The controversy in American culture surrounding the LGBT community has once again taken center stage in a school setting, this time in South Dakota. Recently the state Senate of South Dakota passed a bill banning transgender students in public schools from using the same bathrooms as students who do not identify as transgender. In other words, public school bathrooms “shall be designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex.” Both the House and the Senate have approved this bill, meaning that it only needs Governor Dennis Daugaard’s signature to pass.
Although supporters of the bill claim that it is in the interest of protecting the privacy of all students, one must also consider the ways in which it may exacerbate the situation instead of making any real positive change. One can’t help but link this current event to Pascoe’s ethnography, Dude, You’re a Fag. Pascoe observed that students involved in the LGBT community were already being ostracized by their peers, as Ricky’s story certainly attests. Ricky, a student who Pascoe spoke with at River High, experienced incessant harassment (often violent) from his peers due to “his homosexuality and his less normative gender identification and self-presentation” (Pascoe, 65). Throughout her ethnography, Pascoe emphasizes that characteristics such as these that stray from traditional gender norms of the male/female dichotomy instantly place students at risk of being victims of bullying.
Because South Dakota is a more conservative state, one can infer that students there are not yet so progressive that they are absolutely accepting of their transgender peers. Therefore, it is highly probable that making the distinction between male, female, and transgender or unisex bathrooms would only serve to heighten the exclusion and harassment of transgender students.
This bill also raises questions surrounding the logistics and ethics of how these separate bathrooms would work. Would questioning someone’s biological gender be considered a form of discrimination? How would teachers or administrators even prove that a student was biologically male or female without invading privacy? More importantly, would this change invalidate the entire concept of being transgender?
I believe that passing such a bill as this one would be a step backward from the culture of equality, acceptance, and inclusion towards which we have been striving. Would you support or protest this bill?