Monday, December 29, 2014

Another bathroom case: New Jersey edition

A transgender student in New Jersey won a several month battle with his school district to use the boys' bathrooms. Unlike the situation in Virginia, the school board did not pass a formal policy stating that bathroom use was dependent on sex at birth. But Rubin Smyers and his advocates and allies, spent months negotiating this resolution which, as he noted, gave him permission for something he had permission for (legally) all along.

Smyers was told initially that he would have to use a single stall unisex bathroom (no word on how many of those were on campus). This "solution" was presented using the "civil and privacy rights" of cisgender students discourse that circulates around these situations.

The school board did not pass a policy that barred transgender students from using bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity. In hearing the complaint Smyers brought. however, and in making the ruling, it did enact another problematic discourse that may be on the rise: the "case-by-case" policy.

What is the rationale for this policy? Make the rules, set the precedent--in accordance with the law. Case-by-case policies discourage transgender students from coming forward and being able to enact their rights. This could potentially lead to more dangerous situations if cisgender students feel a transgender student is in the "wrong" bathroom. Stop requiring every transgender student to deal with the anxiety, ostracism, harassment, and retaliation that comes from having to ask permission--from a group of adults sitting at a big table--to go to the bathroom.