Many schools and businesses around the world are asking themselves an important, yet fairly obvious and self-serving question: should transgendered individuals have their own bathrooms and changing rooms? Or should they be allowed to use the facilities of the gender they identify as? This important debate has sprouted due to the fear that cis-gendered individuals will be placed in an uncomfortable and ‘vulnerable’ position. The bathroom debate has been argued and discussed nationwide for many years. However, when it comes to the LGBTQIA community — specifically the trans-community — their personal comfort is either pushed aside or not acknowledged at all.
Recently, the Shenendehowa Board of Education of Clifton, NY voted four to two to allow their transgender high school students the option to request access to use bathrooms and locker rooms that appeal to their identified gender. This policy sounds progressive in theory, but dawns the concern of whether or not it’s a way to alienate transgender students by implying that they aren’t welcomed to use a regular stall simply because of the status of their past or present genitals.
Shenendehowa was not the first to consider this notion. Back in February 2014, Republican Rep. Michael Kennedy, attempted to pass a bill that would prevent transgender students from using the bathroom of their choice, stating that if we had allowed them to do so, then the transgender child and cisgendered students would feel uncomfortable. The bill was held off to be discussed later because they did not want it to interfere with another pending LGBTQIA court case.
The board states that the policy was created to provide their transgender students comfort and will provide them with the option to use single-user bathrooms and alternative area to change their clothes. Here is where I find this policy to be an issue; If the school is progressive enough to acknowledge that there are transgender students, then why not instead create policies that will protect transgender students who simply want to be identified as their preferred gender? Schools like Shenendehowa High School aren’t trying to comfort trans students, they’re giving them a segregated space for the sake of comforting cis-gendered students, disguising it as a safe zone.
Educating students and faculty members about why it’s important to respect the transgender community would be a more respectable approach towards comforting transgender students. There are very few social justice issues being talked about in schools even though a grand majority of teens are grappling with their own representation of sexuality and gender. Young teens are becoming more aware of themselves and aren’t receiving the support that they need. Besides our own households, school is our second home and source for how the world works. Therefore it is important to teach students to be tolerant and respectful of all people.
When it comes to LGBTQIA community, this statement couldn’t be any more apt. Shenendehowa’s problematic policy implies that their bodies are seen as “taboo” or “unnatural.” It is understandable that there were good intentions behind creating such rooms, though mostly self-serving, but hoping that this will cease the bullying that these students receive if they were to walk into such facilities is unrealistic and naïve.
People tend to reject things that they do not understand. This is why it is highly recommended that students are taught about the LGBTQIA community and understand the difference between myths and rumors, to actual facts. These myths include parents believing that these children are “confused, “need to see a psychiatrist,” or “are only sexual predators that are trying to see other students naked.”
On the topic of providing comfort to the transgender students, it seems that there are individuals, such as some faculty members and parents, who are more worried about the comfort of cis-gender students. Some parents voiced that they were uncomfortable with the idea of having transgender students share the same facilities as the other students.
Katie Adams, a resident of Clinton Park, was quoted stating that the policy made her feel “unsafe as a parent.”
These fears and myths that are still being perpetuated is exactly why we need to educate our youth about social justice issues, and on the LGBTQIA community. People should be informed and learn more about them and accept them for who they are, regardless of what sex they were born with or which gender they were assigned as a child.