Bathroom Battles: Scaremongering Abounds About Transgender Public Restroom Usage

Categories: Cover Story

cs-juliett_anna.jpg
Photo by Ashli Hill
HISD Trustees Juliet Stipeche (left) Anna Eastman (right) spoke to the Houston City Council in support of HERO, assuring the council the district's own gender-identity protection policy had been a success.

Last year Ada was given pink Converse sneakers, which she called her "trans cons." The whole family bought sneakers, and Ada looked at the shoes as a means to try to express herself in a way that would attract little notice.

It didn't work. The mocking she experienced the first time she wore them to school was so cruel that Ada threw away her new shoes and refused ever to wear them again. She also wouldn't allow her mother to intervene, fearing further harassment.

"She's really emotionally mature," said Ada's mom. "She knows that she really shouldn't say certain things just yet because a lot of people won't understand. We're trying to give her the balance between being who she wants to be and the shitty world that we live in."

Concerns about students like Ada are the reason the HISD Board of Trustees voted unanimously in 2011 to implement a policy of nondiscrimination for both students and employees that included gender identity. It was a policy born of years of activism on the part of groups like the Young Stonewall Democrats and transgender activist Jenifer Rene Pool.

For HISD Board President Juliet Stipeche, the issue has always been about bullying and the safety of children.

"When you look at the issue of bullying, you see that children that are made fun of or mocked or terrorized are vulnerable," Stipeche says. "The policy wants to make sure we have protections. No child should have to suffer. School should be safe. The problem of bullying is tied into this. We don't want people made fun of because of their race or gender or anything else."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, LGBT students are at an increased risk for both violence and suicide. Eight out of ten report verbal harassment and four out of ten say they've been physically assaulted, according to a 2009 survey of more than 7,000 LGBT middle and high school students. The Youth Suicide Prevention Program says its data indicates that as many as 50 percent of transgender youths will attempt suicide at least once before the age of 21.

The CDC reports that all students, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, experience less depression, substance abuse and academic truancy as a result of education initiatives that require the respectful treatment of transgender students.
In the more than 200 HISD schools, students aren't separated by gender. They go to mixed gym classes, and there is no difference in the layout of rest-room facilities, where all the bathrooms have stalls to afford students privacy. According to board member Anna Eastman: "People have reached out to me when their kids were wanting to use the facilities of the gender they identified with. I know it's made a difference in their lives."

The new HISD policy passed without opposition on two readings in August and September board meetings. Dave Wilson, a Houston Community College trustee known for rallying opposition to LGBT rights, attended the second meeting, but Stipeche could not recall if he spoke. Most people in the massive district seemed to recognize the initiative as healthy.

"Teachers report in their classrooms that students feel much more open to asking questions regarding sexual identity," Stipeche says. "We've not had any incidents of massive protests or any indication that the world has turned upside down. The schools go on. The kids are learning, and we have a policy that makes sense. One of the proudest moments I've had is to assist and vote in favor of these changes."

Eastman as well is proud of and has high hopes for the policy. When told about Ada and the bullying and unwelcoming environment that she still felt surrounded her at school, Eastman admitted that changing the culture across the board is a tremendous and ongoing challenge.

"Not every teacher and administrator is going to automatically know what to do with a transgender child," she says. "However, with this policy in place, there's a responsibility for the schools and staff to accommodate and support them. They need a person they can come to."

The steady success of the HISD policy is what prompted Stipeche and Eastman to attend the city council meetings on HERO and offer their experiences. They wanted to point out that such widespread nondiscrimination had made their teachers and staff feel safer and that their students had become more accepting and willing to tolerate classmates who fall outside traditional heterosexual lines.


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16 comments
HatersWillLose
HatersWillLose

More hate from Houston's Kool Aid drinking Christian Taliban Preachers Association. All the mega church morons and Second Baptist Busy Bodies joined up with the hateful Hispanic holy rollers and the really shortsighted (we got our civil rights, *F you gays!) African American religious goon squad with all their fancy mail order titles like Bishop/ Apostle/ Preacher/Reverend/Dr, etc. to make up more lies and hate about the special people that their/our  GOD created.  - Gays, Lesbians, Transgender ed, etc. 


These crowd is embarrassing to our diverse community. They are hateful, homophobic, unchristian, and evil. They contribute to GLBT youth homelessness and suicide with their constant hatred.  They are the reason American kids are running from the Church (read the Pew Report, idiots) 


I think that God has a very special plan and place for them all. 

sexikelli.rlc
sexikelli.rlc

Most children who suffer from gender identity disorder do not grow up to be transgender but become homosexual and bisexual adolescents and adults instead", according to Olson.


I would like to see the actual data on this.  Gender Identity and Sexual Attraction are two entirely different subjects which she seems to tie together in one sentence.  Makes me question the validity of any conclusion she is making.


There are transgender women who are still attracted to women only.  Personally I do not know any transgender men attracted to men, but I am sure there are some.  Many become heterosexual in their new gender. To generalize that most children who do not go through with gender transition but have the Gender Identity disorder become homosexual or bisexual is incorrect and sets stereotypes that are hard to overcome.  Many still stay attracted to the opposite sex of their birth gender.  Where is this coming from?

emilydt
emilydt

So wait, was it the drummer or bass player she was with??

Schitt.C.Rumpney
Schitt.C.Rumpney

Here's what makes me laugh at these prejudiced "opposers":   they 'aint' scared to pull out the DAIRY UNITS right in the middle of a mall or shopping center or even a 'Targets',  imposing on OUR RIGHTS to not want to see their over-the-shoulder-boulders stretching while we are trying to enjoy a lunchbreak!



The laugh comes in when "they" claim 'their' rghts are imposed' just because theres a unisex bathroom!  These restrooms already exists!  If you dont like to use it,  then hold it long enuff to go to a different place!   This is a diverse world - get used to it!

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

I genuinely don't understand why anyone cares about this; it's not a big deal. Just mind your own business especially in the bathroom.

eric
eric

@HatersWillLose  And you call them hateful?  Wow, your post was one of the most hateful I can recall.

h_e_x
h_e_x

@HatersWillLose They think that by slapping on some skinny jeans, the kids will come back. Look at that young bigot featured in these pages recently, it was funny/pathetic how he tried to gussy up the old-school bigotry with a "cool" facade.

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@emilydt She was with her drummer. She is the vocalist and bass player

_____
_____

@bdamages After reading the article, "hateful or abusive content" sounds about right.

h_e_x
h_e_x

@bdamages That Gavin guy is as skeezy as you can get. Started at vice and now does the rounds of red eye, the depressing late night show on fox news.

madmabel
madmabel

@gossamersixteen They use fear and ignorance because these are the only weapons they have.


What the citizens of Houston need to know is that laws similar to HERO have been in effect for many years in many places.  Minneapolis was the first, outlawing discrimination in 1975.  In all that time there have been NO instances of a man cross-dressing to invade the lady's room.


NONE.  If such were to ever occur existing laws making the things they predict have been sufficient for many years.


The effort to overturn HERO is just a way of trying to make prejudice law.

h_e_x
h_e_x

@JefWithOneF @bdamages No one is paid to provide the solipsistic, navel gazing content at though catalog. Seriously, they put out some of the worst crap on the internet, and I'm including 4chan on that list.

bdamages
bdamages

@h_e_x @bdamages Apparently he was an owner of Vice and was bought out for enough money that he doesn't give a damn,  More interesting to me is that we seem to have arrived at a place where any public discussion suggesting there's something seriously wrong about being "trans" makes one a pariah. 

h_e_x
h_e_x

@bdamages @h_e_x I think it's about time it happened. Vilifying transgender people is nothing new, and the fact that they are becoming more accepted is a wonderful sign of progress, because it means that more people are being treated with the dignity that every person deserves.

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