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The Battle of the Bathroom Rages On

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Gerald Maib for The Easterner

Gerald Maib for The Easterner

Gerald Maib for The Easterner


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The Trump administration continues to make waves in the media with their latest announcement that revokes the former Obama administration’s 2016 guidance on transgender students’ rights to use the bathroom that coincides with their gender identity.

The “Dear Colleague Letter” cites: the lack of extensive legal analysis, no information on how the position was consistent with Title IX and that it did not undergo any formal public process, as the basis for revoking the former guidance.

Shockingly, this decision was met with varying degrees of approval on one side and disgust on the other. It’s not like this hasn’t been the same reaction for every other decision Trump has made.

Obama’s guide was met with similar reactions when it was announced in May 2016, and we all know how controversial Obama was. Those who opposed his decision cited it as over-reaching, while others viewed it as a step forward for the LGBTQ+ community.  

“I think students understand that they are still protected,” said Nick Franco, the Pride Center manager. “The move itself is symbolic; I don’t think the Trump Administration realizes that it doesn’t matter, but it was symbolic of the intention, it represents his feelings about trans people … what is says is ‘we don’t care.’”

The announcement renewed the debate about transgender bathroom rights, especially in schools, and stories are circulating in both support and in opposition. The question raised is whether or not this is truly the right call to protect transgender students.  

Obama put forth his original guidance as a tool to assist schools in answering these questions. According to the guidance, “In recent years, we have received an increasing number of questions … This letter summarizes a school’s Title IX obligations regarding transgender students and explains how the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) evaluate a school’s compliance with these obligations.”

The Trump repeal simply returns the decision to the hands of the individual states, however, there is no guarantee that state policy makers will choose a position that will protect students, regardless of their own personal beliefs.

All too often we see legislation come across the table that mimics a person’s personal beliefs rather than a decision that benefits the people. There is no denying this is certainly a hot-button issue, and both sides have valid points, but should one group of people suffer so another feels comfortable peeing? If you feel uncomfortable with a non-cisgendered person using “your” bathroom, doesn’t that give you a better understanding of how those individuals feel every time they were forced to use the wrong bathroom?

“My sense of things at the university is that EWU seems pretty committed to its trans students, and my hope is that students will see that,” Franco said.

The EWU Pride Center established transgender bathrooms on campus over the past couple of years, and it is this focus of anti-discrimination that EWU intends to continue.  

“EWU’s anti-discrimination statement includes gender identity/expression among the many forms of discrimination that it doesn’t tolerate,” said Amy Johnson, vice president for Student Life/dean of Students, via email. “EWU’s mission and values place a strong focus on access, diversity and inclusion, so I expect we’ll continue this focus regardless of the current administration’s rescission of the 2016 guidance.”  

Should one who identifies as a male be forced to use the female restroom simply because their genitals don’t conform to traditional ideals?

The fact is, transgender people, LGBTQ+ people, really any person is more than one facet of their persona. To reduce a person to one part of what makes them, them is to ignore the complex and diverse factors that make them who they are. A person is more than their sexual identity, and it is cruel to single them out and treat them differently because they live life differently than you do.

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The independent, student-run news site of Eastern Washington University.
The Battle of the Bathroom Rages On