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Alex Heldrich, Reporter
Citizens of Washington state as well as others may have heard recent discussion regarding a policy allowing transgender people to use bathrooms or locker rooms that coincide with their gender identity. This policy affects both private and public facilities where gender indicates which room one can urinate or change their clothes in. Despite common belief, this policy was enacted about 10 years ago.
With the third largest population of trans citizens in the country, this policy impacts the life of many people living in Pierce County. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer community is celebrating this achievement as now their trans counterparts can hopefully feel safer when using the bathroom in public. However, there has also been a backlash among conservatives.
The Law and Justice committee within the state Senate passed a “genital-check” bill on Feb. 3.
This bill proposed that a person’s genitals must be examined upon entering a restroom or locker room. It’d repeal the bill put in place by the state Human Right Commission that calls for gender identity discrimination to be an illegal offense.
Republican state Sen. Pam Roach, who helped sponsor the new bill, had her office toilet papered by trans advocates on Feb. 3.
Students and others who don’t want to show their genitalia to “bathroom monitors” are in luck because the genital check bill hasn’t been officially passed anywhere in the state. State senators are still battling it out in the courtroom and it may pass.
An email to students and employees on Jan. 29 from Holly Gorski, vice president of human resources, reminded recipients of the college’s stance on the transgender bathroom policy.
“Pierce College supports and values the dignity of each member of its community and is committed to maintaining an environment free from discrimination and harassment,” Gorski said in the email. “This commitments applies to all levels and areas of operations and programs and is intended to ensure that all students and employees are provided equitable opportunities to realize their goals and to function safely and effectively within the Pierce College environment.”
This means that trans students at Pierce are welcome to use the bathroom or locker room of their choice and are protected by the school’s non-discrimination policy.
This email was sent after Morgan Pasquier, student and sustainability coordinator for the Office of Student Life, met with an LGBTQ focus group that the college sponsored.
“They were asking me about diversity and what they could improve on,” Pasquier said. “The policy exists but not a lot of students really know about it and a lot of my trans friends are afraid to use the bathroom that they identify with, so the next day they sent out a reminder to students and staff.”
Despite the policy, trans student Mikaela Payne still doesn’t feel safe using either bathroom.
“I don’t feel comfortable around guys in the bathroom,” Payne said. “It’s like a painful reminder that I’m trans. And also because I’m a girl, it’s awkward.”
Other trans students at the Puyallup campus have different feelings towards using the bathrooms.
“Sometimes I feel safe,” student Jasper Bailie said. “It really just depends on how the people in there look. For example, if it’s a scrawny little white boy who looks like I could punch him and he’ll break then I’m not really scared, but if it’s a big redneck who looks like he’ll strangle me, then I’ll want to run.”
While the new policy makes it legal for a trans person to use the correct bathroom, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be safe in there. Payne has never used the women’s bathroom at Pierce for this reason.
“Trans people have been assaulted in the past and a secluded place like a bathroom could easily become a trap,” Payne said. “I don’t know who’s in there and if they would be accepting towards trans people.”
According to avp.org, 72 percent of victims of hate inspired homicides were trans women in 2013, 67 percent of which were trans women of color.
Other trans students at Pierce who are friends with Payne have experienced verbal abuse and rude looks when trying to use the correct bathroom.
“I haven’t had any problems here at Pierce,” Bailie said. “However at my high school I was threatened with rape and I got death threats. I had teachers that would tell me to get out if they saw me go in. High school was just a really bad place for me.”
Payne thinks that Pierce needs to be more involved in spreading awareness.
“Last year there were posters put on the walls that said the bathrooms were a safe space to be used by anyone,” Payne said. “There could be something like that this year or even an event to spread awareness.”
Students who encounter any sort of emergency while trying to use the bathroom or locker room are encouraged by the college to dial 911 from a personal phone or 9-911 from a campus phone. Then, students at the Puyallup campus should dial (253) 840-8481 to reach campus safety.
For non-emergency situations where a student experiences discrimination or harassment while in the bathroom at Pierce, they should contact Gorski at (253) 964-6519 or firstname.lastname@example.org. [/responsivevoice]
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