Last month, President Donald Trump rescinded guidelines passed last May during Obama’s administration, which allowed transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity.
Transgender students and those who support their freedom to use their bathroom of choice at Cosumnes River College spoke out against the removal of these guidelines.
“I feel that it’s wrong, not only because everybody should be able to go into the bathroom they want to, but now you’re taking away someone’s sense of security,” said 25-year-old Kalaya Harvey, a theater arts major and president of the Gay Straight Alliance club. “If they don’t have security, how are they going to feel comfortable and feel like they have a voice somewhere?”
Anastasia Panagakos, an anthropology professor and coordinator of the Safe Spaces program, also said she felt frustrated by Trump’s decision to rescind the guidelines.
“I’m disappointed and dismayed because we haven’t gone far enough to protect transgender individuals,” said Panagakos. “It’s reasonable to have a dialogue on something he may not agree with, but it seems like a knee-jerk reaction based on his campaign promises.”
Computer Information Science Professor Lance Parks said there is a lot of anxiety associated with the transgender bathroom use issue, but that decisions are being made based on fear instead of facts.
Panagakos also said that it is more likely that a person would use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity than a man who would take advantage of guidelines in order to harass women in bathrooms, and that there is no evidence to support that would happen.
Without new guidelines to replace those which have been rescinded, cases involving transgender bathroom use must now rely on Title IX, a federal law that bans institutions receiving federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sex, as guidance.
The national Obama guidelines interpreted Title IX to extend to gender identity and allowed transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity.
Title IX, however, does not have any specifications on the topic of gender identity. These would be up to interpretation by each individual state court.
Because Trump rescinded the guidelines, the U.S. Supreme Court cancelled the hearing in a high-profile case involving transgender bathroom use and sent it back to the appeals court for another hearing.
Because of this, transgender students will have to wait for a precedent for courts to consider when ruling these cases, so states will have to rule on a case-by-case basis.
Psychology major Darwin Gilliam, a 30-year-old transgender man, said he just wants to use the bathroom that corresponds to his gender identity.
“I have the privilege of passing, so I don’t have that issue,” said Gilliam. “There are people who don’t pass, and all they want to do is go to the restroom like everybody else.”
Passing is a term defined by the LGBTQ community as a transgender person whose outward appearance corresponds with their gender identity.
Although Trump rescinded the national guidelines on transgender bathroom use, the Los Rios School District has not been affected by it.
CRC President Edward Bush sent out an email to students on March 2 to provide reassurance that the campus is committed to an open and safe environment.
“Effective this Thursday, all community colleges will be subject to Health and Safety Code 118600, which states that all single-user toilet facilities shall be identified as all-gender toilet facilities,” said Dr. Bush in the email.
The email stated that the LRSD has updated its policies on anti-discrimination and harassment based on different forms of gender identity and sexual orientation to reflect their values.
The Safe Spaces Program aims at creating a safe, open and bias-free environment on campus, according to the CRC website. They achieve this goal through public awareness campaigns, staff training opportunities and student participation.
The program also provides support to transgender students and their rights.
They hold two Safe Spaces Day events on campus to make students aware that the program is a resource to them.
Furthermore, the program recognizes the annual Day of Silence, a day to reflect on how LGBTQ students are silenced in an educational setting.
Safe Spaces will be partnering with Women Escaping A Violent Environment, an organization that provides crisis intervention services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Sacramento County, and will focus on sexual assault and consent in the LGBTQ community.
“College can be a time when they come out to their parents or they’re struggling with their identity and trying to figure out how to make their lives work,” said Panagakos.
She added that LGBTQ students sometimes become homeless if their living environment becomes unlivable, and that the level of harassment aimed at these students is still high.
“Everybody’s worried about others, but what about the trans person?” said Gilliam. “They might become a victim of physical abuse or rape or whatever the case may be. A transgender’s life is in danger when they go into bathrooms.”
Transgender people also have to deal with dysphoria or unease about their bodies and, at times, question their identities due to society’s construct of gender roles, said Gilliam.
Panagakos said that Safe Spaces also conducts training for staff and holds workshops which describe gender as a spectrum instead of a binary in order to educate faculty members and promote a more welcoming campus environment.
“It’s becoming more prevalent to see gender as a spectrum, but change is never easy,” said Panagakos. “It can be hard if it falls outside their world view because of religious beliefs or how they were raised.”
Safe Spaces is heading a student climate survey this spring as the Social Responsibility Committee wants to get a better sense of whether students feel welcome based on gender, orientation and other identifying factors.
This will help them make recommendations to colleagues and the administration to make CRC more welcoming and inclusive.
Panagakos said that the program is intended to help anyone who feels unsafe on campus, and if someone doesn’t feel welcome or safe, she recommends they should seek out someone who has a Safe Spaces sticker.
The GSA club meets between 3:30-5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Winn 103.