Stall Wars: Harrisites respond to transphobia and the bathroom question

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Transgender people across the country are having their right to use the bathroom questioned as bills across numerous states are being proposed to enforce a strictly cisgender policy. Students within our community who identify as transgender are privy to the discrimination that comes with being transgender.

With this issue saturating the media, it has been a primary nationwide concern in the past weeks.

Legislators hope to make trans people use the bathroom that coincides with their gender at birth, even if they fully transitioned to male or female.

Junior Nicholas Mohan is against the recent policies. He said, “Essentially, [these legislators] want trans people to not exist; they don’t want to deal with people who don’t fit their perception of what is normal and they use far-fetched, unfounded assumptions and assertions to back up their underlying prejudice and hatred.”

TIME magazine recently covered the trans bathroom bill controversy, with their front cover donning the rainbow pride flag. Though this exposes a key issue within the LGBT movement, some feel that this sensationalization of the bathroom issue has left every other aggression faced by the trans community in the shadows.

Alumni of 2015 Eli Betts continued, “[There is still] discrimination in the workplace. It’s still legal to be fired for being trans or gay in a lot of places.”

On the walls of classrooms, there are stickers and posters deeming the spaces safe for LGBT students, as well as teachers carrying badges attesting to the fact that they’ve undergone sensitivity training for LGBT students.

The school has evolved into a place where students have the opportunity to be out about their sexualities and genders, though some still face the backlash that comes with being an openly LGBT student.

Many students do find THHS to be a safe space, though with its own stipulations.

Junior William Mun commented, “Most of the students in Townsend Harris are accepting, but they’re more so ‘tolerant.’ They don’t all need to get involved in the LGBT+ community if they don’t want to, and that’s completely fine.”

Junior Casey Gabriella Ramos agreed in saying, “As progressive as I like to think this school is, there is still a lot of homophobia and transphobia tucked under its sleeves.”

Alumni of 2015 Ashton Santo shared an incident of transphobia he faced while attending the school. “I wouldn’t go to the bathroom if the nurse’s office wasn’t open. The one time I did dare to go to the men’s room, it was after school had ended and during club hours, and some other student came in and noticed I was in the stall.” The student went on to call him an offensive slur for using the stall rather than the urinal.

Alumni Eli Betts, also of graduating class 2015, shared his own experience of transphobia he faced after SPARKS counselor Mr. Duke was let go and a floating social worker was put in his place. He explained, “They wanted me to talk to her and someone had told her that I was trans. After that, she refused to refer to me using my pronouns and would only call me ‘she’ because that was what I ‘biologically’ was.”

The Department of Education’s official policy is that students should use whichever bathroom they feel comfortable using.

Some feel that the policy should extend further to designate certain bathrooms in schools as gender neutral.

Ashton went on to make this plea, “Although I’m no longer a student, I plead to the administration of THHS to implement gender neutral bathrooms. There are some students who do not want to be gendered, and there are some students who just want some privacy. More accessible gender neutral bathrooms are so important.”

Others feel that these recent events should inspire the school community to be more open in its support of the school’s trans community.

Junior Ian Chen commented, “If the school really wants to stand behind its trans students, it needs to affirm that these laws are not in accordance with the school’s doctrines. It can’t expect to be completely removed from events that have a huge impact on its students.”

Reporting these incidents are not easy for those who have been targeted. Eli commented, “During my years at THHS, I realised that many students don’t believe they have a voice or that their voice would be heard.”

Dean Robin Figelman encourages students to come forward if any issues arise, stating “I have an open door policy.”

Ian went on to say, “people need to understand that the pushback and controversy is necessary for progress.”

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