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Time to Move Past Gender Segregated Facilities
by Kiwi Grady

This spring, T-Party will be submitting a list of reforms to NYU to make the university more friendly towards transgender and gender variant people. T-Party believes that NYU’s current policies do not address the issues of transgender and gender variant people, and in some cases, are disrespectful to transgender identities.

T-Party is a club sponsored by the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Student Services. It was started a little over a year ago, and has weekly meetings every Friday night. T-Party’s mission is to create and maintain a strong community in NYU for people who identify as transgender (an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or statement and expression do not go along with what is traditionally associated with their biological sex), people who significantly transgress gender but don’t identify as transgender (gender variant), trannie chasers and trans allies. T-Party’s activities are diverse – the club is both a social and an activist club.

T-Party’s main concerns with NYU are employment, housing, bathrooms and locker rooms. It should be noted that T-Party’s views do not necessarily reflect the attitudes of the Office of LGBT Student Services.

As of right now, transgender and gender variant people are not protected under the university’s non-discrimination policy. Although the policy protects individuals from discrimination against sex and sexual orientation, it nowhere explicitly protects people against discrimination based on gender identity and statement. Some people might argue that the current policy (specifically the part that prohibits discrimination based on sex) can be interpreted as protecting people against discrimination based on gender identity and statement, but until that is proven, T-Party wants to see gender identity and expression added to the policy.

Housing segregates people based on biological sex. This policy is highly disrespectful to transgender individuals who do not identify with their biological sex. It prevents them from rooming with individuals who share their gender identity, and in many of those cases, creates a living situation that is uncomfortable (since many people wish to room with someone who shares their gender identity). It also sends the message to transgender students that their gender identity is not respected by the university. Housing is not just a transgender issue, though. It is an issue that affects everyone on campus.

The policy of sex segregation in housing is heteronormative. The policy is used in an attempt to police heterosexual desire, and in that attempt, it totally ignores the existence of homosexual desire. While the university won’t allow a biological male and female to room together (because it assumes the two must be heterosexual), it will allow two biological females to live together and it will allow two biological males to live together. In both of the cases just mentioned, the roommates might identify with a sexual orientation that would allow the possibility of a sexual/romantic union between the two. In this light, NYU actually discriminates against heterosexuals in that it does not give heterosexuals the same option that it gives homosexuals, bisexuals and other sexual minorities – the option of living with a significant other or potential significant other.

It must be stressed though that the current housing policy limits the choices for everyone in the university. Some people simply get along better with people who do not belong to the same biological sex as they do. Some women feel more comfortable living with men, some men feel more comfortable living with women, etc. By forcing people to live with people of the same biological sex, the university is preventing many people from living with the roommates that suit them best.

Transgender and gender variant people are discriminated against constantly in bathrooms and locker rooms. Oftentimes when walking into bathrooms and locker rooms, transgender and gender variant people are subjected to stares, verbal abuse and sometimes even violence. A trip to the bathroom or locker room can be a very uncomfortable and unpleasant experience for a transgender or gender variant person, and many transgender and gender variant individuals have therefore avoided visiting the locker rooms at Coles and using the multi-occupancy bathrooms at NYU that they feel fit their identities.

To solve the housing, bathroom and locker room problems, T-party advocates that all three be made coed. For housing, T-Party desires that all students be given the option of choosing a roommate that suits them best regardless of biological sex. In housing application forms, students should be given the option of living with a male-identified student, a female-identified student or simply not caring what sex they end up with in their dorm room. People’s gender identities should always be respected during the housing application process, as should the choices people make for roommates.

For locker rooms, T-Party wants to see all individual locker rooms equipped with private stalls. This would ensure that all individuals using the locker room would have privacy while changing and showering. To ensure the safety of the locker room users, T-Party suggests having a guard or monitor patrol the hallways of each locker room. With private stalls and hallway guards/monitors, T-Party is confident that everyone can have a safe and comfortable experience in a coed locker room.
For bathrooms, T-Party wants half of the multi-occupancy bathrooms to be made coed immediately and for it to be clear that anyone can use the bathroom that they identify with. After a couple of years pass, and people are more used to coed multi-occupancy bathrooms and there are more single occupancy bathrooms available, all bathrooms should be made coed. People who would feel uncomfortable going to the bathroom with people of another sex would have the option of using a private restroom on campus.

The proposed solutions for the locker room and bathroom problems are somewhat radical and probably intimidating for a lot of people, but T-Party does not see any other option capable of solving the problems completely. For instance, a commonly proposed "solution" is to have transgender people use single occupancy bathrooms. Likewise, a solution many people propose for the locker room problem is to create a small and more private third locker room that transgender people and other individuals could use. T-Party feels that neither of these options are acceptable, since they stigmatize transgender people.

Transgender people should feel comfortable and welcome using the same facilities as “normally” gendered people. By forcing or pushing transgender people to use private or small facilities that are separate from the ones most other people use, the university would be furthering the perception of transgender people as an “other” – a perception that transgender people are working hard on changing.

Since the institution of gender itself is the root of trans oppression, it would be wise to attack it directly in order to truly help transgender people. Maintaining gendered spaces only serves to reproduce and maintain gender, which in turn reproduces and maintains the oppression that transgender and gender variant people face. If NYU is serious about making the school more trans-friendly, it will need to eliminate the spaces within its borders that are still gendered.

If you have any questions or would like to talk to me about anything trans related, whether it is questions
about transgenderism, T-Party, or the stuff I brought up in this essay, feel free to leave me a message at: gendersucks@yahoo.com

 

 

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