Beyond the bathroom controversy

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Ahead of this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, the United States Departments of Justice and Education released guidance on the new federal Title IX law. This is in response to mounting national controversy over the idea of restrictive transgender bathroom laws, and transgender rights in general. The guidance adds no new legal requirements, only elucidates previous standards.

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any primary or secondary school that receives federal funding. The guidance mandates that for the purposes of those schools, sex-based discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity, which it defines as “an individual’s internal sense of gender” noting that “[a] person’s gender identity may be different from or the same as the person’s sex assigned at birth.”

The phrase “sex assigned at birth” as defined by the guidance is the “sex designation recorded on an infant’s birth certificate” or any other record that may have been provided at the time of an individual’s birth. This new guidance addresses the bathroom controversy directly; “[a school] must provide transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity,” and references civil rights cases finding that “the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify [policies which single] out and [disadvantage] a particular class of students.”

Beyond the bathroom controversy, the guidance also provides a host of standards for other transgender related issues students might encounter in school. Schools must respect individuals’ gender identity, regardless of what is listed on any prior documentation, and no medical diagnosis or relevant treatment of any kind is a prerequisite; a requirement of previous medical diagnosis or treatment can sometimes be a potential barrier for transgender students. Universities that don’t comply with this Title IX guidance face the possibility of losing federal funding.

Faculty, staff and other school administrators must refer to students by their chosen pronouns. In addition to bathroom facilities, schools must also allow for housing consistent with gender identity. Transgender students cannot be required to “stay in single-occupancy accommodations” or “use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.” They also cannot require students to “disclose personal information when not required of other students” or “discipline…students for behaving in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity or that does not conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity”.

The U is publicly supportive of the LGBT community, celebrating professors who further LGBT civil rights and participating in the state’s pride parade.

Trans-specific housing is available through a fully confidential application process, university surveys generally list multiple gender options, and the U’s LGBT Resource Center lists 51 buildings on campus with bathrooms classified as gender neutral, single-stall, gender-free, or co-ed those who feels this is the best option for them.

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