When I was a junior at San Diego State, I had a sudden urge to need a restroom. The closest one was clearly marked, “Faculty Men Only.” The nearest one for male students was on the other side of the building.
I did what any rational person would do—I used the faculty restroom.
One of the professors, who was using a urinal a couple spaces away, told me the restroom was for professors only. (I assumed there were separate restrooms for staff.) “What department are you in,” asked the prof.
In my deeper voice, I responded I was with sociology, hoping he knew little about the sociology faculty.
“Just out of grad school?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied, hoping that I looked much older than my 19 years. I wasn’t lying. I was “with sociology”—as a student, though. And, since I had no plans to go to grad school, I was truly “out of grad school.”
The prof. said nothing more, apparently finished with emptying his bladder and, hopefully, needing to rush to the sink and then a class.
That brief encounter burnished a memory into my mind.
San Diego State no longer separates students from staff or faculty, but states do discriminate.
Twenty-two states have filed suits in federal courts to block a federal government regulation requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use the restrooms of whichever sex they identify with.
The Department of Justice says the new regulation conforms to the will of the Civil Rights Act. The attorneys general of the states that filed the suit claim the government’s regulation is an over-reach that violates the authority of local school districts while also violating student, staff, and faculty privacy. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the regulation is enforceable. Jay Kaplan, an attorney with the Michigan ACLU, told the AP the suits are not only a waste of taxpayer funds but also “an assault on the dignity of transgender youth.” Perhaps society is best served by separating politicians from the public—straight male Democratic politician; lesbian female Republican politician; there could be 10 or so such restricted restrooms to identify most sexual and genetic orientation.
Unlike gays and lesbians (who identify with persons of the same sex), transgender individuals—unlike actors and entertainers (many known as drag queens or drag queens) who portray persons of the opposite sex—are those whose fetal brains and gene structure, rather than external anatomy, identify them by gender rather than sexual orientations. Transitioning requires more than surgery; the anatomy and genetics are just a part of who an individual is.
Both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the mid-1970s determined that LGBT individuals did not suffer from psychological disorders or mental illness and had to be “cured.”
About 6 percent of Americans (1.4 million) identify as transgender, with California, Florida, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Texas, having the highest proportion of transgender individuals, according to a study from UCLA.
Like gays and lesbians, most transgender individuals hide their identities until at least when they become adults because of the fear of discrimination. A study by Angela Dallaria for GLAAD revealed about 90 percent of all transgender individuals believe they are discriminated at work and in receiving health care. They are not protected under civil rights laws of most states. However, in 2010, New York extended equal rights to the LGBT individuals.
Numerous scientific and criminal justice studies have discredited the belief that LGBT individuals have any tendency toward bestiality, child abuse, incest, or pedophilia. “Such claims, innuendoes, and associations,” according to GLAAD, “often are used to insinuate that LGBT people pose a threat to society, to families, and to children in particular.”
Discrimination against LGBT individuals because of dictates in the Bible or Koran are easily dismissed. As their societies have become enlightened, there are numerous verses and requirements of daily living that are no longer practiced by Christians and Muslims, or any other religion. Both Jews and Christians, using the same Old Testament, have different interpretations of their religious literature. Most Jews, as well as several Protestant denominations, tend to be more tolerant and accepting of the LGBT community; most evangelical Christians tend to be more discriminatory. Pope Francis urged Catholics to be more tolerant and accepting of non-heterosexual individuals, writing, “A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws . . . as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives.”
And yet, 22 U.S. states have filed suits to force those who honestly believe they are a different gender than their external anatomy to use “gender-appropriate” restrooms. If privacy is an issue, schools can create private single-stall restrooms. End of problem.
Pre-pubescent children of all sexual and gender identities play together—and accept each other. Discrimination later in life comes from parents, relatives, the media, and general society. Most children, probably from fears of bullying and harassment, will still use restrooms that are marked the same as their external anatomy.
It is time to have teachers and school boards retrained, using psychological and medical studies, and for the federal rules to be implemented for those who identify as LGBT individuals. Perhaps in another generation or two, public restrooms for all individuals will be acceptable, unlike the classrooms that were once common and accepted at my undergraduate university, and are still accepted throughout the country. In the meantime, politicians should be focusing more on greater issues than who uses a bathroom.
[Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor emeritus from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]