Why All-Gender Bathrooms are Necessary

There’s more to gender dysphoria than just emotions and bathroom bills. According to an article from the American Psychiatric Association reviewed by Ranna Parekh, gender dysphoria is “a general descriptive terms refers to an individual’s discontent with the assigned gender.”

In other words, a person who has gender dysphoria feels like his or her gender identity doesn’t match his or her assigned gender, which was given at birth.

A person might socially transition, which includes things like changing clothes or pronouns to match their gender identity. A person might physically transition, which includes things like hormone therapy and/or gender reassignment therapy to alter themselves to match their gender identity.

In a similar manner to many other medical conditions, the signs and symptoms of gender dysphoria vary slightly from person to person.

According to an article from WebMD by Jason Goldberg, “In teens and adults, symptoms may include: Certainty that their true gender is not aligned with their body. Disgust with their genitals. They may avoid showering, changing clothes, or having sex in order to avoid seeing or touching their genitals. Strong desire to be rid of their genitals and other sex traits.”

For people who have gender dysphoria, doing daily tasks like using the bathroom can be dangerous or life-threatening.

According to a CNN article written by Emanuella Grinberg and Dani Stewart 03.07.17, “In one of the largest surveys of transgender and gender non-conforming Americans ever conducted, 70% of respondents reported being denied access, verbally harassed, or physically assaulted in public restrooms. The survey, conducted by UCLA’s Williams Institute in 2013 before the nation’s capital passed anti-discrimination protections, built on previous research with similar outcomes.”

As a result of these staggering statistics, which show the high number of people being targeted due to their gender identity, all-gender bathrooms are necessary. Colleges including SUNY-Fredonia have implemented all-gender bathrooms. These bathrooms help students feel safe and comfortable on campus, which is an important feat.

Dr. Bill Boerner, chief diversity officer, quoted in an article from The Leader by Connor Hoffman 03.10.16, said, “I do know that there are some individuals who identify in the transgender community or gender nonconforming community who just don’t feel as comfortable going into a male or female space… Maybe they do not necessarily subscribe to the [gender] binary or they just don’t feel that comfortable in those types of spaces, and so they seek out a single occupant restroom.”

Colleges including SUNY-Fredonia have also taken other measures to help students with gender dysphoria. Gender inclusive housing gives people the opportunity to live in a safe and inclusive environment.

According to First Year Residential Housing Options from SUNY-Fredonia’s residential life webpage, “Gender Inclusive housing provides a living environment welcoming to all gender identities and is not limited by the traditional gender binary. This environment allows for same-gender, opposite-gender, agender or other-gender identities to live as roommates regardless of gender assigned at birth in a platonic environment in which they feel safe and supported; it is not intended for romantic cohabitation. The bathroom will have no gender designation and will be shared by all members of this community.”

People who have gender dysphoria can have complications related to their medical condition. These issues can lead to anything from minor to deadly consequences.

According to Parekh, “Transgender individuals are at higher risk of victimization and hate crimes than the general public. Adolescents and adults with gender dysphoria are at increased risk for suicide.”

The fact that people with gender dysphoria have a higher risk for suicide is another reason why all-gender bathrooms and gender inclusive housing are vital.

According to Parekh, “Gender dysphoria is associated with high levels of stigmatization, discrimination and victimization, contributing to negative self-image and increased rates of other mental disorders.”

Treatment for people with gender dysphoria can help people lower their chances for committing suicide.

According to an article from News Medical Life Sciences by Dr. Ananya Mandal, “Treatment can include psychological intervention, hormone therapy, pharmacotherapy, family counseling, gender reconfirmation surgery, speech therapy and behavioral therapy.”

Colleges, including SUNY-Fredonia, have counseling services specifically for gender related topics like gender dysphoria.

According to the Scope of Practice section from SUNY-Fredonia’s counseling website, “the Counseling Center invites students to make an initial triage appointment with one of our counselors to discuss their concerns. This conversation between the counselor and the student generally involves a discussion of the student’s current difficulties, a review of treatment options, and recommendations to assist the student in obtaining the appropriate services.

Some of the concerns that are commonly addressed in short-term counseling at the Counseling Center are: Developmental Concerns: Identity (e.g., personal, cultural, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual identity), adjustment to college, life transitions.”

Counseling sessions at colleges like SUNY-Fredonia are free. The sessions are confidential, except in instances where students might be a risk to themselves or others.

SUNY-Fredonia and other colleges fall under the laws created by Title IX, which helps protect people with gender dysphoria.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces, among other statutes, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX states that: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Title IX does more than merely help people who have gender dysphoria.

According to the Myra Sadker Foundation, “Title IX protects students, faculty and staff in federally funded education programs. Title IX applies to all elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities. It also applies to programs and activities affiliated with schools that receive federal funds (such as internships or School-to-Work programs) and to federally funded education programs run by other entities such as correctional facilities, health care entities, unions and businesses.”

Each school has a Title IX Coordinator, who makes sure that the policy is being followed. At SUNY-Fredonia, Dr. Bill Boerner is the Title IX Coordination and Chief Diversity Officer.

According to the Myra Sadker Foundation, “Every school, by law, is required to designate a Title IX Coordinator. Contact information for the Title IX Coordinator must be readily available to school faculty, staff and students. Title IX coordinators as well as all faculty, students, coaches, and community members can file a complaint of Title IX violation with the Office of Civil Rights. Anonymity is maintained and institutions are prohibited from retailing against any complainant… Schools can lose federal funds for violating the law.”

According to the map illustrated above provided by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), New York State is one of the few states that has nondiscrimination laws for students based on sexual orientation and gender dysphoria. Many states do not have any laws that protect their students. Wisconsin has laws that protect students based on sexual orientation, but not on gender identity.

If more states would implement policies and laws that protect students’ rights, then students would feel safer. Nondiscrimination laws could also discourage other from trying to attack LGBTQ students, in fear of repercussion.

However, concerns have arisen in the prospect of allowing people to use the bathroom of their choice. Some people claim that sexual predators would use all-gender bathrooms as a place to attack women and children.

According to Grinberg and Stewart, “anti-discrimination protections covering gender identity have been around for years, and there is no evidence they lead to attacks in public facilities… As of March 2017, 19 states, the District of Columbia and more than 200 municipalities have anti-discrimination laws and ordinances allowing transgender people to use public facilities that correspond to their gender identity.”

Still, people against allowing others to use the bathroom of their choice cite harassment as their main reasoning. The same people use women and children as an emotional appeal by saying that women and children need to be protected.

These ‘fears’ deter from the main issue at hand, which is that everyone need a safe place to use the restroom. All-gender bathrooms and allowing people to use the bathroom of their choice does not have a correlation with violence from sexual predators.

In fact, not allowing all-gender bathrooms, or not letting people use the bathroom of their choice is what leads to harassment. People with gender dysphoria and/or transgender people are the victims in this circumstance, not the perpetrators.

People with gender dysphoria and transgender people deserve to have a safe space to go to the bathroom. This is a basic right, which is being infringed upon because of insignificant evidence and misunderstanding about the issue.

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