Genderless Ideas

I meant to post this on Transgender Day of Remembrance, but missed by one day.  In all fairness, my Thursday was absolutely insane.  I’m making up for it by posting an extra-long blog for y’all today!

Transgender rights has been something that has weighed heavily on my mind lately.  I’m not sure why exactly, but every situation where a trans person would be uncomfortable seems to trigger me.  I think that with all of the developments being made in the arena of gay marriage and gay rights I feel like the basic, simple, everyday rights of transgender people are being forgotten (or at least overshadowed).

So I decided to take a basic internet survey (via posting in several completely non-related groups), regarding transgender bathroom assignment.  To me, this seems relatively straightforward, so I wanted to see how many people agree.  I was also hoping to prompt some interesting conversations for people who haven’t spent any time researching or considering transgender rights.  The survey was fairly simple.  You were asked three questions regarding what bathroom transgender people should use (each question identified a different age group), and you were given three options for answers.  There was then a space for people to express why they had chosen what they had chosen, but this wasn’t required.  I feel that I got responses from people on just about every part of the spectrum, opinion-wise.

The first question was “Do you believe that transgender elementary students should be able to use the bathroom they are most comfortable with?”  They were given the options of “Yes; they should use the bathroom that matches their gender,” “No; they should use the restroom that matches their biological sex,” or “They should use a single-stall separate restroom.”  Out of 65 responses, 38 chose “yes,” 20 chose “no,” and 7 chose “single-stall.”

The second question was “Do you believe that transgender high school students should be able to use the bathroom they are most comfortable with?”  They were given the same answer options as question one.  I decided to choose two different school settings because of the controversy surrounding younger transgender people transitioning while in school.  I was also interested in the younger vs older comparison because of the arguments surrounding the possibility of sexual assault, if restrooms are used by transgender students.  Again, out of 65 responses, 42 chose “yes,” 11 chose “no,” and 12 chose “single-stall.”

The third question was “Do you believe transgender people should be able to use the public bathroom they are most comfortable with?”  They were given the same “yes” and “no” options, but the third option was phrased slightly differently for clarity’s sake.  The third option said “They should use single-stall alternate (family) restrooms.”  I knew that there would be a significant amount of adults taking the survey, and considered them more likely to approach the student questions from a mindset of protecting younger people.  I inserted this questions to attempt to force them to investigate their own personal feelings regarding both being in a restroom with a trans person, and forcing someone their own age to use a restroom they may be uncomfortable with.  I had hoped they would put themselves in the trans person’s shoes when asked from this perspective.  Out of the same 65 people, 46 said “yes,” 8 said “no,” and 11 said “single-stall.”

I was a bit shocked that the statistics didn’t significantly change between questions.  Most people picked all of one answer (i.e. 3 yes or 3 no).  There were only a few people who selected different options for different scenarios.  It seemed that people either decidedly were uncomfortable with people using bathrooms based on gender, or they simply weren’t.  The open responses brought all types of responses; the open-minded, the angry, the explicit, the indifferent, and the generally unrelated.  The prompt simply read “Why or why not?”  Responses ranged from “Biological sex is their true gender regardless of what gender they believe themselves.” to “Because that is their gender even if they weren’t born that way.”  There was on response that used the prompt as an opportunity to criticize America’s handling of restrooms in general, saying

“I personally see no problem with both genders, and sex, sharing the same bathrooms. I think that in America going to the bathroom is over sexualized, where people are appalled at the idea of men and women sharing. The main argument I’ve heard against it is that men will attack women in the bathroom, however, if something like that were to happen I think that would have much more to do with the amount of violence in that area. If someone is twisted enough to attack someone in a bathroom then they’re going to do it regardless of if they’re “allowed” to be in that particular stall or not. A bathroom is a bathroom, we all have to use it, so what’s the big deal with keeping everything separated?”

There were slightly humorous takes on the situation, such as “Because everyone has a right to pee in peace.” and there were also very serious observations, such as “they’re just trying to apply to our socially ascribed rules as fits them.”  There was even a response that simply listed “tough questions” at the end of the survey.

Out of everything contained in this, the thing that shocked me the most were people who seemed to believe that the single-stall bathrooms were a way to make everyone comfortable.  I purposefully placed that answer to see if people genuinely believed that this was a fair solution for all involved, and it seems that many do.  The people who chose the single-stall answers left comments like “It doesn’t bother anyone if they use a family bathroom, and it’s probably less awkward for them, not getting stares and what not.”  They argued that “It’s disrespectful to others that aren’t comfortable with the transgender population.”  They even left responses as blatant as “Because I can’t pee if a person with a penis is in the stall next to me.” I’m not kidding.  I was shocked.  I can’t imagine being told, my whole life, that I can’t use the same restrooms as almost everyone else around me.  Wouldn’t that feel, to you, like you were shouting to the whole world “HEY, LOOK AT ME.  I’M TRANSGENDER.” every time you walked into the single-stall handicapped/family restroom?  There are so many transgender people who go to great lengths to conceal the fact that they are transgender that we don’t even have any accurate statistics on how many people transgender people there are.  Asking them to identify themselves in public by using a specifically dictated bathroom is inhumane.  It’s embarrassing.  It’s hard for me to believe that people think that it’s fair in any respect.

There were two remarks that expressed concern for the safety of the transgender person themselves, saying “I don’t think our society is ready to responsibly and humanely integrate transgender students/adult in a public restroom setting.” I think that this is a valid concern, especially right now.  As this survey clearly indicates, there are a lot of people who are still incredibly uncomfortable with even the idea of a transgender person, forget an actual human being.  That being said, there are many hard-fought wars over basic human rights that have happened within even the past 100 years.  Most of them have resulted in some bloodshed.  I know plenty of transgender people who are willing to fight, and fight hard, for rights as basic as using a public restroom.  There are plenty of LGBTQ people and LGBTQ Allies that will join in that fight (and already have) and shed blood right alongside them.

I don’t think that this survey itself will change the world.  I don’t even know how many people will make it to the end of this post.  What I do know, is that this has opened my eyes to the discrimination coming from all around me, to people who have done nothing to deserve it.  I hope that I’m not the only one it impacts, but if I am?  I’ve certainly taken on a new respect for what’s happening around me.  And with that, I’ve taken on a new fight.

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From the Mouths of Babes

referenced from campustours.tamu.edu

referenced from campustours.tamu.edu

Okay, so maybe college students aren’t exactly babies anymore.  Some of them do have legitimate political opinions, formulated through personal research and attention to current events.  But, as I’m about to display, many of them have little to no idea what’s happening in the real world.  I took a poll of students at Texas A&M University, via several large (widely used) groups online.  Each of these groups requires a Texas A&M certified email to be a member, so it ensured that I would be polling only students.  Texas A&M is considered to be a relatively conservative university, with its agriculture roots and heavy military presence attracting many students from small-town Texas.  Naturally, I thought producing a survey regarding opinions and education surrounding same-sex marriage based here would produce some interesting results.  There were lots of conflicting responses.  The first question was “The Supreme Court recently turned down petitions halting same-sex marriage. This means that (at least temporarily), same-sex marriage is legal in at least five more states, paving the way for countless others to legalize same-sex marriage. What are your feelings about this?”  Out of exactly 100 responses, 61% reported favorable responses such as “It’s about time!”  There were 26% who reported negative feelings such as shock, feeling offended, and being unhappy to hear the report.  The other 13% said they had been keeping up with the news and already knew about the development.

The next question was “Do you think that the Supreme Court is indirectly supporting same-sex marriage through this decision?”  Students reported 65% belief that SCOTUS was supporting same-sex marriage, 22% belief this didn’t show support, and 13% confusion/no opinion about the topic.

The next question got a wide range of responses, as it was open ended.  I asked “Do you know how many states currently allow same-sex marriage?” with simply a blank below the question for them to fill in.  I arranged their answers in groupings of ten for ease of reporting.  49% of those surveyed said they didn’t know or didn’t care to guess.  There were 21% of guesses between one and ten states, with the most common guess being five states.  Frankly, I found this to be a bit shocking.  I know that this is a commonly changing number, especially right now, but by 2010 the number was far greater than 10.  There were 11 guesses between 11-20, and 17 guesses between 21 and 30.  All things considered, I wouldn’t say this is very far off of what I expected.

The next two questions had remarkably similar results, though I don’t consider them to be overly related.  The fourth question was “Do you think that the Supreme Court will eventually have to step in for same-sex marriage to be allowed in all 50 states?”  This is something I myself have spent quite a bit of time pondering, so it formed the basis for an interesting set of statistics.  The overwhelming answer was “yes,” with 71% of the vote.  There was a 24% vote for no, and a 5% vote for “I don’t know,” which I suppose is essentially a lack of vote.  The final question, which I wanted as a base to compare to the rest of the questions, was simply “Do you personally believe that same-sex marriage should be legalized?”  I say it’s simple, but for a lot of people I suppose it isn’t.  It got 68% of votes for “yes,” 16% of the votes for “no,” and 16% for “I don’t know.”

Now, why is this information at all significant.  It’s a sample of a sample.  My opinion is that these statistics are a representation of what’s happening next.  Texas A&M is full of college students, learning and creating their own identities that they will still have when they vote in the future.  Texas A&M is also full of people with religious and conservative backgrounds, in an incredibly conservative state.  If even a majority of the students here believe that same-sex marriage is on its way to be legalized (and agree that it should be), that’s worth noticing.