National Focus on Bathroom Laws Seems Outdated

Giodona Campbell, Staff Writer

Imagine having to think about which bathroom to go into to feel the most comfortable. For most people, it usually doesn’t take any thought about which bathroom to use, but for transgender students this can be a daily issue. For transgender students, the issue of which bathroom to use presents a problem because of the hostility, discrimination, and bullying they sometimes face.

The current issue with transgender bathrooms began in 2014, according to Colin Daileda of Mashable, when several states including Texas, Florida, and Kentucky introduced “bathroom surveillance” bills that require transgender students to use bathrooms that match their birth gender. This prevented transgender students from using the bathroom of their choice, and brought backlash from those who felt the bills went against the improvements in state and local non-discrimination policies that protect transgender people.

One of those states is Washington, which has an anti-discrimination law that has protected the rights of people who identify as transgender since 2006. However, according to Wudan Yan from The Daily Beast, those protections are somewhat in question as the state legislature has moved to take away some of those protections. Yan reports that on December 26, 2015, Washington State’s Human Rights Commission (HRC), an agency responsible for protecting individuals from discrimination, worked to clarify the parameters of the state’s existing law [Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD)] that allows transgender people to use bathrooms and locker facilities consistent with their gender identity.

The confirmation of that law means that the state must adhere to a policy of transgender individuals being able to use whichever bathroom they feel is consistent with their gender identity in public places, including restaurants, stores, hospitals, libraries, and gyms.
Despite the desire by groups to support protections for transgender individuals, others felt the need to develop laws to take away that choice.

According to Jey Ehrenhalt of Teaching Tolerance, in March 2016, North Carolina’s legislature passed House Bill 2, which banned transgender youth from using the bathroom aligned with their gender identity, and restricted them by forcing them to use the facility corresponding with their gender assigned at birth. Ehrenhalt goes on to say that the U.S. departments of Justice and Education state that discriminating against transgender students because of their gender identity violates Title IX, a civil right law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

Basically, students in the public education system have the right to use the bathroom of their gender identity only if they go to school in certain states. Policies that deny them this right are unjust and need to be consistent across the country. All public schools must treat gender identity as a protected category, just as they must do with race and religion. Transgender students should have the right to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity no matter where they live or go to school. The idea of creating a third bathroom for transgender students is unnecessary and could lead to unrelated issues because of the isolation of the space. A transgender student who has to make a tough choice each time she or he heads to the bathroom is discriminatory and does not line up with democratic principles of our American government.