Lee University will strictly limit students’ expression and speech around gender identity starting this fall, according to a leaked policy draft.
The draft states that no student at the private Christian university in Tennessee “has the right to publicly identify or behave as a gender that does not correspond to his or her biological sex,” and it forbids students from questioning the policy or any other university guidelines.
“Learning about the creator’s gift of gender—male and female as an image of God—is a vital aspect of a student’s education at Lee,” the statement continues. “Humans do not have the ability, or observed right, to choose their gender.”
Under the new policy, students are forbidden from requesting that others refer to them with a different pronoun or new name; “dressing or outwardly presenting as a gender other than one’s biological sex”; receiving any kind of gender-affirming medical or psychological care; and using facilities like bathrooms or dormitories that don’t correspond to one’s “biological sex.”
A spokesperson for Lee issued a statement saying the policy has been years in the making and is in keeping with the institution’s theological underpinning, the tenets of the Pentecostal Church of God.
The updated policy is the latest in a series of anti-LGBTQ+ steps the university has taken.
In March 2021, the university publicly corrected a guest speaker for failing to say LGBTQ+ people should repent. Last August, a transgender student was suspended for posting TikTok videos criticizing what he called Lee’s “homophobic environment.” And in September, Lee removed all mention of the words “gender” and “gender identity” from the antidiscrimination policy section of its student handbook.
The moves have riled some alumni. Last year a Lee alumni group launched the Affirming Alum Collective to advocate for LGBTQ+ students on campus; they told The Chattanooga Times Free Press over the weekend that they were set to meet yesterday with school officials about the new policy.