by Jordan Rubenstein November 26, 2010 12:15 PM
Figuring out which bathroom to use is often a difficult problem for transgender people. Gender-specific bathrooms are sometimes unsafe for transgender people, who can face harassment regardless of which bathroom they use.
On a college level, more and more universities are installing gender-neutral bathroom facilities, in an attempt to make life safer for transgender students. But that certainly isn’t the case for Michelle Rayner, a student at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, Canada.
Rayner is a female, but he identifies as transgender and often passes as a guy. He has been carded in public bathrooms and treated with disrespect because of his gender presentation. And he’s found that using the bathroom on campus is just as troubling and dangerous as it is off campus.
One particular incident solidified the need for the university to address transgender bathroom access. Recently, Rayner was called a “faggot” and punched in the lower lip in a women’s bathroom after class.
Some may ask: why was Rayner in the women’s bathroom if he’s coming out as transgender? This question implies that society should be able to enforce specific gendered bathroom use on a transgender person, without regard for their own preferences or safety. Rayner is a female; why shouldn’t he be able to use a women’s bathroom?
Rayner said: “It simply comes down to a basic question of safety rather than which gender I identify with... by having washrooms clearly marked by gender lines it becomes a safety issue for those who fall between.”
Transgender people -- including Rayner -- have a right to equal, safe access to bathrooms. St. Thomas University should ensure that they have safe bathrooms for transgender students by making some of their bathrooms gender-neutral. Please ask St. Thomas University to take action to prevent future harassment against transgender students by educating students on transgender issues and improving the restroom options.
Photo credit: Gregg O'Connell