Student Senator strives to help other transgender students


Adrienne Oliva / Clarion

Student Senator Shawn Padley works to make others more aware of the needs of transgender students.

Adrienne Oliva, Editor in Chief

Growing up as a transgender man, Shawn Padley had difficulty finding role models that he could look up to.

As a member of an often under represented community, Padley had to work to find successful transgender individuals. Once he did, it helped him realize his own potential.

“That showed me that I could also excel,” explained Padley.

Padley is Madison College’s first openly transgender Student Senate Vice President.

Padley wants to use his position to help other transgender students thrive. Padley hopes that being open about his identity will make the people around him more aware of the needs of transgender students on this campus.

“We exist, and there are unique needs that trans students have in terms of safety and accommodation on this campus that either don’t get addressed because people just don’t think about it, or are kind of in the works, but there’s not really a trans person giving input to that group,” said Padley.

Padley’s involvement in Student Senate was rooted in his desire to advocate for Madison College’s LGBT student body.

After noticing a lack of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) resources on campus, an instructor advised Padley to reach out to the student senate and become a member of the Diversity and Community Relations counsel.

“So, then I started talking to members on the senate […] and I decided I wanted to make my mark on the school somehow, so I joined,” said Padley.

According to Padley, there are several things that could improve the experience of transgender students at Madison College. For example, having gender neutral changing stations and more accessible gender neutral bathrooms are just two things that would begin to make the campus more accommodating for transgender individuals.

“I don’t want other students to have to drop a gym class because they have to choose between having breasts in the men’s room or a goatee in the women’s locker room,” said Pedley.

One thing that concerns Padley most is the lack of policy that protects transgender students on campus.

“Say, if I were to use the men’s bathroom, if someone were to clock me as trans and say, ‘you shouldn’t be here,’ and I were to be assaulted, there’s no policy that says that the campus will protect me,” said Padley

Padley often goes beyond his responsibilities in order to represent transgender people in all matters. After noticing a lack of transgender student leaders, Padley sees it as his role to remind the people around him of the specific needs of transgender students.

“For me, being in this position is kind of like poking people with a stick when thinking of things and being like, ‘Hey, don’t forget these people’,” said Padley.

In many ways, Padley has become a role model himself. Student Senate advisor, Jackie Dahlke, believes having Padely on senate inherently helps the people around him widen their view of transgender people.

“He just talks about his life, the things he knows, and that helps inform everybody around him. And then for people who haven’t had a transgender individual in their life, that becomes normal for them,” said Dahlke.