Tuesday, December 27, 2005

UNC-Chapel Hill GLBT-SA's push for awareness attacked by campus conservatives

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A few weeks ago I posted about a letter to the editor in The Daily Tar Heel. The letter, which was written in November, was from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender – Straight Alliance (GLBT-SA) Co-chair Tommy Rimbach and addressed the issue of including gender-identity in the UNC-Chapel Hill non-discrimination policies and the issue of “gender-blind housing” on the University campus, as a part of the group's transgender awareness week in November. I just found the November issue of the “Carolina Review”, the "conservative voice" for the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. The feature article entitled “Flushed with Controversy: How UNC Wants to Install Unisex Bathrooms Across Campus” details another push by the GLBT-SA: unisex bathroom facilities for transgender persons. Needless to say, the article was, at least to me, somewhat of an attack on the GLBT-SA. The front cover of the magazine had blazoned across it the statement “Inside the GLBT-SA’s push for unisex bathrooms on campus”. To tell the truth, the front page looked more like a tabloid cover than that of a respectable “collegiate journal”. The people of the Carolina Review evidently do not realize why unisex bathrooms may be of use to transgender students. They claim that having such restroom facilities would do nothing for transgender students and would only hurt gay-straight relations. This assumption, at least in my opinion, is completely false. Having unisex restrooms (and, no, not all campus restrooms would become unisex) would help transgender students from having to make a decision which, in either direction, would have the possibility of causing them pain and suffering, be that mental or physical. Let’s take, for example, a male-to-female (MTF) transgender person. On one hand, this person could go with their biological sex (male) and go into the men’s room where she would face hostility from men who may not know that this female-looking individual is a biologically male. On the other hand, she could choose to go into the women’s room, where if it is known she is biologically male it could cause her problems with University staff and the administration. Now, I will be the first to admit that I am, myself, not as educated as others when it comes to transgender issues, but I am at least willing to empathize with their experiences and work, as an LGBT activist and advocate, toward creating awareness of their issues. Also, personally, I would see no problem in having unisex restrooms. Transgender students would not be the only ones to use them, as some people prefer the privacy of single restrooms as opposed to large, multi-toilet restrooms. On another note, as GLBT-SA Co-Chair Tommy Rimbach is quoted as saying, “it doesn’t make any sense to have [bathrooms] gendered if one person uses them at a time.” All-in-all, the GLBT-SA’s push for more awareness on transgender issues is an honorable one. From my experience not only as a Board member of UNCG PRIDE!, but as member of the group and student at UNCG, I can tell you first-hand that such awareness is badly needed on the UNCG campus. Hopefully, with the new spring semester starting up soon, UNCG PRIDE! will take some time to properly address transgender issues, educate its members and help to advocate for transgender students within the University community. P.S. - As a serious side note, I really liked how the Carolina Review actually cared enough to write about their student government (in another article), unlike how The Carolinian (UNCG student newspaper) all but ignores the actions of its student government, which, by the way, operates on a budget of almost $200,000 in student fees... you would think the students would care. Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,