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Transgender student could be sanctioned for locker room use

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By Bill Vidonic
Friday, Dec. 9, 2011
 

A transgender student at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown could be banned from extracurricular activities for a year for using a men's locker room.

Seamus Johnston, 22, a junior computer science major from Johnstown, was born female. Two years ago he began identifying as a male. Johnston is undergoing hormone therapy, but has not undergone surgery for a sex change. University records reflect that he is a woman, but Johnston is trying to get those records changed.

On Dec. 2, Johnston said, the university found him guilty under its code of conduct of disorderly conduct, failure to obey a locker room ban and trespassing in the men's locker room. He said he expects to learn the university's sanctions today. They could include one year of probation, which would ban him from extracurricular activities and men's facilities and require him to undergo counseling. Johnston said he would appeal any sanction.

"I hope that I'll be allowed to go back to being treated like a normal student instead of a freak," Johnston said.

Pitt-Johnstown spokesman Robert Knipple said on Thursday he could not comment on the specifics of the charges.

In a prepared statement, he said, "When we became aware of the situation, we identified a locker room that had been used by officials during games. The unisex facility has a single shower and can be locked from the inside to ensure privacy. This facility is available for use by any student, faculty, or staff who desires privacy."

Johnston said he had been using a men's locker room in the campus Sports Center for a weight training course for almost two semesters. University officials told him on Sept. 9 he could no longer do so because of students' complaints, and offered him the use of the private shower.

Johnston said despite his pleas for the university to educate students on diversity issues, he saw little progress and started using the locker room again on Oct. 24. On Nov. 16, just after the student newspaper profiled him, the university banned him from the locker room and began judicial proceedings, he said.

Campus police filed two additional citations last month, charging him with disorderly conduct. Johnston faces a hearing before a Cambria County district judge Dec. 21.

Johnston said he is trying to file charges through a district judge against several university employees, including campus police, for citing him.

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