“Complete Bullshit”: An Update on the Trans* De-Gendering Bathrooms Situation

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NOTE FROM BZOD: About a month ago, a group called the Pissed Off Trans* People pulled down a number of gendered bathroom signs around campus, replacing them with paper all gender bathroom signs and a manifesto entitled “All Gender Bathrooms Now.” Two days ago, an anonymous poster published the following article on tumblr under the title “Complete Bullshit: An Update on the Trans* De-Gendering Bathroom Situation.” I was contacted by the author of the post and the students being SJB’d and confirmed the story. The complete text of that tumblr post is reproduced below.

So, a few weeks back, there was an outpouring of trans* activism. I mean that like when you put a lot of pressure on a water balloon and then the water bursts out of a hole. Yeah, the water made the hole and hurt the balloon. But the water only gushed out because of all the fucking pressure being put on the damn balloon. (and why was this water being trapped in a balloon in the first place?)

My point being, yes, fed up trans* students and angry cis allies took down and broke the single-gender bathroom signs around campus. They did this because they were sick of the system that marginalizes and endangers trans* folk. This move was pretty controversial on campus. But that’s not what I want to write about today.

Today, the issue at stake is the University’s response. Now, students taking part in this action knew they were doing something illegal/against the rules/risky. As such they have remained anonymous when participating in media coverage and the action was instigated under the anonymous Facebook account PissedOff Trans* People. They provided materials on Facebook for marking bathrooms as all-gendered. These materials have been downloaded 200 times, which gives you an idea of the scale of interest and possibly participation in this action. 

However, a group of 5 students were identified as participating. There is video of them entering and exiting Usdan with the de-gendering materials, and a witness who didn’t see them take down the signs, but did see them by the bathrooms right before the signs were removed. One of them lost their job through this incident, and was told they would be sent before the Student Judicial Board, and possibly fined for the cost of ALL of the signs, since no one else had been identified, even though this individual had not actually physically removed signs in Usdan and there was nothing linking them to the removal of any other signs. They met with Public Safety, and their meeting was written down as a report post facto, and PSAFE’s interpretation of this meeting is being cited as evidence for the case.

That was a while ago. As it turns out, 2 other students are also being SJB’d. “2 students?” one may ask. “But 4 other students were identified at that incident! 4 other students are caught on camera entering and exiting Usdan! Why only 2 other students?” Well, my friend, I cannot tell you why the university is only charging 3 of the 5 students caught with property damages. I can tell you that the 3 being charged were the trans* students of the group. I can also tell you that these 3 students are facing charges of over $5,000 in fines for the removal of 30 signs.

And, if you’ll remember, one of these students has already lost their job. There is NO evidence that ties these students to the other buildings, and 3 more buildings have been added to their case after it was opened because it was a “similar action.”

These trans* students are being singled out for something that was unmistakeably the effort of a large group and being threatened with a significant (and unreasonable) fine despite no actual evidence that they took down even a single sign, let alone all 30. In most cases, no damage was done to the doors/walls the gendered signs were removed from. The range of prices of the signs themselves is wide, with some being certainly cheaper than $20 (the high end being around $100). Yet they are being charged at $175 per sign, plus restitution.

At a school that likes to call itself the “Diversity University,” which markets itself to potential students in part through it’s social justice and campus activism, and claims to be queer friendly, this response to the trans* activism on campus is completely unacceptable. Why are these trans* students being singled out and blamed for the entirety of the action? Why aren’t cis participants being charged as well? Does the administration hope to silence and stop these trans* students from further attempts to advocate for their rights by radical means? Do they hope the trans* students will be pressured into identifying other participants to lessen their own share of the fine?

The process of the Student Judicial Board does not take into account the context of these actions, nor does it take an “innocent until proven guilty” stance. The pressure is on students to prove their innocence or else face the consequences. These students cannot say they had nothing to do with the activism on campus. However, in the absence of any proof that they took part in vandalism, it is unreasonable for them to be charged for these damages. It is incredibly questionable at best how these students were selected as the guilty parties. They are to be judged by 3 of their “peers” with no process to establish that these “peers” aren’t transphobic. A committee of 3 cis students to judge 3 trans* students for (allegedly) standing up for their own needs? 3 students being charged with campus-wide damages? (Tell me- were students caught participating in Tour de Franzia even charged for campus-wide damages that occurred during that event? Was every freshman caught drinking punished as if they had invented and organized the event and incited the damage? Or were they only held responsible for their own actions, their own drinking and any damage they were CAUGHT doing? So why does this much more meaningful activism merit blaming a few students for a campus-wide action?)

The response to the trans* activism on this campus is being horribly mismanaged, in my opinion.

Step up, Wesleyan University. This is not okay.

* * *

There are a number of posts related to trans* issues coming up on the blog in the next week or two. For now, the links to our past two posts on the issue are below.

Related Posts:
Liveblog: Open Forum on Gender-Neutral Bathrooms and Trans* Activism
“All Gender Bathrooms Now” – Pissed Off Trans* People on the DIY Gender-Neutralizing of Wesleyan’s Bathrooms

29 thoughts on ““Complete Bullshit”: An Update on the Trans* De-Gendering Bathrooms Situation

  1. ChrisEstMonNom

    Men go in men’s toilets, women go in women’s toilets. Transmen go in men’s toilets and transwomen go in women’s toilets. Frankly, I suspect few real transsexuals would want to use an “all-gender” toilet.

  2. IsayNOtoPEE

    Hey Trans* people. Us women DO NOT want men in our bathrooms. That includes anyone with a penis. They make a mess. They get the seats dirty. Gender neutral bathrooms mean women have to sit on pee. Any woman that has ever used a men’s room and/or has men in her house knows that I’m talking about…

  3. doucheydouche

    god. trans*? with a star? gurl please. and now everyone without a sex change has to be called “cis”? because “naturally born” is offensive? no, it’s just factual. i was naturally born a man. i’m a naturally born male. i refuse to let someone assign a new category to that because they are obsessed and oversensitive about nomenclature. and bathroom signs? seriously, people. men and women have separate bathrooms.

  4. jarsilver

    “Finally, in the middle of the proceedings and negotiations with the administration the fine was nearly doubled from about $3,000 to over $5,000. The fine breaks down to $157 per sign plus additional unexplained fees. This calculation comes in spite of an offer from mydoorsign.com to donate all-gender signs to the University for free.”

    (source: http://youngist.org/post/68925324754/students-fined-5-000-for-activism-by-wesleyan)

    can anyone else back this up/explain further? these seem like important details

  5. Louis CK

    Of course we should desegregate our bathrooms and alleviate discrimination towards transgendered individuals. OF COURSE! But maybe…?

    1. BZOD

      It’s meant to incorporate the varying identities that can start with the root “trans” – like transgender and transsexual – but also serves as a blanket term that can be used to refer to people who are genderqueer, gender-variant, or gender non-conforming and may not identify directly with words like “transgender.” The asterisk indicates this inclusivity.

  6. queer '14

    Not that I object to the use of direct action – especially regarding an issue as important/urgent as this – but have there been any attempts to contact the administrative Powers That Be over all this (either the bathrooms or the disciplinary response)? I’m disappointed that Roth et al. haven’t come out with a statement, since this is obviously an issue that has gotten much of campus talking.
    I think especially considering the SJB action that has been taken by the administration, a public response that actually addresses the problems that motivated the so-called “vandalism” is more than warranted at this point.

  7. Is this a joke?

    The level of disdain and entitlement toward institutional consequences of VANDALISM here is absurd. Look, we get it, you broke stuff for a “political cause”– but you still need to square up, own up to what you did, and pay for the damage, for Christ’s sake! Doing otherwise only further marginalizes your (albeit radical and illogical) cause. There are a number of problems with this article (the first of which is that it was anonymously pulled from Tumblr…? C’mon, Wesleying, step your game up).

    You make many unfair assumptions, which is particularly ironic given that your whole rallying cry is that people are making unfair assumptions regarding your gender. You assume that these actions are “unmistakeably the effort of a large group”. How do you know that?!

    You claim the fine is “unreasonable” because the students are being charged more than each sign presumably costs (unclear where your information comes from). This is clearly due to the significant labor costs associated with replacing signs IN EVERY SINGLE BUILDING ON CAMPUS. Regardless, even if labor costs were factored into the costs of the signs, the university would be sound (and aligned with, I don’t know, virtually every legal system in the world) to charge the vandals more than the damage they incurred as an incentive not to vandalize in the first place.

    These students are being “singled out and blamed for the entirety of the action” because they were caught doing it, moron. If someone runs around the school leaving turds in the hallways of various buildings (a very unique and deliberate infraction) and is caught in the act, they aren’t going to get off the hook because they claim they have a band of cronies helping them out. This is just common sense: if you are caught committing a very unique crime that can conceivably be connected to a whole string of other very unique (identical, actually) crimes, then you can expect to be blamed for the whole lot. Again, this is how any legal system in the world will treat you.

    “Why aren’t cis participants being charged as well?” you ask. Great question! Now– I might be going out on a limb here, but bear with me— maybe, maybe it’s BECAUSE NO “CIS” PARTICIPANTS WERE CAUGHT VANDALIZING BATHROOMS.

    “Does the administration hope to silence and stop these trans* students from further attempts to advocate for their rights by radical means?” No. Obviously not, you dolt. Why would you even suggest this? They hope to discourage students from vandalism and have the damages they have incurred be paid for by the responsible parties.

    “A committee of 3 cis students to judge 3 trans* students for (allegedly) standing up for their own needs?” How do you know that the 3 SJB members are “cis”?! You’re making the very assumptions that you hope to combat! The utter idiocy of this piece really astounds me. Do yourselves, and all trans people, a favor and at least make an effort to act like responsible adults when you make radical political statements: stop whining and face the very reasonable consequences. No one out in the real world will tolerate this kind of immature behavior for a second. You should be grateful you’re (probably) not going to get suspended for this.

    1. One angry cis ally

      Hi. Author of the post here.
      I wrote this as a tumblr blog post, not as an article, so I’m not gonna try to make some claim to journalistic standards. And I’m not going to bother trying to argue with what you think, but here’s my response to a couple of your questions about what you considered “assumptions” on my part.

      The “unmistakeably a large group” was an inference based on the number of downloads of the materials and the number of people I personally know who participated. Perhaps my notion of “large” is different from yours. But if I personally know a number of people who participated and there were 200 downloads of the materials, I don’t have a problem saying it was a large group. Certainly large in comparison to the number 3.

      You obviously didn’t read very closely. A) They were not caught DOING any crime. B) When they were identified 2 cis students were also identified. These cis students were not caught doing any less than the trans* students (which is to say they were caught being in the general area when the action took place, with materials to put up all-gender signs) So the question is valid.

      And I am not assuming the SJB members are cis. The students being SJB’d have been given their names, and seeing as we all go to the school it’s not that shocking that we know that they are cis. I was not just being cisnormative and assuming these students are cis because they are on the SJB. That would be ridiculous.

      1. Miles

        “I wrote this as a tumblr blog post, not as an article, so I’m not gonna try to make some claim to journalistic standards. And I’m not going to bother trying to argue with what you think, but here’s my response to a couple of your questions about what you considered “assumptions” on my part.”

        This is an intelligent way to say “I have no fucking clue what I’m talking about and I’m not going to argue your point because I have no response.”

        1. One angry cis ally

          More like “I realize I didn’t cite my sources but that doesn’t mean I
          don’t have any and if you aren’t convinced by the facts laid out that’s
          your own business.”

          (but thanks, sweet Miles. SO nice of you to say I
          sound intelligent. ;* )

    2. BZOD

      1) This article was not “anonymously pulled from tumblr.” I did not wander tumblr, find this article, and decide to throw it on the blog. It was anonymously posted on tumblr, and it was then posted here. In between, I was contacted a few people (including the author of the piece), talked with them about the content, and decided to post it because it is a well-written article that updates people on the situation. and frees me up to avoid re-writing something that has already been published elsewhere on the ‘net.

      2) “This is just common sense: if you are caught committing a very unique crime that can conceivably be connected to a whole string of other very unique (identical, actually) crimes, then you can expect to be blamed for the whole lot. Again, this is how any legal system in the world will treat you.Let’s say you commit some sort of unique crime, get caught, and then charged for it wherever it occurred.” The part you miss is that, were this to occur in the U.S. (to give a concrete example in place of your dubious claim about “any legal system in the world”), you would be innocent until proven guilty. Someone from the state would have to argue that you actually committed the crime, you would defend yourself, and a third party would decide. At Wesleyan, you are written up and go before a board that reads a PSafe report, hears what you have to say, and then weighs the two sides. You can’t criticize PSafe because they a) aren’t there, and b) are assumed to be truthful.

      Getting charged for everything under the U.S. legal system isn’t nearly as big a deal because, unless they have EVIDENCE of your participation, they can’t charge you with anything. At Wesleyan, unless you can somehow poke a hole in the case against you, you’re charged for whatever they deem a fit fine. That’s fucked up.

      Also, neither trans* nor cis students were caught actually vandalizing bathrooms. And there were far more than 3 people involved. So yeah.

  8. Figure out my email address!

    RE: the $5000+ fine, challenge the fine’s amount with the deans in Student Affairs to try to get it down. Then, set up a “gofundme” account and get students, faculty, and parents to donate. Have all the students who have kept their identities private come out en masse. Hold out on paying the fine, and send any surplus collected funds to a trans positive organization, thoroughly detailing the precise nature of this entire incident. Get media coverage and a larger campus response.

    -Unidentified Queer Alum ’13

    1. Josh

      I see where you’re going with this, but I think it falls short in that it in makes (at least) the following unnecessary concessions; a) the fine is reasonable, b) the unfairly-singled-out alleged organizers should be held responsible for paying it, and most importantly c) that the signs “have to be replaced”.

      I could see us raising money for nice, shiny all-gender bathroom signs to replace the gendered signs… Maybe even more newsworthy?

      What do you think?

      1. Don Jon

        Yeah I agree, raising money on kickstarter is conceding that these fines and this bullshit judicial process is somehow legitimate. The other thing is that the company who makes the allgender bathroom signs used in the protest has voiced their support for the action and offered to provide new allgender signs for every Wes bathroom FOR FREE.

        1. BZOD

          Every Wes bathroom may be a stretch when it comes down to it; they offered us new signs and, while they have put a number of signs on bathrooms at other campuses, I doubt they’d replace all ours.

          Nevertheless, their information has been passed to the administration, so we’ll see what happens with that.

  9. 1234

    Funny: “complete bullshit” is my response to the immature antics of people who know they can’t win an argument and so vandalize property instead.

    1. bathroom-goer

      Here’s the thing, though: to you, what might be an “argument” is, to others, a matter of their existence. So next time you are out and about in the world NOT being verbally or physically assaulted, casually dismissed, villainized with a dehumanizing glare, taunted, teased, touched, or any number of other hurtful acts (that happen inside and outside of bathrooms), just keep in mind that those things comprise some people’s everyday lived experiences. every. single. day. And these acts are propagated because people like you have a deep-down feeling that people like them and their existences just don’t matter as much as yours and your comfort. Hope you enjoy that comfort immensely and appreciate it every single second of your life. Maybe someday others can attain simple measures of safety and security for their existences, but at the moment, it is an indefinite wait until we see that day come and everyone can pee in peace.

    2. Cis '15er

      They “can’t” win the argument because almost one is listening to their points, nor considering their point of view. So I don’t know how anyone can blame them for stepping up and forcing people to realize that they exist, and their problems are real. Did the African Americans politely request their rights and expect that to be effective? They had to go to war, hun. Not that war is correct, but it happens for a reason, and it figuratively speaking happening at Wes.

    3. are you kidding me

      You are so so right. If there’s one thing that’s more important than the lives of human beings, it’s property. Silly immature trans* people!

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