Why gender-inclusive restrooms at UT matter
And my experience with transgender exclusion in restrooms on campus
I want you to step back and close your eyes. Now, create this picture. Imagine: a task so simple as using the restroom becomes a carefully planned, stress-inducing struggle for safety. These are neither offenders nor criminals: just students, students like you and me. Why do they face such troubles to use the restroom? How could anyone put up with the inhumanity?
For transgender people, this struggle is just part of everyday life.
Now, if you wonder what the problem is exactly, listen. Because transgender men, women, and non-binary folks do not align with the genders assigned at birth, they may not fit the commercialized description of “man” or “woman.” Therefore, using the correct bathroom in public often means risking discomfort, hate speech, or even violence. They face this tormet only to use the restroom.
As a non-binary transgender person myself, the endless search to find a safe restroom haunts my life, too. Ever since I started the Fall 2015 semester as a UT freshman, I believed that studying liberal arts in a progressive city would provide a safe place for people who don’t align with assigned gender. Instead, this university threw scraps to trans people and forced them to sing praises for it. New legislation required all new campus buildings to have accessible restrooms – the ruling did not include the dozens of decades-old buildings already sprawled across the Forty Acres. Students cannot be expected to take a 15-minute walk to the SAC every time they need to use the restroom!
Yet, I often take this lengthy trip in order to avoid violence from people who would wrongly assume that I am female. I take a full load of classes, work two jobs, sing in a choir ensemble, act in theatre plays, and more. Yet, I still must take hours out of my day to wander for restrooms that I can feel safe in. I’m tired of being subjected to this degrading routine. I speak for the entire transgender community, world-round, when I say that using the restroom is a basic human right. Who would have thought the University of Texas could perpetuate human rights violations? But, alas, it does.
Student Government has the ability to commission inclusive restrooms for transgender students, but they make no move to do so. Do they lack the resources? Absolutely not. Just the conscience. Things need not be this way. Ashley Choi, an LAH upperclassman recently elected as a University-Wide Representative, declared support for queer and transgender UT students as a core tenet of her campaign. Perhaps, as more and more students begin to see us as the humans we are, positive change is to come. We sure need it.
Longhorns need to focus on academics, extracurricular activities, jobs, and more. Using the restroom should be one less thing to worry about. The university must reach out to transgender students as soon as possible.