“It’s not even about bathrooms, it’s about us existing as a whole. It’s about civil rights, and our existence being acknowledged.”
Cameron Gabrielle Sigler is a transgender male and former Lane student. Sigler believes that bathroom politics is only a microcosm of a much larger issue regarding gender identity in America.
Sigler isn’t the only person concerned over last month’s reversal of previous federal protections that allow transgender students in public schools to use the restrooms that correspond with their gender identity, catching the attention of students around the nation.
The protections had been laid out a year ago by the Obama administration based on their interpretation of Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in schools. Title IX has been public law since 1972 and owes much of its existence to the civil rights movement that came before it. Whether or not Title IX protections encompass a person’s gender identity depends on who you ask.
Oregon is one of the few states that offers extensive protections to transgender students and will most likely not be affected by the new administration’s decision. Oregon’s Department of Education has declared in an official document from May 2016 that state protections will remain in place regardless of federal policies.
“Regardless of what the federal government does, we have an obligation to all students,” Cindy Hunt, the government and legal affairs manager for the Oregon Department of Education, said in an interview with Oregon Live.
President Trump has stated that he believes policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be handled at the state level, with input from teachers, parents and school districts.
Advocates for transgender students said they fear that the decision to roll back Obama-era protections could embolden states to outright ban transgender students from restrooms that align with their gender identity. School districts in North Carolina have already begun that process.
On March 6, 2017 the Supreme Court announced that it would not weigh in on whether or not a transgender boy could use the men’s restroom at his high school in North Virginia.
Transgender rights advocates are upset that the Supreme Court, which established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage two years ago, was unwilling to rule on their cause.
“Thousands of transgender students across the country will have to wait even longer for a final decision from our nation’s highest court affirming their basic rights,” Sarah Warbelow, the legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, said in an interview with the New York Times on Monday, Mar. 6.
Patsy Raney teaches women and gender studies on Lane’s main campus and she believes that while although Oregon schools will be relatively protected, it’s still an important issue to discuss on a national level.
“It’s important to be aware of discrimination of any kind, because it’s all connected. Even if something doesn’t directly impact us as a state, or as a school, we still need to have a stance. It’s too easy to say that it’s not our problem, it’s theirs, but that’s not true if you cross state lines,” Raney said.
There are currently two gender neutral bathrooms located on Lane’s main campus in the Center Building on the 4th floor. All other public restrooms on Lane’s main campus are protected and can be used by anyone based on their gender identification.
“There’s no alternative agenda for us. We are just trying to use the bathroom like people do, because we are all human beings. We are all the same.” Sigler said.