Finding humanity in bathrooms

Brett Slaughenhaupt – Columnist, Sophomore

On March 7, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order that gives trans* people, people who identify with a gender different from the one assigned to them at birth (the asterisk encompasses the many different identities trans* people may have), the right to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. The mayor explained his actions as important because “this is about affirming the right of someone to follow through on their own identity.” Creating this open space to realize their identity is important to helping affirm the existence of the trans* population.

With this sort of progression, however, comes resistance from the public, as seen through political opposition. State representatives around the country are introducing legislation that works to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ population—and the trans* population specifically—by not allowing them open access to facilities that represent their identity. One such piece of legislation was going to be passed in South Dakota, until the governor vetoed the bill after meeting with trans* students and hearing their stories. It would have required students at public schools to use their gender assigned at birth to determine which public facilities they would use.

A large aspect of this debate comes down to political affiliation and where one ends up falling on that spectrum. This is often exhibited when social values are shifting and developing with the world around them. In the past, and still presently, the United States has had specific fights and changes to landowner’s rights, women’s rights and racial rights. Now we are expanding that with the fight for the rights of the LGBTQ+ population.

When it comes to the fight for the LGBTQ+ community, the keyword is identity. Identity, and the ability to choose how one goes about living their life, is an American ideal. This sort of freedom is something that should be exhibited all around our country. But it should not be held only for those that live within the norms of society. While there is nothing wrong with living out a traditional life, not everyone is going to go about theirs in a similar fashion—and it is not up to us to police others’ lives, as long as they are not harming others.

Interacting with one another is inevitable in our modern world of instant connections, so it is no longer possible to ignore large facets of the community. How we learn about the experiences of others goes beyond awareness—it’s about learning to hold yourself accountable for your actions and understanding how they may affect others.

In the end, the question amounts to “How important is being able to use the bathroom that fits your gender identity, when looking at the larger scale of the human experience?” The answer is “Extremely important.” It is about the right to just access, and right now, the trans* community is facing discrimination and oppression on that front, similar to the Jim Crow era, where the majority white oppressors separated access to facilities based upon race, thus creating a power structure where the white race was considered superior. In this instance, it is the gender binary structure that is given dominance through the belief in strict cisgender identities, or those who experience their gender identity agreeing with the gender they were assigned at birth.

This is not simply about one’s politics, it is about realizing the humanity of others and the equal rights for all. These equal rights are nonexistent when people do not have environments conducive to their safety in which they can express themselves, as is the case currently. The year 2015 saw over 20 trans* people murdered in the United States—the highest number on record. As long as we continue to ignore the struggles others are facing and only worry about our own, nothing will change.

It is the responsibility of allies to join in the fight against oppression that their trans* counterparts face each day.

After all, don’t we all deserve to use the restroom without fearing for our safety?

For LGBTQ on-campus resources, visit the LGBTQ support services website at or the Women’s Center website. If you are transgender or questioning your gender identity and experiencing a crisis, call 877-565-8860 or visit translifeline.org.