Trans* Activism Teach-in Today

Don’t understand what all this trans* activism is about? Come hear the facts.

All-Gender-Restroom-Sign

 Justine Mitchell ’14 writes in:

A lot has been happening on campus regarding the de-gendering of bathrooms and the subsequent response from the University.
Come to a student-led info session/discussion about what has been going on.
Get the facts and ask as many questions as you want.
We will cover things like….
the history of trans* activism at Wes
the importance of de-gendering bathrooms
the events that transpired this semester &
the university’s response
  • Date: TODAY – Monday, November 25, 2013
  • Time: 6:00pm – 7:00pm
  • Place: Usdan black couches

3 thoughts on “Trans* Activism Teach-in Today

  1. John

    I have a couple things against de-gendering all bathrooms, but not because I’m a homophobe or transphobe or whatever other -phobe there is. Rather I want to highlight some points that will hopefully make things better for everyone and not just one group over another.

    1) Instead of de-gendering the current bathrooms, why not push to have pre-de-gendered bathrooms installed/constructed near the other bathrooms, so that we don’t offend either heterosexuals or queers? I know it might be a bit costly but it makes more sense to be safe and not offend anybody, including people who might want a bit of privacy regardless of someone’s sexual orientation. There’s always going to be a cost or some sort if not everyone is willing to compromise. I know some people don’t mind gender neutral bathrooms but I also know some people may feel very uncomfortable with having people of the opposite gender (but not necessarily sexual orientation) in the same bathroom, just like how queer people may feel awkward using a bathroom for the gender that they don’t associate themselves with. Just a thought. I’m sure if Wes has the money to afford tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of new shiny iMacs in ST Lab, it can afford to invest in a few extra gender-neutral bathrooms here and there.

    2) Having both gender-specific and gender-neutral bathrooms also has the added bonus of preventing potential harassment or stalking by members of the opposite sex seeking to approach others in an unwanted manner. If all bathrooms became gender-neutral, it may potentially lead to increased frequencies of sexual assault and/or sexual harassment due to lack of gender-specific protection offered by labeled bathrooms. Of course this could sound like a slippery slope or you could say that harassment may occur regardless of gendered bathrooms. My point is that stuff like this actually can happen, and de-gendering bathrooms doesn’t offer a solution to this problem. Therefore, having a gender-neutral bathroom near the gender-specific bathrooms actually negates any excuse for someone using the opposite sex’s bathroom to harass someone on the basis that they claim to be queer (but really aren’t).

    3) I’ve noticed that most people who know which bathroom is the ladies’ and which belongs to the gents use each one respective to their gender regardless of whether a label is on it or not. I’m not sure if this is just out of habit or because people don’t want to go out of their way to enter the other bathroom (knowing that it used to be for the opposite sex), but the de-gendering of previously gender-specific bathrooms doesn’t seem to be doing much to promote diversity and openness and acceptance. Rather, it seems to be proving inconvenient for some students and even professors/staff seeking to use a restroom only to enter in and realize someone of the opposite sex is in it (when the student/professor/staff would prefer to have a bit of privacy). Yes it’s been only a few weeks since the bathrooms have been de-gendered, but one thing will still stand for quite a while: some heterosexuals feel uncomfortable, too.

    4) Removing labels to vent your frustrations or prove a point doesn’t do much other than costing the University at least $50-$200 to replace each sign. I’m sorry the three students had to go through that (and yes I do believe the signs are much cheaper to replace than $175), but vandalizing or any other violent means for that matter don’t prove a point any better than stealing money from Wall St. proves that it’s greedy and wrong. Of course it’s greedy and wrong on so many levels; but why not educate and reach out through a positive and enlightening manner as to be careful not to offend anyone? Does activism entail actively seeking to destroy something and replace it with something else? Does activism mean vandalism? Is this the most effective means of change? Do you have to rip something apart to get a point across?

    I may have sounded politically incorrect on so many levels. I am not angry or sad or disgusted or trying to be homophobic. I ask for forgiveness if I have offended anyone. I just wish people would find ways to accommodate EVERYONE, and that means EVERYONE, including the majority and/or minority, in a way that satisfies EVERYONE and not just the majority or just the minority. Otherwise it’s impossible to progress, with one group trying to step on the other and vice versa. The costs are worth it. I

    1. Max

      Hey John. Let me try to clarify a few points as a cis person who wants lots more all-gender bathrooms:

      1. I definitely support the construction of more single use, all-gender bathrooms. We also need all-gender multi-use bathrooms so that trans* people are not relegated to some separate, out-of-the-way place. On your point regarding “compromise,” I urge you to consider the possibility that a cis heterosexual person’s discomfort at pooping next to a person of the opposite gender is really really different and less severe than the sort of erasure of identity that occurs when trans* people are forced to comply with a gender binary. In fact, the effect of gendered bathrooms on trans* people goes beyond erasure of identity – it’s a matter of safety. 55% of trans* people report harrasment public accomodations, 8% have experienced physical violence (page 124: http://www.endtransdiscrimination.org/PDFs/NTDS_Report.pdf) . Sure, these numbers are lower at Wesleyan but they are not zero.

      2. As stated in the manifesto posted by POT*P, there are no studies showing an increase in sexual assault in all-gender bathrooms. Also, note that the voyeurism incident in Olin happened in a gendered bathroom – Signs don’t keep perpetrators of sexual assault out. Locked doors in stalls with walls to the ceiling do, though.

      3. Yes, it is a problem that many bathrooms are still de facto gendered.

      4. Removing signs does alot, apparently, given that the administration now seems to be taking the concerns of trans* students slightly more seriously. The non-direct action, official ruote has been tried and has largely failed, not for lack of student effort. One indicative attempt: A group of student met with Dean Whaley last year about the lack of access to bathrooms in Olin. He said he would follow up on it. When approached about his lack of action this fall, he said he forgot. That actually happened.

      Activism does entail direct action, always has. POT*P did it and it’s working and seems to have been necessary to get people talking. It also often entails people feeling some discomfort/awkwardness.

      Finally I applaud your desire to make everyone comfortable, but consider that comfort comes in different forms. There is ongoing dialogue between trans* students, survivors of sexual assault, disability student groups and religious groups on campus to make sure the needs of all those groups are met. If you think it’s needed (I don’t), feel free to form a Boys Who Think Girls Pooping Is Gross group and join in.

      Max

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