By S. N. Boreham

Bathrooms, something as simple as a place to relieve ourselves, has constantly been a hub for civil debates. During the civil rights movement, black people and white people were segregated in public life with separate bathrooms and other facilities. Now, in 2018, the fight for equality continues, but with transgender people instead.

Prior to Trump’s inauguration, people all across the United States could use which ever bathroom they identified with. However, on February 22 of last year, Trump’s administration revoked the federal guidelines that specifically noted the allowance of transgender people to use the public restroom that they identify with. It was decided that this issue was best resolved at the state level, and each of the 50 states was left to make their own decision on whether to restrict bathroom access. As of this month, 18 states and Washington D.C. have decided to write in laws against discrimination based on gender.

At the beginning of the month, voters of Anchorage Alaska avoided a proposal for a bill that would have restricted access of public restrooms to transgender individuals. This “bathroom bill” would have forced trans people to use the public facilities that aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth, and not the gender that they identify with. It was a fairly close vote, with approximately 53 percent of voters against the bill, while the remaining 47 percent were for it. The people of Alaska also reelected the mayor who had been against the bill and had originally signed Anchorage’s nondiscriminatory ordinance back in 2015. An article from CNN noted, “The bill’s opponents called the vote a historic victory for transgender people…”.

Many polls in individual states have shown a lean towards people being for the restriction of bathrooms, with another large portion being unsure about the topic. Despite it seeming like an obvious answer to some to provide transgender individuals with basic rights, there are still many people who are unsure or against people who don’t identify with their born gender. Even with everyone from celebrities to everyday students attempting to spread awareness about the LGBT+ community and trans people in specific, nearly a quarter of the U.S. population still believe that identifying as transgender is some form of mental illness.

The Washington Post recently wrote in an article, “Transgender students say using the bathroom that feels right for them is essential for their safety and well-being and poses no threat to others.” It continued on, mentioning that the opposing side sees allowing trans people to use the restrooms they identify with as an offense and violation of traditional societal norms. However, many states (including California and Washington) are providing single-user bathrooms as gender neutral bathrooms. This allows freedom to all people: non gender conforming people are able to freely use a restroom without worrying about being judged or persecuted and caregivers and parents with someone of the opposite sex can enter the restroom together. It also provides a place where individuals who may be uncomfortable at the thought of sharing a restroom with a transgender person can go.

It may be hard for gender conforming people to understand; they have grown up following little signs with a man on one and a woman on the other. Trans people were born being told they had to do the same, even when it didn’t feel right to who they really are. The trans community has far to go with their fight for equal human rights, and despite the steps backwards that have been recently made, there continues to be steps forward. Washington state and 18 other legislatures have shown their support for the LGBT+ community and may influence the decisions of the remaining states.