TROY, N.Y. – Students at The Sage Colleges in Troy, New York are protesting topless today over what they believe was discriminatory treatment of an androgynous student on campus.
Cedar Brock was sunbathing topless in a public park across from the Troy Public Library near campus Sunday when he was reportedly approached by a school resource officer who asked whether he was a male or female, the Albany Times Union reports.
“I’m neither,” Brock told the officer. “I’m androgynous.”
The officer asked Brock to put on a shirt and informed him that city law prohibits women from being topless in public. The city owns the park, and it’s maintained by the college, according to the news site.
“They told me, ‘You’re in public,’” Brock told the Times Union. “They said, ‘This isn’t what normal people do.’”
A local resident who witnessed Brock sunbathing also called city police. Brock initially refused to put on a shirt, but relented after about 10 minutes.
The 22-year-old junior theater arts major was initially wearing a “binder” that covered its breasts while at the park with friends, but said “it was just so hot” and decided to take it off before campus security arrived.
“I felt forced to put a shirt back on,” Brock said. “I was scared.”
The incident prompted students to schedule a topless protest today between 12:30 and 3 p.m. in the same park over what many view as discrimination by campus police. They’re also expressing their outrage on social media with the hashtag #IStandwithCedar, Syracuse.com reports.
The Times Union reports it was boobies galore as “scores” of topless students descended on the park to show their solidarity with Brock’s plight and paint each other’s bodies Wednesday afternoon.
Many of the students were from the Russell Sage College, an all-girls school and one of several that comprise The Sage Colleges, though several men also participated, according to the news site.
Sage Colleges sophomore James Corola let his gut and man breasts hang out as he toted a piece symbol style American flag, the message “Men have breasts too!” painted on his chest.
Women of all shapes and sizes did likewise.
“Nobody who was in the park was bothered (by Brock’s toplessness),” said student Emily Taylor, who described Brock’s treatment as bigoted harassment.
The Sage Colleges President Susan Scrimshaw stressed in a statement Tuesday that the school loves transgender and androgynous students, and it’s about time school security officers get with the times.
“It’s very important that our staff, including our security staff, understand the changing culture,” Scrimshaw said. “They have to catch up. We have to make sure that we are a community of support and respect.”
Academic dean Deb Lawrence also applauded students who took their tops off in public Wednesday.
“I think today is a perfect demonstration that here we all are and we support our students and what they’re doing to express their voices and voice their support, and we certainly will stand behind our students with that,” she told the Times Union.
Students at the rally have also pointed out that it’s not illegal in New York to go topless in public, regardless of whether the person is male, female, transgender, androgynous, or some other gender, a fact that the Times Union confirmed.
The University Heights Association, which provides security for The Sage Colleges in Albany and Troy, said it’s reviewing the “training issue” but did not condemn or identify the officer involved.
“There’s a lack of understanding with the word androgynous,” UHA director Robert Grebert told the Times Union.