By Redi Degefa
The issues of transgender and all-gender restrooms have been challenging for our legislators to conquer. The sensitivity of the matter has led to five years of legal battles among states, individuals and the federal government. The question of transgender and all-gender restrooms is: should people be allowed to use restrooms based on the gender with which they identify regardless of their biological sex? The issue captured the nation’s attention when public schools began to require transgender students to use designated showering and changing facilities years ago.
This drew many discriminatory complaints from LGBTQ advocates and the general public. South Dakota passed a bill that requires public school students to use restrooms and other facilities that correspond with their biological sex.
Similarly, North Carolina passed a series of bills, known as House Bill 2, that banned transgender students from using facilities that did not match their biological sex. In May of 2016, the Obama administration fought against these laws by issuing letters to all school districts, advising them to eliminate such discriminatory laws. The letters also contained threats of lawsuits and loss of federal funding if schools didn’t abide by the instructions.
Following the Obama administration’s efforts, California passed a law that requires gender-neutral bathrooms. The bill took effect on March 1, 2017, and it requires businesses to have a single-use bathroom with “no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user.” The bathroom must identify as “all gender” and it must be labelled with a unisex geometric sign. In January of 2017, a bill proposed by a Republican senator, Dan Patrick, required transgenders to use restrooms that correspond with their biological sex in government buildings, universities, and public schools. More recently, on Feb. 22, 2017, President Trump reversed laws that protected and allowed transgender students to use bathrooms according to their gender identity. The current Department of Education has outlawed the Obama administration’s nondiscriminatory laws regarding transgender students in public schools. President Trump’s decision will be challenged later this year.