By Logan Neeley and Maya Crawford
It’s 10:45 am, and you’re not paying attention in class because all you can think about is how bad you need to use the bathroom. You raise your hand, and teacher calls on you to get the pass and run to the restroom. You get to the bathroom and do your business, but at the sink you see a transgender person. What do you do? Nothing. Why? Because it’s their right to be there just like you.
Now is the time to speak up about the debate of whether or not transgender students should be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice. The root of this issue is a lack of understanding about the LGBT+ community, especially transgender people, and an unwillingness to learn more about them. Unfortunately this reluctance is common in people with the power to make being transgender a controversy because they are too afraid to be educated on the issues that 1.4 million of Americans face, according to The New York Times.
“This issue is not the fault of trans people, but the fault of people’s ignorance to what it means to be trans, and how simple things like using a public bathroom can be dangerous, anxiety inducing, and sometimes not even an option for trans people,” said Loy Norrix junior Marco McDade, one of the leaders of the GSA (Gender-Sexuality Alliance.) “I think non-trans people need to take time to educate themselves and take time to listen to actual trans people.”
Many legislators and other officials claim the main problem is public safety, which is an understandable reason, as the bathroom debate could be a safety issue against the transgender community by those who wish to act out violently towards them. The safety issues presents a danger to the victim and others around. Even then, there is a smaller chance of someone committing violent acts against transgender people, compared to the likelihood of people minding their own business.
Alison Gash, a professor of political science at the University of Oregon, breaks down why there was such a backlash on both sides. At the heart of the debate is a very real fear of violence.
“Studies show that transgender students could be harassed, sexually assaulted or subjected to other physical violence when they are required to use a gendered bathroom. One survey found that 68 percent of participants were subjected to homophobic slurs while trying to use the bathroom. Nine percent confronted physical violence,” said Gash.
While there is a valid threat to trans students, it is unfair that this is used to bar them from the bathroom that represents their gender identification.
“It is an incredibly complicated situation, but I feel like it should not be turned into a legal situation, it should not be up to non trans people to decide where we can or cannot use the bathroom,” McDade continues to say. “I feel like if someone in the bathroom is staring at anyone who they suspect to be trans, they are the ones who are creeps, not the trans people who just need to pee.”
The topic of discussion is a concern that shouldn’t be relevant. People who worry about trans people using their same bathroom should just mind their own business.
In Michigan, there’s no law explicitly stating that transgender students are required to use the bathroom of their born gender, according to State Board of Education Statement and Guidance which encourages schools to be more inclusive towards the LGBT+ community. However, despite these recommendations, public high school students are required to use the bathroom that coincides with their registered gender.
“There were some decisions handed down from the Federal Department of Education about the restrooms in schools under the Obama Administration,” explains the Loy Norrix Principal Christopher Aguinaga. “They have been taken back and replaced with nothing under the [current] administration, so it leaves schools in some kind of limbo about what do we do because on one side we have the people who want the freedom to use whatever bathroom they identify with. On the flipside, you got people who find that offensive, and as a public school, we serve both sides.”
“My personal opinion is that students should be allowed to use the bathroom they closely identify with, but what I have to practice here at school is not that,” Aguinaga said. “As of right now, our official stance is students have to use the bathroom with the gender they are registered as. We do make every attempt to find gender neutral bathrooms because no student needs to feel uncomfortable.”
It’s uncertain whether or not this issue will subside or will be dealt with in the Supreme Court. “This is an issue that will have to ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, or if everyone can come to an agreement one way or another. I’m thinking same sex marriage is one where people couldn’t agree and the Supreme Court had to look at the Constitution, and this might be going down the same path,” said Aguinaga.
While Aguinaga believes that this issue needs to be solved in the Supreme Court, McDade thinks that it doesn’t need to be taken that far. “I have no way of knowing, but the trans community has made a lot of progress in the past 20 years so it [the issue blowing over] is possible once people become more accepting.” McDade said.
People have already begun the process of becoming educated about the LGBT+ community, so there’s a chance that this won’t be an issue for much longer. Equality is for everyone, and now is the time to take the signs off the bathrooms and open the stall to a world without judgment.