All he wanted was a laptop.
Abdul Asquith, 26, was a student at Florida Atlantic University when he was denied checking out a laptop from the school library to write one of his final papers in October.
“She refused to give me the laptop,” Asquith said. “She said the ID wasn't me and that I was a girl.”
What soon could have been a misunderstanding turned into a scene when the librarian showed her boss the ID, who agreed with the librarian. Finally a third person was involved, who said the ID resembled him -- Asquith said he chuckled.
“I felt like he was laughing at me when he laughed,” he said. “They still gave me the laptop after I got to the third person. They were making a big scene about it and trying to humiliate me for no reason.”
The photo was taken in Asquith’s first semester in school -- he had his hair pulled back in a ponytail and wore a hoodie, just like he did the day he went to the library. Through every semester, he used his ID to enter the gym or cafeteria and never had a problem. Asquith said he was proud to go to FAU, but in the final months before his graduation, the experience changed his entire outlook of the university.
“He definitely didn’t care to experience the embarrassment and humiliation that went along with him presenting a male ID card with a visible picture of a masculine person and then having someone say, well you look female so we aren’t going to serve you,” said his lawyer, George Castrataro, who runs a firm in Fort Lauderdale where half of the practice focuses on LGBT law.
In a statement to SFGN, an FAU spokeswoman said that the school takes “allegations of discrimination seriously.”
“This incident was quickly corrected and an FAU administrator issued an immediate in-person apology.”
Months after the incident, FAU came under fire yet again for mistreating another LGBT student. A gay man went to the registrar to apply for in-state tuition after he married a Florida resident. The school denied his request -- rightly so, as they are a state school and must adhere to state law -- but again it was the allegation of poor treatment. When he told the registrar that he didn’t have a wife, but rather a husband, the registrar allegedly showed shock that it could happen.
“There was this sense of, you can’t be married to a person of the same sex,” Castrataro said. “It’s not like they made the law; the state did and they’re obligated to enforce it. But what was an issue was how [my clients] felt in the course of their experience dealing with the university,” Castrataro said.
Asquith graduated in December 2013 with a degree in communications. He had plans to pursue his master’s at FAU as well, but after the incident, doesn’t have “any intention of going back to the school right now.”
Since sensitivity appears to be an issue with staff, Asquith and Castrataro want the school to put a greater focus on LGBT students and their treatment during training seminars.
“I said [to the council] you know, I’m not always sure myself of the right words to use, but I’m usually sure that I don’t humiliate, embarrass, or undermine folks. There is a way to do it and be effective. You don’t need a 10-hour class, but they do need to work on it substantially,” Castrataro said.