• teddy-harris-slider-1.jpg?fit=500%2C500
    Teddy Harris eventually found the courage to come out as transgender or trans-masculine. Haylie Ellison/ The Mainstream

Gender-neutral bathrooms, safe spaces: the fight for transgender rights

in Campus Life by

After a life shrouded in uncertainty, a time of feeling out of place, Teddy Harris found his true identity as a trans-masculine male.

For years, Harris lived a life of constant battles among peers, friends, and even family members over his true gender identity. On the outside, he looked like a girl growing up; however, Harris always knew in the back of his mind that didn’t feel right.

“I knew I didn’t like being a ‘girl’ since I was really young. Never really considered myself one. But, my family saw me as a girl, so I followed that mold,” he recalled.

With a gleam in his eye, Harris now proudly declares his identity with  boldness, but this confidence was not always prominent. It wasn’t until early this year that everything changed for him. Tired of feeling out of place, Harris, previously non-binary, eventually found the courage to come out as transgender, or trans-masculine.

He has since been met with an abundance of acceptance, yet many people still don’t understand the struggles he faces.

“In school, I struggle with misgendering. While most people get it right, people still slip up–thats fine. But it’s still painful,” Harris said.

He fears for the rights and acceptance of transgender children in other states, where schools may not be supportive of the LGBTQ community. Harris relates to the struggles of other people who experience the same issues of misgendering, nonacceptance, or misunderstanding of rights as a transgender person.

“In society, I struggle with acceptance. I struggle with using the bathroom that I want to out of fear for my safety, especially in a conservative county like Douglas County and a small town like Roseburg,” he said.

In light of recent political events, transgender rights have become a staple for public discourse among the UCC campus community. A letter from President Debra Thatcher on Feb. 24 addressed  Trump’s policies to recall previous guidelines for protecting transgender students from discrimination, especially regarding bathrooms.

Thatcher further explained in an interview that she is positive of the direction UCC is going in being inclusive to all people.

“We want to create an inclusive culture on campus, one of respect, embracing people’s differences and valuing them for who they are and not their gender identity,” she said. “Regardless on your gender identity, you have something to contribute to, and that’s what we need to value. There is a lot to be learned from people who are very different from ourselves, and helping us understand that will help us understand ourselves as well.”

Currently Title IX of the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice prohibits discriminatory practices at schools, including “discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes.” That means people of any gender can go into whichever bathroom they choose. The UCC campus also uphold these guidelines.

Despite these  efforts, questions still arise on what basic services transgender students, such as gender-neutral bathrooms, have on campus.

Although hidden out of sight, there is, in fact, a gender-neutral bathroom on campus. It is located in the library, but students have to make a trek through the middle of the building and walk down a narrow hallway to find it. Additionally, there is another bathroom in the Bonnie and Ford Health Nursing and Science building that was constructed last year.

Farrington said the library bathroom was built in the early 1970’s, but it didn’t become a gender-neutral specific bathroom until 2014 as the former library director David Hutchison and the former reference librarian Katie Cunnion were behind its transformation, according to Carol Mcgeehon, the current director of Library and Tutoring Services.

Other campus services for all students, including transgender students, are safe spaces that provide open discussion, education and awareness of LGBTQ issues. These spaces are free of discrimination, ignorance and bigotry by providing an inclusive environment for all people. Colorful signs displaying “safe space” are often found in some offices or public areas on campus.

In addition, safe space training workshops are available for allies and others who would like an open discussion and educational information regarding challenges the LGBTQ community faces.

Roger Sanchez, testing coordinator and QSA advisor, said the purpose of safe space training is to provide a campus-wide network of allies who agree to provide support and assistance to LGBTQ individuals at UCC.

restroomgraphic
Illustration by Christina Morrow

“I hope what people take from this is the urge to know more, to learn more, to step outside their comfort zone and get to know someone that’s different from them,” he shared. “As humans, we tend to be afraid of things we don’t understand, but the more we get to know someone that’s different from us, the more we find out that we are not so different after all…That we are pretty much the same.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“In society, I struggle with acceptance. I struggle with using the bathroom that I want to out of fear for my safety” —Teddy Harris, Psychology Major

Revised March 3rd – fixed spelling errors.