Bathroom bill B.S.

Nikita Lewchuk, Reporter

In the latest of an already long line of policy changes facing the American people as the administrations change, President Trump revoked Obama’s bathroom mandate. The mandate allowed transgender children in public schools to use the bathroom of their choice, instead of the bathroom corresponding to their birth sex.

The legal significance to this decision seems complicated on the surface, but when it comes down to it, there’s not much going on in terms of legislative changes.

First things first, what was in place for Trump to revoke?

President Obama passed the what’s known as “the bathroom mandate for public schools” on May 13 last year.

You might have heard this referred to as an executive order or federal mandate, but it’s actually neither of those.

Executive orders are considered legally binding, and federal mandates must receive congressional approval.

The “bathroom mandate” is neither of these things.

The letter co-written by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education uses the phrase “significant guidance” and goes on to state,

“This guidance does not add requirements to applicable law, but provides information and examples to inform recipients about how the Departments evaluate whether covered entities are complying with their legal obligations.”

Conservatives have labeled this action an example of government overreach, and liberals have touted it as one of the biggest protections ever issued for the LGBTQ community.

Again, it is neither of these things.

The bathroom directive warrants none of the legislative hysteria it has received.

The “directive” issued by the Obama administration falls short of any concrete legislation or policy changes, so it is neither bureaucratic overreach nor historic protection.

When it comes down to it, there wasn’t much for Trump to repeal because there wasn’t much there in the first place.

While the directive had little to no legal implications it triggered profound social consequences.

I’m nonbinary, a type of transgender, and as part of my transition I have chosen to present myself in as androgynous a way as possible because that’s the way I feel most comfortable. The only time I run into problems is when I need to go to the bathroom.

Over the past two years as I have gradually become more androgynous, I’ve run into increasingly uncomfortable situations.

While traveling with my family a year or two ago, we stopped at a rest stop to switch drivers and use the restroom.

At that time I wasn’t as far along in my transition, so I didn’t think I would have any problem passing in a women’s restroom. I was wearing an oversized hoodie and my hair was just above shoulder length. At that point, passing in the bathroom wasn’t a worry for me because I had just begun changing my appearance.

There was no one in the bathroom when I went in so I got in and out of the actual bathroom without a problem. However, as I left the bathroom and was walking out of the rest-stop building, I stopped to hold the door for a mother and her small child. As I reached for the door to open it the mother said to her child, “step aside and let the young man pass.”

The interaction only lasted a few seconds, but it made me much more wary of going into public bathrooms. Although there was no one in the bathroom with me at the time, if the woman and her child had come in a few seconds earlier she might have still assumed I was a man.  

And what did all the bathroom hysteria start with?

“What if a predator goes into the girl’s bathroom and assaults my little girl!”

And as I have continued my transition it has happened more frequently.

I’m on my school’s debate team which means when I go to tournaments I have to dress formally. I choose to wear a suit, but I don’t feel comfortable changing in a men’s restroom.

One of my first tournaments freshman year, I was coming out of the bathroom after I had changed into my suit. As I was leaving a middle aged man noticed me and said in a surprised tone, “Did you just come out of the women’s bathroom?”

Fortunately, we were walking in the opposite direction and he seemed content to just keep walking past me, but it left me a little rattled.

Yes, I had just come out of the women’s bathroom, but I wasn’t comfortable telling that man I was a girl, because I’m not.

Again, the interaction only lasted a few seconds, and at best I find it takes at least five minutes to explain the complexities on non-binary identities.

I still wonder about what I would have done in this scenario if it were to happen again, and I have yet to find a good answer. I’m not a male predator trying to sneak into the wrong bathroom and look at women. But I can’t just say I’m a girl for the sake of convenience, it’s just not true. And the majority of these incidents only last a few seconds, so there’s nowhere near enough time for me to explain myself. It’s just not practical.

I’m a trans kid that happens to look not quite feminine enough for the women’s room and not quite masculine enough for the men’s room.

My greatest fear when I go into bathrooms now is not that I will come across a predator, but that I will come across as one.

There’s no good solution when it comes to which bathroom I use, and believe me I am just as afraid of getting “caught in the wrong one” as any conservative is of finding me there. The only thing for me to do is keep my head down and always take a friend with me just in case.

But there are problems with that solution too. Setting aside the fact that it’s awkward and embarrassing for me to have to go find a friend every time I want to use a public bathroom, sometimes there’s just no one around.

Since the incident at a debate tournament freshman year, I have been very diligent about taking a friend with me just in case. But the thing about finding a friend at a debate tournament is rounds start and finish at different times. Sometimes, I get back from a round and all of my female teammates are either in a round or watching someone else’s. There have been times I’ve gotten back from a round and had to wait 10 or 15 minutes for a girl from my team to get back.

There’s no simple solution, save to say I don’t want to be in a public bathroom any more than you do.

The Obama “directive” has done nothing to protect me and has in fact only made me an increased target for victimization. The Obama administration has shoved my personal business out in public and made it a topic of conversation, a conversation that needs to be had, but they didn’t take it any further. They have inflamed the right-wing conservatives and given them a reason to care about where I go to the bathroom when it didn’t matter before. So now that everybody suddenly has opinions about which bathrooms I should and shouldn’t be using, the Obama administration left me stranded.

Thanks for the “strong guidance.” Next time I get questioned or harassed in the bathroom I’ll be sure to point out the guidelines you so graciously set forth.

Special thanks to Donald Trump for taking a small issue and managing to make a huge deal out of it.

Considering this directive doesn’t even qualify as legislation there wasn’t that much there to mishandle and yet both administrations managed it somehow.

I usually stand by the Obama administration, but they could have handled this much better.

In my view Trump often makes horrible decisions with equally horrible consequences, but this is not one of them.