As you likely know, lawmakers in Olympia have been arguing over bills that would restrict access for trans folks to bathrooms and other gender-segregated facilities that do not ‘match’ their genitalia. Due to community agitation and action, these regressive and discriminatory bills did not pass in Olympia, however the fight is not over yet.
Last week, multiple ballot initiatives were filed to roll back bathroom rights for trans people. If these initiatives qualify for the ballot they will put the rights of trans people in Washington up for a public vote.
These measures seriously delegitimize trans identities by requiring them to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identities and place trans and gender nonconforming folks under constant scrutiny and even danger, disproportionately targeting trans women and particularly trans women of color.
The narrative promoted by this harmful legislation amplifies and legitimizes a culture of hate and transphobia that has contributed to the violent deaths of at least 9 trans people in the U.S. so far in 2016. We may be tempted to attribute this destructive rhetoric to fringe hate groups, but even here at the UW, bathrooms and basic, necessary protections are not uncontested. Even in the growing political climate of fear, the UW administration has continued to drag their feet when it comes to campus reforms with a direct impact on the well-being, health, and safety of students, employees, and community members.
Our Local is currently in the midst of a grievance with the University over access to gender-neutral bathrooms. Under our most recent contract, “The University shall provide that all ASEs have adequate access to all-gender bathrooms. Adequate access may include a reasonable amount of travel time.” However, for employees and students working in Condon Hall, the nearest gender-neutral bathroom is in the School of Social Work, a building about three blocks away. This is not a “reasonable amount of travel time,” but the University, in a move that reeks of ableism and ignores the access needs of disabled community members, is currently denying that we have a grievance at all.
Meanwhile, a Seattle city ordinance requiring all single-stall bathrooms in public accommodations to be relabeled as gender-neutral is nearing its compliance date, March 9th. We have alerted the University to a number of single-stall bathrooms across campus that continue to be gender-segregated. The University has responded that they intend to resolve the issue, however they have not provided a deadline for the completion of the conversions or even indicated that they understand the full scope of the conversions needed on campus – and we are now 3 days from the deadline to comply with the ordinance.
Trans workers in particular have been working to make another critical change at the university. Though students are welcome to change their names to their initials in the student database, and therefore have this reflected on their husky cards and course rosters, student employees with records kept in the Human Resources database do not have this option. This means student employees risk being outed every time they use their Husky Card to board the bus or enter the classroom. This means the old names of trans TAs appear in the course catalogue, effectively outing them to their students. While, due to the persistent advocacy of the Q Center, the University has agreed to implement a preferred name option, the progress made on the system has been unacceptably slow. The potentially hostile classroom and work environment disproportionately affects low-income students with work-study financial aid packages or otherwise working to make ends meet.
Given the hateful rhetoric being spread at the state level, the time is now for the University to make meaningful progress on trans equity. We need your help to show them that members of the UW community care about trans people and their ability to thrive on campus. This is not just about trans issues, this is about racial justice, disability justice, economic justice, and our rights as students and workers at UW. To that end, please consider making your voice heard in the following ways:
- In advance of the action on March 10th, the Trans Equity Working Group is compiling photos of people showing how long it takes them to get to the restrooms they use, in order to highlight the huge disparity of bathroom options between trans and cis people. We’d love contributions from you! We’ve attached a template you are welcome to use, and a sample photo of what this might look like. If you’re okay with your photo being used as part of our campaign to increase visibility on this issue, please email your photo to firstname.lastname@example.org by this Tuesday, March 8th. Please note that these photos will be used on posters that will be posted across campus.
- Join us for the action on March 10th! Immediately following the membership meeting, we will have a few speakers as well as a march from Condon Hall to the School of Social Work, with a final march to Gerberding Hall to post a list of demands for improvements to trans equity on campus.
We hope you can join us! If you have questions, comments, or would like to join the Trans Equity Working Group, please contact us at email@example.com.