2016 has been a rollercoaster year of equal rights and progressivisms for the United States. Same-sex marriage rights have been federally mandated by the US Supreme Court for a full year now and we have more and more LGBT characters in media than ever before. However, many states across the nation are implementing and enforcing a new law banning transgender folk from using the public bathrooms that match the gender they identify with. They instead require that they use the bathrooms of the gender they were assigned at birth; something reminiscent of “one step forward, two steps back.”
Many conservative lawmakers in North Carolina signed the “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act” into law in March of 2016. This law prevents transgender people from using their appropriate bathrooms. North Carolina governor, Pat McCrory, signed the law with defenders claiming it would prevent male criminals entering the women’s restroom to assault someone. Regardless of how statistically improbable this situation is, this boils down to the fact that these states are targeting and persecuting trans people for the actions of criminals with zero affiliation to trans lifestyles. The ban of trans-students using their appropriate bathrooms affects not only those on college campuses, but every public restroom in those states.
For many students, college is a time to discover oneself
For many students, college is a time to discover yourself, learn more about yourself and express yourself in ways you may not to want to or be able to back at home. However, this new bill is making these college campuses unsafe spaces for transgender students who are now forced to use the bathrooms of the gender they were assigned at birth. By being forced to use these incorrect bathrooms, transgender students are made vulnerable to harassment and assault. Furthermore, it can stunt their transition and drastically hinder any steps they were taking towards openly being themselves. Some schools, such as California’s UC Irvine, have taken small steps towards student safety by introducing large amounts of gender neutral bathrooms. This move gives students safety as well as keeping more bigoted individuals a sense of security still.
Laws like this that are imposed on students currently transitioning, are inherently harmful and damaging no matter what “good intentions” the lawmakers had in mind at the time of legislation. A trans student from North Carolina, who chose to remain anonymous, disclosed that they “don’t really feel safe going to school [in North Carolina] anymore. It’s scary to think that there are actual laws telling me I can’t be myself safely.” Instead, these laws force trans students into potentially harmful situations—something schools are supposed to be avoiding.
As the new school year begins, it is important to remember that one thing—and one thing only—should be the top priority of universities and colleges across the United States: the safety of the students. However, this bill, passed by North Carolina and considered in states such as South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin, disregards the safety of ALL students and instead chooses to turn a blind eye to trans students. Every student should have the right to feel safe on their school’s campus; targeting individuals with outdated laws that have no place in a more progressive 2016 is a mistake made by these schools, who need to be held accountable. Students deserve safety.