The transgender bathroom debacle


Alexandra Doulos

Which restrooms should transgender people use?

Alexandra Doulos, Editor-in-Chief

Recent controversy regarding the simple act of using bathroom facilities has rocked America and—more specifically—North Carolina.  Time News calls it “the latest civil rights fight.”

In February, after the passage of a law in Charlotte, North Carolina that allowed transgender people to use the facility that matched the gender with which they identify, conservatives countered by passing legislation that restricted bathroom use.

The North Carolina legislature passed the “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act,” or HB2, which the American Civil Liberties Union has since called the “most egregious, sweeping, hate-filled anti-LGBT legislation in this country’s history.” The Justice Department proceeded to tell the North Carolina state legislature that the law, which required “education boards and public agencies to limit the use of sex-segregated bathrooms to people of the corresponding biological sex, violated federal civil-rights laws.”  Pat McCrory, the governor of North Carolina, retaliated by launching a lawsuit.

One conservative argument against transgender people using the bathroom of their choice is that allowing people who ‘look’ male into the female bathroom will allow sexual predators access to a formerly “safe” space.

Though seemingly well-intentioned, this sentiment persists as archaically intolerant, as sexual assault will not be remedied by denying others access to a facility appropriate to their gender identity.

“There is a misunderstanding that this would cause danger.  However, transgender people have been using whichever bathroom they wanted for decades and there has never been a problem like the ones being predicted today,” junior and transgender student Alex Gordonson said on the topic.

HB2 draws some parallels to the case Romer v. Evans, in which “the Supreme Court struck down a Colorado state constitutional amendment… that prohibited all levels of state government from granting special protections to homosexuals” according to The Heritage Foundation.  However, the two are substantially different in several ways.  First, HB2’s “language does not target a specific group or class for unfavorable treatment. It simply protects some classes, but not others” according to The Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse.

Second, HB2’s effects “reach only public accommodations, employment, and government contracting. Local governments specifically are exempted in their employment policies,” a much smaller scope than Romer v. Evans.  Third, HB2 does not promote inequality, but rather “shifts the political process for granting nondiscrimination protections from local governments to state government,” making it a larger and convoluted process.  Finally, HB2 attempts to make a social problem an economic one because “the stated purpose of HB2’s nondiscrimination provision is to improve North Carolina commerce by ensuring the uniformity of nondiscrimination laws statewide for businesses, organizations, and employers.”

On May 13, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division notified the nation that denying students the right to use the bathroom facility which matches their gender identity violated Title IX because it interprets “a student’s gender identity as a student’s sex” according to The New Yorker.  Though based on an inaccuracy, the move advocates in favor of transgender students, which is certainly a move in the progressive direction.  

MHS has been faced with the decision of how to proceed.  

“I think Massapequa High School has been very proactive when it comes to anything that has affected our transgender students.  I will tell you that things have changed radically within last three years,” principal Dr. Williams said. “Where initially a lot of the thoughts were to protect student safety, we didn’t think about the feelings of separateness students would feel.  I think we’ve come a long way in making sure that the things we put in place make students comfortable such as using the locker room of their choice, using the bathroom of their choice, whether it’s dressing according to how they see fit when it comes to taking a senior portrait.  There is no one way that we determine what’s male and what’s female.”

At this time, transgender people should be able to use whichever facility makes them comfortable.  Additionally, ensuring more people are informed is now of the utmost value.    

“The bathroom legislation is a sticky situation because even transgender people themselves have differing views on it…. I think what we need is educate people on what being transgender means rather than the propaganda that the media is portraying,” Gordonson said.

“At Schreiber high school, which is in Port Washington , they had this big headline that now instead of the boys wearing blue and the girls wearing white, everybody was going to wear blue, and we’ve been doing that for years.  I think I’m very happy in the way we’ve handled these issues as they come across my desk,” Dr. Williams said.    

Obviously, Massapequa has made changes in order to reflect changing times, but, above all, we need more education about the topic in order to eliminate the bias against transgender people.

Time News predicts that “more political fights about this issue are coming” because “Congress recently introduced the Equality Act, a non-discrimination bill that would help protect LGBT Americans in spheres from the workplace to the jury box to the bathroom.” However, the social viewpoints and implications drive this debate because the topic of which restroom facility one uses remains a deeply personal and— for some— awkward one.  

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