Bathroom Battle Rages On

According to the Williams Institute 2011 study, 0.3 percent of the American adult population is transgender. That means 700,000 thousand out of 319 million U.S. citizens still do not have the same rights and freedoms to do basic things – like going to the bathroom.

The Florida originated Single-Sex Public Facilities bill (better known as the “Bathroom Bully Bill”) proposed punishing anyone who did not use the bathroom of their biologically determined sex with a 1,000 dollar fine, or up to a year in jail. Although the bill died on April 28, 2015, only 39 states allow citizens to go the bathroom of the gender they identify.

SHSU senior Madeleine Voltin is a transgender woman tired of having to walk on eggshells just to exist. Voltin expressed the transphobic law was based less on transgender people, but on predators.

“It’s mostly centered around these men going into women’s bathroom claiming to be transgender peeking on children and women when they’re obviously not transgender,” Voltin said.

However, Voltin said that the transgender community shouldn’t have to pay for the crimes of others. She knows using identity based bathrooms has no other motive than simply relieving themselves.

“I really support the idea of gender neutral bathrooms and that would eliminate the question of pre-transition vs post-transition,” Voltin said. “We’d face less ridicule from the media, and a lot of people would realize we aren’t in there to hurt you. We’re just in there to go to the bathroom.”

There is no recent evidence to support that transgender people are any more dangerous than anyone else, or that unisex bathrooms induce more violence. It is believed that if anyone is at risk in the bathroom, it’s transgender people themselves. Voltin has lost close friends, received ridicule, and even death threats for trying to be herself.

About 70 percent of transgender people have been denied entrance, assaulted, or harassed trying to use the restroom according to the 2013 Williams Institute report. Voltin is among the 490,000 people who may avoid the bathroom due to lack of safe access and negative experiences.

“Once, in my hometown restaurant, I forgot to lock the door and a woman came in and starting saying I didn’t belong there, that I needed to leave or she would call the police,” Voltin said. “I left so upset, but it really opened my eyes to what could really happen.”

Other incidents that Voltin has heard of from the news has reminded her of her experiences.

“On the media dealing with the transgender bathroom ordeal are many transgender women being murdered that are people of color, and it’s going unnoticed, and I find that very unnerving,” Voltin said. “It’s hard. I should be able to go to the bathroom without getting hurt.”

Voltin said the right to use her gender identified restroom is not only beneficial to her physical health, but her mental and emotional health as well.

“By allowing the transgender community to not have to be in fear of going into the bathroom they identify with, we would feel like we are welcome as a community,” Voltin said. “I personally believe that allowing us to go into the bathroom we identify with will help so much with self-confidence, emotional stability, and will lessen the fear of being out in public.

According to Voltin, the solution is not shutting people out, gender policing, or even having more faith in unisex bathrooms, but to change the perception of transgender people.

One of the biggest misconception is that transgender people are simply going through a phase, or following a trend, rather than indulging in something completely out of the person’s control.

“I think it’s mostly because people don’t understand,” Voltin said. “A big misconception is that we are manipulating our bodies. This often forms from the religious view that there are only two sexes: man and woman. This idea is often false because according to science, there actually are instances in which there are more than two biological sexes.”

Another misunderstanding that many people have when thinking about transgender people is the difference between sex and gender.

“Sex is a chromosome all people are born with, but truly that just determines the reproductive system someone is assigned,” Voltin said. “Gender is fluid and changes throughout the course of someone’s life. It’s important to note that those in the transgender community do not have to physically transition to identify as transgender.”

For those struggling with their identity, or for those who want to learn more about the LGBT community and become more accepting members of society, Voltin recommends SHSU’s Haven, SHSU’s GSK, and the Montrose counseling center in Houston.

“I can thank GLAAD, Gamma Sigma Kappa, and the counseling center at SHSU for supporting me in my journey to become me,” Voltin said. “I would not change a thing about myself or my life. If I had never been exposed to betrayal, or the fact that there are other people like me, I believe I would have been miserable my whole life.”

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