The recent passage of the new transgender policies in Washington state guarantees the right for transgender or genderqueer individuals to use the bathroom, locker room and other facilities according to their own preferences.
This is the start of a long road to equality for transgender individuals across the world. Those who identify as a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth are considered transgender. It’s important to note that gender identity is different than their sex. This means that a person with a set of female genitalia can still consider themselves a man.
This group of people have been regularly discriminated against throughout recent history and the evidence is clear. The Huffington Post states that transgender individuals are discriminated against every day. Specifically, a multitude of articles are found showing arrest patterns, doctor/patient relationships and online violence that all point to a clear disadvantage.
By supporting trans people, society is allowing them to feel safer in their own bodies without the discrimination already in place.
Many may argue that this policy poses safety concerns because of people that may use identification of another gender as an excuse to harass or harm a member of another gender. However, this fails to account for the fact that the policy at Pierce College states that if anyone has a problem or suspicion about possible behavioral issues, it’s not permitted. Also, before the passage of this bill, it wasn’t as if there was an invisible force field present at the doorway of another gender’s bathroom: the only thing that stopped this was societal norms. The difference is now transgender individuals can feel like they’re accepted wherever they go.
Another common argument heard against these policies is that of genitalia being shown in a locker room, specifically to children who are of the other sex. This goes under the assumption that somehow children would be “scarred” in some way because of a glimpse of another person’s genitalia. If parents are worried about this, there are alternatives. One possible change is a private changing area, which are becoming more common. This could give the transgender and cisgender (same gender and sex) populations more options based off of factors of how comfortable they may feel with this new implementation.
Society must stop discrimination of a large group of people out of fear of the unknown. Transgender individuals are people, and everyone knows the feeling of being an outsider or as if they don’t belong. For this portion of the population, this is a daily occurrence and these types of bathroom policies are a good first step
On Dec. 26, 2015, a state regulation went into effect that prohibited facilities from restricting bathroom and locker room access to people of any gender. This legislation wasn’t new, but an expansion of a 2006 law that banned discrimination based on gender and sexual identity.
An email was sent in March 2015 by Holly Gorski, vice president for human resources, regarding Pierce College’s stance on bathroom gender issues.
“The short answer is that every member of the Pierce College community is free to use whichever restroom aligns with their gender identity,” Gorski said in her email. “It’s not up to other people to determine whether or not a given person is in the right restroom. If an individual chooses to enter that restroom, it’s the right restroom for them.”
Gorski sent another email to students and faculty on Jan. 29 to emphasize the college’s stance on the updated legislation.
While this legislation is a step in the right direction for trans rights, negative implications may arise due to the college’s lack of communication and accommodations.
Most students will continue to use the campus restrooms as they normally would, but this law creates the opportunity for harassment.
Chances are that students of any gender who feel comfortable using the campus restrooms and locker rooms have already been doing so. Explicitly telling students they’re allowed to be themselves doesn’t make them any less fearful of discrimination and harassment based on their gender identity.
People will take advantage of the law to make others feels uncomfortable on purpose. There’s already a story circulating around campus of a female student who was snickered at by male students who were using the female restroom. The male students were allegedly using the stalls with the doors open and told the female student that she couldn’t do anything about it because of the new law. Situations like this are fairly unlikely to occur, but they’re hard to prevent when they do happen.
The YMCA’s official statements about this policy said that members will only be allowed to use the restrooms and locker rooms that coordinate with the gender identity they listed on their application. There’s no easy way to enforce this, however. There’s no way to prove that someone is of a certain gender. Those with bad intentions could easily put down any gender identity they wish on their application. In order to prevent incidents, there would need to be an attendant or card reading machine checking membership cards at the restrooms and locker rooms. This would be costly and uncomfortable for everyone. This goes for Pierce as well. Students can report incidents of harassment but these incidents shouldn’t happen in the first place.
This legislation has the power to be a positive step, but Pierce doesn’t seem prepared for it. There hasn’t been much discussion about it except for the brief email sent out. The Puyallup campus currently only has two gender-neutral stalls—one in the Allied Arts and Health Building and one in the Health Education Center. The college encourages students to use the restrooms based on the gender they identify with, but the majority of the bathrooms are only male and female. This leaves out students who are along the spectrum of gender identity and who may not see themselves as fully male or female. These students shouldn’t have to trudge across the campus to use the limited number of neutral stalls.
The legislation itself isn’t a negative situation, but there needs to be more discussion of the issue and brainstorming of solutions that’ll make everyone on campus feel safe.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost