Former President Obama added a new protection for transgender students under Title IX, allowing them to use the bathrooms that matches their gender. In June, however, the Texas Senate passed S.B. 6 in an attempt to prevent transgender Texans from using their logical bathrooms. Ultimately, the bill did not pass, but Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he still wants to pass a similar piece of legislation.
This and other efforts are stripping away safety in one of the most private places — the bathroom.
Mik , a political science and history junior, a transgend
Mik is a Muslim and has felt that he was a boy since the age of five when he wanted a Power Rangers birthday cake and wanted to play dress-up as a boy.
“Sixth grade to eighth grade, I said I was a lesbian,” Mik said. “That’s usually the transition for most (females to males). It’s ‘I’m a little gay. I’m gay; I’m a lesbian.’ Then, ‘No, I’m transgender.’”
In Mik’s freshman year of high school, he learned about the term transgender from a long-term friend, who is also transgender. By his sophomore year, he came to terms with it. By his senior year, Mik began telling his teachers his preferred name and pronouns. When he came to UH, Mik said people were very accepting.
Many elementary school bathrooms are painted with pink for girl and blue for boys. The enforcement of gender roles through colors and bathrooms can leave children who cannot yet explain they are transgender confused and uncomfortable.
“The bathroom for me growing up was very traumatizing,” Mik says. “I feel like I belonged in the men’s restroom. It’s weird. I felt like I was a guy in the women’s restroom.”
As Mik started to transition, he started passing as a man in public. Even though he was not completely out, Mik said he still get weird looks walking into the women’s bathroom presenting as a man.
“I started going to the men’s bathroom and see friends that knew me as a female but wouldn’t say anything and assume that I was transgender,” Mik said.
The Obama Administration extended Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in public schools, to protect gender identity. President Donald Trump rescinded the order in February 2017, leaving that power to each state’s discretion.
“By the time it was February, I was already resigned to the fact that he was president, and now would be the time for a social setback,” Mik said.
How to fix it
The rights of transgender people have been added to the growing list of modern civil rights activism. Along with activists’ goals of raising awareness, there is a plan for fixing the issue that goes along with it.
In the case of bathrooms, Mik says there should be more gender-neutral or unisex options. In liberal cities like Portland, Los Angeles, and New York, more gender-neutral bathrooms have been added in public buildings.
“Bathrooms for transgender people who aren’t passing, you let out this sigh of relief,” Mik said. “You can go in and don’t have to worry about if you’re passing enough, or if people are going to look at you weird.”
Mik said that creating bathrooms specifically for transgender people would create division not only among transgender people but in the entire LGBTQ community.
“Bathrooms specifically for transgender people is a lot like segregation,” Mik said. “For someone to use that specific bathroom, it’s like coming out.”
Contacting your senators and local representatives also does a great deal of help.
“If you send enough letters and make enough phone calls, that’s the way to get through to them –even if they’re Republican,” Mik said. “If they see enough support from people under their jurisdiction, they’ll have to listen because — more than their values — politicians care about re-election.”
Even with the S.B. 6 dead and gone, there is still more progress to be made. The continuation of the fight for equality is not over until every marginalized group is tended to and accounted for.
Meanwhile, the cities that acknowledge these oppressed groups will have to lead the way until the rest of the country can catch up.