Gender neutral bathrooms

boygirlfeet2

By Eugine Chung

The scene opens with a reluctant Maura Pfefferman, transgender father of Ali Pfefferman, halting in front of the women’s bathroom. She gives herself a mini pep talk and moves forward.

“Excuse me, are you a man? This is a ladies bathroom,” a horrified mother yells. “I’m calling security. There are young women in here that you are traumatizing.”

The bathroom scene in “Transparent,” an Amazon Studios television series, is a reality to some transgender individuals in society today.

For years, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) community has been fighting for gender-neutral bathrooms to encourage inclusion and security from such verbal and emotional abuse.

Notably, in Charlotte, North Carolina, a city ordinance was rejected on March 2 with a 6-5 vote. The ordinance would have required public and private businesses to prefer sexual orientation and gender identity over biological sex in restroom inclusion, based on what the individual identifies as. As of Feb. 9, the ordinance had a 7-4 vote but faced opposition.

Conversely, in West Hollywood, a significant number of businesses have been creating gender-neutral bathroom signs in compliance to the city’s new law prohibiting gender identifications.

The Los Angeles City Council approved this ordinance in June of last year in response to an attack on a transgender graduate student at a California State University, Long Beach restroom. The student was attacked and humiliated, left behind with a freshly carved “it” on his chest.

However, implementing gender-neutral bathrooms is complicated as lawmakers deal with the complexity of gender versus sex, biological identity versus self-identity.

Critics of transgender-friendly bathrooms acknowledge the good intentions but voice their concerns of potential predatory sexual attacks, especially with the ambiguity of gender identifications.

Checking sexual organs every time someone uses the bathroom is problematic, but giving free reign to anyone to walk into any bathroom may pose a security issue.

“A lot of people worry that you might provide a cover for bad actors,” Republican council member Ed Driggs of Charlotte, North Carolina said at a council meeting. “This is not directed toward people with legitimate gender identity issues.”

The solution is not black and white. And of course, change is difficult to enact immediately. Especially with issues concerning gender identification, it will take time for both parties to come to mutual understanding and dialogue.

Providing a safe space for all civilians is important step this country needs to take.

Nonetheless, perhaps we should take the news of gender-neutral bathrooms optimistically, as an undermined and underrepresented group of people will get their chance to voice their opinions that have been repressed for so long.

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