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‘Two-Spirit’ and ‘Agender’ Among New Gender Options for MSU Class Forms

Contributor: Bri Saroli

New MSU class feedback forms will not only include man and woman for gender options, but nine others, such as ‘two-spirit’ and ‘agender,’ have been added.

A March 18 email sent out to MSU students addressed the change in gender options. The new Student Instructional Rating System (SIRS) surveys list man and woman, along with nine other gender options. In the email, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Mark Largent said, the “current question is binary in nature and does not reflect the diversity of MSU’s student population.”

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‘Two spirit’ and ‘agender’ are among the new gender options. Additionally, students can select: cisgender, transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, gender-nonconforming, or create their own. Students may decline the question entirety.

Email sent to students by Largent

This change was made in conjunction with the Office of Inclusion and the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender Resource Center.

The change will affect all Summer 2021 class forms, and most class forms for Spring 2021.

‘Two-spirit’ can “refer to a person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit,” according to LGBTQ Health. It is “used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity.”

‘Agender’ describes individuals who do not care “about the project of gender altogether,” according to MSU.

When asked what exactly the purpose of the change was, Largent told The Morning Watch, “this is part of a broader effort on campus to disaggregate student data in ways that more accurately reflect the diversity of the student body.”

Further, he explained that MSU assembled these options “with direction from subject matter experts,” adding, “it is well aligned with peer institutions”.

Michigan State University has previously addressed language issues in order to be more inclusive.

In April 2019, MSU sent an email to students titled “Increasing Transgender Visibility on Campus.” Students and staff were asked to “reflect on how visibility of minority groups is essential to changing our campus culture,” along with offering online resource links to help enhance understanding.

[RELATED STORY: MSU Had Nearly 1,200 Racial Incident Reports in 5 Years. Here's How Many Were Valid]

Similarly, in April 2020, MSU sent another email regarding how to talk about COVID-19. The email encouraged students and faculty to sign MSU’s “Hate Has No Home Here” pledge.

Novel coronavirus, SARS CoV-2, or COVID-19 were listed as the only “acceptable” terms. This was done in hopes of creating and sustaining an “inclusive and hate-free community.”

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