Updated: Jun 25, 2022
By Madeline Smith
Every person is born with dignity and humanity, which includes their gender expression.
The 21st century has been a time for change to create a better and safer environment for everyone. It incorporates the need for equality ranging from religion to skin color, gender identity and sexual orientation. The Trans Community has been able to make some progress as well. A key achievement for them is from 2016, when Target allowed its transgender customers to go to the bathroom in which they felt most comfortable using. Although the majority of the population support this act of inclusivity, there is still a significant amount of people who disagree and don’t think this is acceptable. This led to attempts to boycott Target until they changed their rules back to the way it had always been, a place where people hid in the closets. Target did not take this well and now find many ways to show their love and support towards the trans community.
These kinds of instances have been happening not only at business but also at certain schools. For independent schools it is their responsibility to build gender-neutral bathrooms. Often this causes a lot of division between stakeholders within the school.
There has been legislation to make progress in dealing with this issue. In September of 2016, in the Gender Identity Guidance for Public Accommodation, the Massachusetts Attorney General provided specific guidance for the use of restrooms for those who did not identify with a specific gender. It has now been almost five years since that was published to the public and there has been little change regarding the safety and accommodation for trans, intersex, and non-binary (anyone who is not cis-gendered) people in schools and places of work.
Pros and Cons to Gender-neutral bathrooms:
Inclusivity – this bathroom would not only be accepting of those who identify as non-binary but also help those who are trans and haven’t either come out or started their transition process.
Preventing harassment and bullying – when adding gender-neutral bathrooms in schools it will not force someone to come out unwillingly before using the bathroom of their choosing. USA Today states that Massachusetts has a very high rate of hate crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation, the second-highest rate overall. This is likely due in large part to state laws requiring police departments to report hate crime statistics, as well as laws that enumerate crimes motivated by both sexual orientation and gender identity.’ By creating gender-neutral bathrooms in schools people will feel safer and to protect them, these bathrooms can be single-stall bathrooms that can be locked. As a school, we don’t want people to feel uncomfortable just because we haven’t supplied them with the correct bathroom.
Religious Differences in Opinion – many religions do not support the trans and non-binary communities. They don’t respect someone’s preferred name or pronouns. Some religions even believe that trans or non-binary individuals are mentally ill. Others view it as morally wrong for a trans individual who is biologically one gender to use the bathroom of the other gender.
Social Anxiety – there is a type of social anxiety called 'shy bladder' syndrome. Many people feel embarrassed to use the toilet around people of their gender, much less the opposite gender. It is thought to affect around 20 million Americans. Most people would not use a unisex bathroom because of this.
Timeline of trans and non-binary rights:
The onset of hormone therapy (1949) – A physician from San Francisco called Harry Benjamin developed the use of hormone therapy for the treatment of trans patients.
Christine Jorgensen is denied a marriage license (1959) – A trans women, Christine Jorgensen, was denied a marriage license in the state of New York because of the sex she was assigned at birth.
The stonewall riots (1969) – were a series of spontaneous demonstrations in response to the NYPD raid on gay bars and more commonly the stonewall inn.
M.T. v. J.T. (1976) – New Jersey’s superior court rules that no matter of what sex they were assigned at birth, a trans person can marry based on their gender identity.
Minnesota Human Rights Act (1993) – Minnesota was the first state to ban discrimination employment when based on their distinguished gender identity.
Littleton v. Prange (1999) – the Texas fourth court of appeals disagrees and rejects the act of M.T. v. J.T. and refuses to allow marriage licenses to those of couples where at least one person is trans.
Employment Non-Discrimination Act (2007) – this act was supposed to protect people regardless of their gender identity however, this was stripped from this 2007 version.
Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (2009) – Mathew Shepherd and James Byrd Jr. Create an act which is signed by President Barack Obama and it prevents there from being hate crimes to people based on gender identity.
As we can see here there is a long way to go until everyone feels safe, however, we can see change happening as more and more people feel comfortable in expressing their identity and showing who they truly are.