Sullivan talks 'Bathroom Bill'

Category:  News
Thursday, April 14th, 2016 at 11:22 AM
Sullivan talks 'Bathroom Bill' by Dakota Palmer

On April 5, Dr. Stephen Sullivan, assistant professor in the English and Philosophy Department, gave a lecture at the Edinboro University/Porreco College Lecture Series titled “Transgender Rights and Bathroom Bills.” During this lecture, Sullivan highlighted some key definitions such as transgender, cisgender and gender dysphoria. He also explained the main differences between sex and gender: sex is biological and anatomic. Gender is socially determined.

 “I have been involved in gay rights issues for decades. I have gay relatives and friends and a general concern for social justice for disadvantaged minority groups,” said Sullivan.

The main focus of his lecture was transgender bathroom bills. Many Conservatives throughout the nation have proposed bathroom bills that would prevent transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice.

In February, Charlotte, N.C. passed a local ordinance that granted protection to the members of the LGBT community in areas of public accommodation. This allowed transgender people to use the bathrooms of their preferred gender.

In March, North Carolina’s state legislators passed the House Bill 2 (HB2), which is also known as the bathroom bill. This bill forbids any local governments from creating ordinances that grant protection to people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Corporations and celebrities are speaking out against HB2, which could ultimately hurt economic growth in North Carolina. PayPal decided against building a global operations center in Charlotte, which would have brought 400 new jobs into the state.

“This decision reflects PayPal’s deepest values and our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally and with dignity and respect,” said President and CEO of PayPal, Dan Schulman.

Additionally, Coca-Cola is calling for the state to repeal the bill. Some national sports organizations have also said they might not hold sporting events in North Carolina anymore.

Musician Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert that was scheduled for April 10 in Greensboro, N.C. because of the anti-LGBT bill. In a statement released on his Facebook page, Springsteen said, “To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress.”

He added that there is no rational basis for the concerns of trans women using women’s restrooms. However, many anti-LGBT people have appealed to people’s fears and have made members of society “frightened at the thought of trans women in women’s bathrooms” Sullivan said.

“There is no rational basis for these concerns,” Sullivan said. “The pattern of misconduct—it isn’t there.”

In 2015, the University of Toronto removed the gender-neutral bathrooms on the campus after male students were found recording the females showering.

“I think people make those incidents out to be more than they are. They exaggerate them, but incidents like these happen a lot less than people think,” said junior Maddie Wickett.   

 “I’ve had instances where people on campus give me looks, but it doesn’t phase me anymore because I’m not here to be a creep. It’s a letdown that people are opposed to letting trans women use the restroom of their choice,” said Wickett, a trans woman.

“If more people realize the differences between gender and sex and that I’m here to do the same thing they are, it’s not an issue,” she said.

Sullivan cited a study done by the Williams Institute of the University of California, Los Angeles that said trans women are in great danger if they go into men’s restrooms.

“By passing these bathroom bills that prevent people from using restrooms, you’re putting people in bathrooms who shouldn’t be there. They’re saying exactly the opposite of what they’re doing and they don’t know it,” Wickett said.

Freshman Nathan Paprocki attended Sullivan’s lecture because he had an interest in LGBT rights and "felt this lecture would provide some new information on the transgender community.”

“I truly feel that no matter who you are, equal rights for all is a basic idea,” Paprocki said. “I feel that because of this lecture, I understand the transsexual community a little more than what I did before attending the lecture. Society, as a whole, should be educated on transsexuals more than what we currently are.”

Wickett believes that many Conservatives are so opposed to the issue of trans women in women’s restrooms because of a lack of education.

“A lot of people hear the word ‘transgender’ and they don’t know what it means. We’re not making a very good effort to educate people about what it is,” she added.

Sullivan ended his lecture by discussing the mental health of transgender people. According to an executive summary of “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey,” the sample of transgender people the authors used were four times more likely to make a household income of less than $10,000 a year. Also, 41 percent of the sample attempted suicide compared to 1.6 percent of the general population.

In addition to many other statistics, Sullivan read that 90 percent of the sample population experienced some type of harassment at their work place, and they experienced unemployment at double the rate of the general population.

“If that’s not oppression, I don’t know what oppression is,” Sullivan said.

Wickett said she feels as though she gets overlooked by many people.

“I wish people knew that I am more normal than they probably think I am. I feel like so many people would look at someone who is trying to find themselves and say ‘that person is trans’ and that’s the first thing that comes to mind,” she said.

 “I’m a student, a member of Greek life and part of the radio station at Edinboro—my gender doesn’t rule my life.”

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