The Great Debate?
Getting more coverage than education issues themselves, the great debate of our times seem to center around bathrooms. President Obama said that he wants “public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.”1 I think this is a good thing, unfortunately, some state leaders have challenged Obama’s notion. We still have the issues of the bathroom bill in North Carolina which forces transgender individuals to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate rather than the gender they identify as.
Of course the leaders in support of the bathroom bills say they want to protect individuals from getting harassed by transgender people, but in reality, the opposite is more likely to happen. LGBT kids and especially transgender kids are harassed and bullied in schools more than their straight and cisgender counterparts. As Obama said, they deserve protection and to feel safe.
At my college, the LGBT organization organized a Bathroom Project which was used to keep track of all the bathrooms on campus, and make note of which areas do not provide gender-neutral bathrooms. We did not find a big number of gender-neutral bathrooms. Actually, we only had one bathroom which was specifically labeled gender-neutral which was the one next to the room where we would have general LGBT club meetings. That is something that needs to change at my school, but also all schools.
It is not just the issue of whether transgender people should use the men or women’s bathroom, because there are some transgender individuals who do not identify as either male or female. There are more and more people identifying as non-binary which means that the person does not identify as male or female. Their gender is not part of society’s gender binary system. There are all kinds of transgender people such as agender, who see themselves as having no gender, and genderqueer who see themselves as either identifying with neither male of female gender, or identifies with a combination of both the male and female genders2. We should not just protect the rights of female-to-male and male-to-female transgender people, we should protect the rights of all transgender people.
There are some young people who believe they are a different gender from the one they were assigned at birth. Transgender kids and teenagers exist in schools, and they deserve every right to use the bathroom they feel most comfortable using. Bottom line- people should use the bathroom they identify themselves as, and government officials need to understand that and change their rules to protect those individuals.