Are Gender Neutral Restrooms a Stepping Stone for the Transgender Community?

Schools and businesses start accommodating transgender people

Bell Hooks’ “Love as the Practice of Freedom,” claims that without an ethic of love shaping the direction of our political vision and our radical aspirations, we are often seduced, in one way or the other, into continued allegiance to systems of domination such as imperialism, sexism, racism, classism. Hooks believes that the moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom. In this sense, when schools and companies begin to love their students and customers equally, that is when there is freedom for all.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asserts that several states including Connecticut, Colorado, and Massachusetts prohibit gender identity discrimination and have issued rules or instructions explaining what schools must do to accommodate transgender students. These involve updating educational records, accessing appropriate restrooms, and preventing bullying. Furthermore, in certain places, transgender people sometimes face criminal penalties for using restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity.

In the Los Angeles Times article, “Wisconsin transgender student wins legal fight over bathroom choice in final week of school,” a federal court grants Ashton Whitaker full permission to use the boys’ bathroom at his Wisconsin high school. According to the lawsuit filed, when Ashton first asked to use the boys’ bathroom, the school said he could either use a gender-neutral bathroom in the school’s main office or the girls’ bathroom. He still used the boys’ bathroom for six months until a teacher saw him washing his hands there and reported it to school administration. This may only be a small victory for the transgender community but it also sets precedent that a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in public schools protects transgender people.

In the Fox News article, “Target: Use the bathroom of your ‘gender identity,’” Target aims to demonstrate its commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways. Target welcomes its transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. According to Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder, Target’s policy is not new, but is a restatement of an existing corporate rule. This policy shows Target’s concern for their employees and customers. Target insures that everyone feels like they belong, that they are accepted, respected and welcomed at Target.

Kenosha’s Tremper High School in Wisconsin and Target are simply two instances in which love is chosen over hatred. Instead of domination and oppression, there is liberation. Their actions are the testimonies of love as the practice of freedom. It is my hope that more schools and companies will start to follow their lead, and I am proud to say that the University of California, Riverside is already on board with gender inclusive restrooms. Milestones start with stepping stones.