Intersections: Potty politics HACC's bathroom policy supports transgender civil rights

In Community/World News, HACC News, Opinion/Editorial by Cindy Vicente

The rhetoric has been strong with the fight over where a transgender person can perform the most natural of acts—utilizing the restroom. I doubt any of us has been sheltered from the rainstorm of fear tactics planted and maintained by the conservative right.

Our collective psyche has been bombarded with fears of a “man,” who exists only in urban legends, pretending to be trans in order to prey on women and children in restrooms. Some of us are actually buying into that baseless narrative, and which creates a tense and uncomfortable environment.

HACC, unlike other local colleges and universities, has a very strong policy ensuring the comfort and safety of the transgender and gender non-conforming student body and faculty.The Gender Acknowledgement and Accommodation Policy also provides definitions for gender identity, sex assigned at birth, transgender, and gender transition. 

In speaking with Warren Anderson, chief inclusion and diversity officer of HACC, about the policy and its inception, it clearly came across that this policy was crafted with the utmost respect and consideration. While the policy was written before Anderson joined HACC, he believed it was a response to the evolving social climate in higher education.

Anderson proudly boasted about the overwhelmingly positive response the administration has received, with some students going out of their way to say “thank you.” The administration has received minor pushback related to bathroom usage policy.

Some folks wonder why there is a fight for access to a bathroom that reflects our gender identity. The answer is loaded, but linear. Reaffirmation of who we believe ourselves to be is integral to building and maintaining self-confidence and self-esteem. Reaffirmation means that our self-selected gender pronouns and names are important and central to our identity.

We expect that educational spaces, for which we pay, be unquestionably safe and encouraging of who we are. Safety leads to better educational outcomes and experiences so that we may all reach our full potential. No student or faculty member at any institution should ever need to assess the safety of the restroom, locker room, clothing, name, or pronoun they utilize. Over time, these types of microaggressions can, and often do, lead to compromised mental health.

In addition to microaggressions, debasing a group of people makes them increased targets for hate crimes. Fear of the “other” subsides when we learn about it. I urge you to seek information on the transgender experience in America in hopes that understanding leads to compassion and fierce desire to stand up to those who still aim to marginalize, harass, and degrade the trans community. Institutions such as HACC influence opinion and social climate directly through their policy, and while I am humbled by their diligent pursuit of justice through strong policy, it is indeed their duty to do so, and do more.

The summary of HACC’s policy states:

  • Students and faculty are free to express their gender identity/expression without fear of discrimination or harassment
  • Students and faculty who wish to change their pronouns or preferred name can do so by submitting a non-legal name change form— legal documentation would be necessary in order to have HACC records changed to a new gender or name
  • Students and faculty can access restrooms and locker rooms which reflect their gender identity
  • Students and faculty participating in overnight field trips have access to gender-segregated sleeping accommodations reflective of their gender identity.
  • Students can participate in sports teams reflective of their gender identity, but within accordance with the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCCA)