I’m happy with the outcome of this investigation, the entire thing has been an incredibly stressful ordeal that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.” When asked about her future at HCC, she said, “I’m grateful that the school recognizes that there’s a problem with that teacher and that they need to clearly include transgender people in their non-discrimination policy, but I’m not going to return to HCC. What happened to me in that classroom has changed the way I feel while at the campus. I’ll be attending San Jac [San Jacinto College] in Pasadena next semester. They have a very clear non-discrimination policy that is explicitly inclusive of transgender people.”

Currently, HCC administration has taken a stop-gap measure to attempt to address anti-transgender discrimination and harassment by asserting that gender identity and expression are protected under their prohibition of discrimination based upon sexual orientation. Currently, one page on HCC’s website makes this assertion while their actual nondiscrimination policy remains silent on the issue of protecting students from discrimination based upon gender identity and expression.

In addition to this apparent stop-gap measure, HCC has posted numerous anti-discrimination posters around campus after TFA organized a meeting between the student and HCC administration. However, these posters remain silent on the issue of protecting students from discrimination based upon gender identity and expression.  On November 3, HCC’s Office of Institutional Equity and Student Services presented “Inclusion Fusion,” a forum where instructors learned how to “…create an inclusive, friendly and welcoming environment in their classrooms.” The event featured gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.

In addition to brining the HCC administration to the table to discuss anti-transgender discrimination, TFA has participated in numerous HCC student and instructor forums. “HCC recognizes the need to clearly protect their transgender students from discrimination and harassment” said Lou Weaver, TFA President. “TFA will continue to work with the HCC administration to ensure the protection of their transgender students.”


Transgender Foundation of America (TFA) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the quality of life for transgender people.

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