Trans law student claims tutor said he ‘couldn’t stand gay people’, sues school

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A transgender student is suing is her law school in California after alleged harassment and discrimination due to her gender identity.

Shiloh Betancourt began attending California Western School of Law in San Diego in the fall of 2016. She is now suing for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation by administrators, including assistant dean for Student and Diversity Services, Susan Finster.

According to her lawsuit, filed 7 January with the San Diego Superior Court, the harassment began only days into the January 2017 semester.

Around this time, Betancourt met with one of her professors. He allegedly asked her what her name was before transitioning.

This is what’s known as ‘deadnaming’ — referring to or bringing up a trans person’s name prior to their transition. It invalidates a trans person’s identity.

Betancourt explains in the lawsuit she began to fill ‘dismissed’ by the school and its various figures.

She went to the school’s Diversity Services Office for help regarding gender dysphoria. They reportedly told her, however, that they do not have resources for transgender students.

Figures of power and their words

Betancourt singled out two people in her lawsuit.

One of the first was a tutor she had at the school. According to the lawsuit, ‘Betancourt observed how [the tutor] was very engaged and focused while helping other students but disinterested and detached to Betancourt.’

She also alleges that the tutor once said he ‘cannot stand the sight of gay people’.

Betancourt filed a complaint, but said the treatment continued from other authority figures as well as students.

Another incident alleged in the lawsuit took place in February 2018. Betancourt was wearing a sweater and skirt to school. When Finster saw her, she reportedly commented: ‘I know how you stay warm because my son also stays warm because he has a lot of testosterone.’

Consequences and response

Though Betancourt finished in the top 13% of her class after her first year, she said she dropped out due to health reasons from the discrimination.

She now attends Arizona State University Law School.

‘It was my understanding that lawyers had a more sophisticated sense of respect for diversity and inclusion,’ she told NBC 7. ‘But I was shocked to experience otherwise.’

Marilyn Jordan, a spokesperson for the law school, released the following statement:

California Western denies the allegations made in the civil complaint filed by former student Shiloh Bentacourt. The law school will defend its good name vigorously in response to her complaint and is confident that the evidence will show that it did not violate Ms. Bentacourt’s rights.

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