This is the first ruling in the nation holding that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms that match who they are, and the most comprehensive ruling ever supporting the rights of transgender people to access bathrooms without harassment or discrimination.
BANGOR, Maine (AP) — Maine’s highest court heard arguments Wednesday over whether transgender students can use the bathroom of their choice, and the girl at the heart of the case said she hoped justices would recognize the right of children to attend school without being “bullied” by peers or administrators.
Nicole Maines, now 15, watched lawyers argue over whether her rights were violated when the Orono school district required her to use a staff bathroom after there was a complaint about her using the girls’ bathroom.
Maines said after the hearing in Bangor that she hopes the Supreme Judicial Court will ensure no one else experiences what she went though.
A couple of things:
1. I am so glad there are younger people with supportive families who are taking on school systems.
2. I’m also very happy to see we are beginning to have a national dialogue about this, and that many people are starting to realize – often because of the visibility of young transitioners – that trans women are women.
3. It blows my mind that these kinds of cases are even possible, having been around when trans students weren’t given any options besides having to use the bathroom of the sex they were declared at birth.
“These (anti-discrimination) laws are in effect in more than 160 cities and 16 states,” said Keisling, and that the problem of sexual predation on minors that the discriminatory policy alleges to address, “isn’t happening anywhere. It just doesn’t occur. It’s one of the terrible things that opponents of equality always raise in hopes of scaring people.”
Oh, and by the way? “Birth gender” is an oxymoron. Pass it on.
There is a petition at change.org which is calling for the McDonald’s employees who stood by, laughed, and videotaped the violent attack on a trans woman be held responsible.
I have no idea what kind of precedent that might be, but a law like this is long overdue.
Not at all ironically, it is in Maryland that a recent non-discrimination law recently went down in flames because gender identity was added to the bill and legislators, as per usual, were presented with the bullshit argument that somehow “men in dresses” would be hiding out in ladies’ room inflicting violence. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A CASE OF THIS HAPPENING, and as we can all see here, it is transpeople who require protection and safety from transphobic bigots. The Democratic Senators who backed out of supporting the bill – even after confirming their support – should be ashamed of themselves.
Yesterday, I spoke to the Maine legislature’s Judiciary committee. A bill has been proposed to “exempt” transgender people from protections under the Maine Human Rights Act, which went into effect six years ago. Currently, Maine protects GLBT people from discrimination, and this includes a so called “public accommodations” provision of the very sort that was, in part, the deal breaker in the Maryland law that was shelved last week. (Although I should make it clear that the Maine law has been on the books for six years without problem, and the proposed legislation is to REMOVE the protection for trans people; Maryland currently has no such provisions and the shelved legislation would have put these protections into place.)
She made some lovely remarks to the Maine legislature’s judiciary committee, which she’s reprinted in full on her blog, but the issue that comes up is that of passing privilege: how people are more than ready to have trans people who pass in their transitioned gender protected and welcomed in gender-specific spaces, but that the people who don’t pass are suspect.
That’s obviously a problem, since it’s exactly the trans people (and cis people, for that matter) who don’t have “acceptable” or culturally legible genders that need the protection most. No one asks for anyone’s ID on the way into a public bathroom after all; we are carded by our gender expression, and if our gender isnt normative, there’s often trouble, whether the person is trans, butch or some other gender that doesn’t stick closely enough to “man” or “woman”.
A quick thanks to Boylan for the heads up and for speaking up, too.
CHICAGO–In an unprecedented effort to make the city of Chicago safer for transgender individuals, Genderqueer Chicago, a local youth group, launched the “T-Friendly Bathroom Initiative,” a grassroots project that challenges business owners to recognize and protect gender identity in their public restrooms, according to a press release.
This year, more than 500 businesses and organizations will be asked to sign a pledge that commits them to allowing gender-variant customers to use the bathrooms they choose. Businesses that sign the pledge will receive window decals that gender-variant people can easily identify as trans-friendly.
It sounds like a very cool plan; I hope to see this idea transfer to other cities. Maybe there will be a day when Safe 2 Pee isn’t needed — imagine!
Amazingly uncomplicated, and as the article points out, useful for more than people whose genders are in flux, fluid, or trans: a father who has to change his daughter’s diaper, for instance, doesn’t have to worry about finding a family bathroom, either.
(h/t to Darryl Hill, who is also mentioned in the article)
& Here’s some more (not) good news: a group called Mass Resistance took video of First Event, the annual trans party/conference that takes place up in Boston in January of every year. They cobbled together some footage (badly) in order to show very tall trans women & crossdressers using the ladies’ room at the Radisson where the event was held.
What’s funny about the video is how horrendously boring it all looks. I mean, video footage of people going into & leaving a bathroom is exactly that. You may as well watch paint dry. With any luck, at least some of the people who viewed it thought, “um, yeah. People using a bathroom. Nothing horrible happened.”
DC Trans Coalition and Office of Human Rights Launch Bathroom Access and Safety Campaign
Groups Mobilizing Community to Ensure Enforcement of the Human Rights Act
Washington, DC â€“Â Â On Friday, July 3rd, the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) along with the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) launched the Bathroom Access and Safety Campaign, otherwise known as the Pee in Peace Campaign â€“ a community mobilization project designed to ensure bathroom access and safety for all residents, including transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming individuals, in the District.
Even with the Districtâ€™s comprehensive Human Rights Act, which includes protections for gender identity or expression, trans and gender non-conforming people continue to experience verbal and physical harassment ranging from being attacked and thrown out to even being arrested for simply trying to use the bathroom in the District.Â In fact, according to a recent citywide survey for transgender and gender non-conforming people, 70 percent of respondents indicated that they had experienced problems accessing or using gender segregated bathrooms. More→
Some days I just want to apologize to all the trans people who I ardently needed to talk to about bathrooms when I was working this stuff out, so let me: sorry, all of you, and thank you for educating me when it wasn’t your responsibility.
Allyson Robinson posted this message about Equality Florida’s fight for a gender-inclusive non-discrimination law in Gainesville, Florida on our message boards, & I thought it deserved a larger audience:
Many of you are aware of the fight brewing in Gainesville, Florida over their trans-inclusive non-discrimination law, passed by the city council last year. Gainesville’s non-discrimination ordinance had covered sexual orientation for years, but when gender identity was added last year, opposition was activated. The opposition group collected a huge number of signatures–over 10% of the projected voting population–to get the anti-discrimination ordinance placed on the ballot in a special election. That’s tremendous for this kind of municipal issue; more people signed the petition against these protections than voted for the mayor or any sitting city council member in recent elections.
Though the charter amendment the opposition group is pushing would eliminate protections for the whole LGBT community, their messaging is focusing on transgender people–the “bathroom diversion.” Their flyers state, in letters a inch tall, “KEEP MEN OUT OF WOMEN’S RESTROOMS.” As we’ve seen all over the country, and writ large in California last fall, this kind of fear-based messaging is very, very difficult to dislodge from voters’ minds. The special election is scheduled for March 24.
This fight has national significance. The “bathroom diversion” is quickly becoming our opposition’s weapon of choice. They used it successfully in Hamtramck, Michigan, it might have succeeded in Montgomery County, Maryland had the courts not intervened, it’s getting drug out in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and it’s already being raised at the state level in places like Connecticut that are considering inclusive non-discrimination bills this year. We must show both our opponents and our supporters that we can consistently defeat this tactic. If we don’t, municipalities or states considering trans-inclusive non-discrimination laws may become gun-shy, preferring not to deal with costly ballot initiatives in response to pro-equality laws.
Reason #3 to vote for Obama is because on-the-ground discrimination issues – bathrooms, healthcare, veterans’ services, & social services – are exactly the kinds of issues Obama has worked on and felt strongly about for his entire career. A President Obama will give us a chance to bring these issues to light nationally, to do the research on where discrimination is happening, and how, and to whom, and to have the data to fix the problem.
Bathrooms, baby! Maybe someday we can stop talking about them!
& Here’s Charles, born in 1922, talking about volunteering for the Obama campaign in Boulder, CO. (Have a tissue ready.)
Our friend and book reviewer Jude Russell wrote a short, simple piece about the binary that really resonated with me. I hope it does for many of you, too.
There have been a couple of threads recently wherein gender outlaws (and I use that term with utmost affection and respect) have run afoul of cisgendered folks who have gotten the gender wrong – typically persons in “boy mode” who were androgynous or feminine enough to be gendered female – although I am sure it runs both ways.
Now, I spent many years in that gender neutral zone – where I’d be gendered female in one interaction, male in another, and trigger some confusion (and possibly, anger) in a third. It was all very interesting (from a sociological perspective), and fun (from a Loki / coyote / mischief maker perspective) but also somewhat stressful (especially when things like waste elimination came into play, or I’d run into someone who had a problem with it).
I guess my reaction to these experiences has been somewhat different than others. Because I think we need to take some responsibility for choosing to color outside the lines, choosing to bend gender, choosing to break the rules. So when I was in boy mode and got gendered female, I was less pissed off, and more amused – it was my decision to adopt a more feminine affect, and it was, in some ways, rewarding to have that recognized even as it was uncomfortable to be called on it. I began to pay attention to how others were gendering me – and acted accordingly. If I was vibing female that particular day, well, I stayed out of male gendered spaces; opting for unisex or female gendered spaces, or being cautious and quick in male gendered ones. Many a time, I sought out a unisex bathroom, or watched the gendered bathrooms until I was pretty sure they were empty, or wandered towards a pair of gendered bathrooms and decided at the last minute which one to use, based solely on if anyone was going in or coming out of either.
And when I was called on my gender blur – well, I had a collection of responses ready. “Yeah, I guess I am pretty androgynous” or “I’m still deciding” or “Sometimes I’m not really sure myself”. And yeah, when it got to be too stressful, I’d move in one direction or the other, to reduce the friction. In some ways, my decision to transition was of this nature – that living in between genders required too much energy, produced too much friction in the world.
I guess my point is, we live in this binary gendered world. And slowly, things are loosening up – there are unisex or gender free bathrooms, gender markers are removed from forms and identity documents, salutations are made optional, gay marriage (the prevention of which is, IMHO, the primary reason for rigid binary gender boundaries) is made legal.
But in the meantime, we need to live in this world. And we need to own the fact that we are the gender outlaws, that we need to live on this binary coded planet. Even if the long term goal is a lot less gendered society, we’ll grind ourselves into dust with stress and anger if we do not figure out how to bend and move in the margins at times.
Often starting our journey from a position of cisgenderer privilege – where we could use the right bathroom unconsciously, where we could simply move through the world on automatic pilot, feeling a sense of affiliation and belonging with our gender, its difficult to find ourselves stripped of that gender privilege. But the quicker we realize “I’m privileged differently now, I need to adjust my attitude accordingly”, the more gently we move through society. We can still fight for rights or visibility or a less gendered world. But we can do so without the constant erosion of our energies and self esteem…….
It’s sort of a reframing – becoming less of a victim of a repressive culture, and more of an anthropologist or explorer, carefully moving among this binary culture that we are studying and experimenting with.