In 2011, Domaine Javier came out as transgender on an episode of MTV’s “True Life.” Though she was already accepted to California Baptist University, Javier was accused by the university of fraud several months after the show aired. Having listed her gender as female on the school’s application, the university refused to accept this gender claim in light of her recently revealed transgender identity and expelled her soon after.
Javier is now suing California Baptist University for violating California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which protects against any form of discrimination due to, among other things, sexual orientation. As Javier told the Huffington Post, “I believe that education is for everyone, regardless of their gender. Everyone deserves a shot at a bright future. CBU deprived me of this right and treated me unfairly – something no one deserves.”
Javier’s suit shines a spotlight on California Baptist and other religiously affiliated institutions. Many Christian universities have bans on same-sex relationships and, as Katie McDonough of Salon notes, have successfully defended anti-gay discrimination suits. However, there is, as of now, no university policy prohibiting the enrollment of transgender students.
Columbia Law School professor Suzanne Goldberg, who specializes in sexuality and gender law, stated that California Baptist’s policy sets up students like Javier to fail no matter what. She notes that, were Javier to have listed her gender as male on her university application, she still would have faced questions of fraud from her school because her physical gender presentation and her application identification would not have matched.
Though Javier lost over half a million dollars in scholarships, for her the lawsuit is about more than just the money – it is about challenging the institution’s policies on gender and working to guarantee that no one is deprived of an education or discriminated against due to their gender identity.