Transgender, gender non-conforming rights: It’s about more than ‘just’ bathrooms

Sean Bassinger, Forum editor

North Carolina sure made headlines after attempting to get more heavily involved with everyone’s business.

And speaking of “business,” it’s time to talk about bathrooms. But not “just” bathrooms.

On May 6, The Daily Barometer published an article titled “Making restrooms a safe space,” which focused around buttons that read “#IllGoWithYou” in support of transgender safety and rights on college campuses.

“The campaign is working towards allowing transgender and gender-nonconforming people to feel safe in gendered spaces,” according to Pride Center Leadership Liaison Malik Ensley in the original article.

Media traction has picked up since then, including a May 16 article that ran in The Oregonian.

Later that day, conservative wonderland and self-proclaimed savior of the known universe Breitbart released an article of their own, only with a bit more bite to it.

The article references comments made from OSU’s own P.J. Harris, which aim to make everything that LBGT rights activists such as Harris strive to work for look more like a laughing matter.

“It isn’t clear why Harris and the LGBT community at Oregon State feel transgender students are ‘vulnerable’ on campus, and when asked how many OSU students claim to be transgender, the gay advocating student said he didn’t know of any.”

That’s not exactly what Harris said.

The Oregonian states that Harris said that it’s “not clear,” which merely means the numbers are not present at this time.

This could be due to a variety of factors.

First, the transgender and gender non-conforming movements appear to be a relatively new occurrence across the U.S. and, if civil rights movement history has taught us anything, marginalized communities usually have a greater chance of having their safety threatened or being publicly judged based on their proclaimed status.

With that said, there could be a number of transgender or gender non-conforming students who have yet to come forward and identify as such.

Second, there does not appear to be any solid university records that label such gender identifications. The latest enrollment demographics from winter 2016 on OSU’s website, via the Office of Institutional Research, shows “Enrollment by Gender and Student Level” broken down into two categories.

These categories read “men” and “women.”

Now I’m not harping on the university for not yet including other identities on such surveys, but again, this is relatively new information to seek out in the grand scheme of things.

Cindy Konrad, assistant director at the OSU pride center, said there are at least six countries that have options beyond the typical “male” and “female” gender assignment options, which can even be assigned at birth.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is still looking to catch up.

“They may not be able to answer because they have a legal sex in their country that is different from the options that we offer here,” Konrad said.

But returning to primary concerns of legitimacy, this entire issue is about more than just bathrooms, which is why it becomes increasingly frustrating to see people shrug this off as such.

In regards to civil rights, vulnerability of marginalized populations is a very real issue across college campuses and cities in the nation, especially with the rise of many anti-progressive conservative movements we’ve seen in the past couple of months.

For those of you who disagree that this is an issue, ask yourself:

Would you feel threatened or uncomfortable if you were among a minority of misunderstood individuals who, more often than not, may face threats of violence or death against them?

I say the bathrooms, along with initiatives such as this “I’ll go With You” movement, are a good start.

Still, it’s not going to be enough for some time.

Not when we still have “big” journalists trying to convince the masses that it’s all a joke.

I’m sorry, but I must have missed the punchline somewhere between the premise of transgender community members whose lives are threatened nationwide on a daily basis.

The opinions expressed in Bassinger’s column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Barometer staff.

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