A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

News & Opinion

Do Not Go Gentle into That Gender Neutral Bathroom

by on June 7, 2016

On May 3, 2016, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced in a press release the implementation of new guidelines for transgender individuals, which allows for a welcoming and safe environment for all.  “For the first time, CPS is providing clear guidance on restroom, locker room and overnight trip accessibility, and establishing support for employees and adults in addition to students.”[1] These momentous changes came ahead of Obama’s administration’s guidance letter on transgender student’s rights sent to school districts on May 13.[2],[3] The language used by the federal government is similar to that of the CPS policy in that it supports the use of all facilities according to an individual’s gender identity, not to their biological sex.[4] For CPS, this policy will also include individuals who are gender nonconforming as well as gender questioning. CPS have made clear that “any incident of discrimination, harassment, or violence is given immediate attention” with appropriate consequences, and continue to say that “the intentional or persistent refusal by students or school staff to respect a student’s gender identity (for example, intentionally referring to the student by a name or pronoun that does not correspond to the student’s gender identity) is a violation of these Guidelines.”[5]

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin stated that “[the federal guidance letter] is a truly significant moment not only for transgender young people but for all young people, sending a message that every student deserves to be treated fairly and supported by their teachers and schools.”[6] They can now follow clearly stated guidelines like those already written in the CPS policy on the support of transgender and gender nonconforming students. And despite the conservative backlash, the idea that schools can lose federal funding[7] if they don’t comply with the guidelines is a remarkable step forward, especially after North Carolina’s controversial HB2 ruling in April, which states that public institutions must designate bathrooms based on biological sex.[8] But the HB2 ruling has seen its own backlash in North Carolina, including from library institutions.[9]  Macey Morales, deputy director of ALA’s Public Awareness Office, stated that “The law contradicts the core values, purpose, and diversity work of ALSC and undermines civil rights and the fundamental principles upon which libraries are founded” in regards to the Association of Library Services to Children cancelling their conference in NC this year.[10] The Chapel Hill Public Library’s Director Susan Brown had this to add: “I do believe that libraries should carve out that political-neutral space when it comes to endorsing candidates and things. But when it comes to whether or not we open our doors to everybody, and one of our core values of being open to all, then I think that’s a bit different.”[11]

School and public libraries have a responsibility to support the new federal guidelines on transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. Public libraries are closely tied to schools, and it’s important to be an ally, to provide a safe space that really is open to all. It goes beyond designating a single bathroom as gender neutral, which only keeps the issue as separate but equal. This is a civil rights issue, and libraries are at the forefront of making positive change happen. As  Rebecca T. Miller, editorial director of Library Journal and School Library Journal articulates, “The joined voices [of libraries] are a testament…to how far we’ve come in instilling positive, inclusive policy to support the wide-ranging diversity of human experience among us. Let’s make the free society we claim to have a reality for those who have been disenfranchised.”[12]


References
[1]Chicago Public Schools Introduces New Guidelines to Support Transgender Students, Employees and Adults,” Chicago Public Schools press release, May 3, 2016.
[2] Gregory Korte, “Schools must allow transgender bathrooms, Department of Education says,” USA Today, May 13, 2016.
[3] Emanuella Grinberg, “Feds issue guidance on transgender access to school bathrooms,” CNN, May 14, 2016.
[4] Gregory Korte, “Schools must allow transgender bathrooms, Department of Education says,” USA Today, May 13, 2016.
[5]GUIDELINES REGARDING THE SUPPORT OF TRANSGENDER AND GENDER NONCONFORMING STUDENTS,” Chicago Public Schools, May 3, 2016.
[6] Emanuella Grinberg, “Feds issue guidance on transgender access to school bathrooms,” CNN, May 14, 2016.
[7] Gregory Korte, “Schools must allow transgender bathrooms, Department of Education says,” USA Today, May 13, 2016.
[8] Jeff Brady, “When A Transgender Person Uses A Public Bathroom, Who Is At Risk?NPR, May 15, 2016.
[9] Lisa Peet, “North Carolina Librarians, Library Associations React to HB2,” Library Journal, May 11, 2016.
[10] Macey Morales, “ALSC Cancels 2016 National Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina in response to HB 2,” American Library Association, April 18, 2016.
[11] Lisa Peet, “North Carolina Librarians, Library Associations React to HB2,” Library Journal, May 11, 2016.
[12] Rebecca T. Miller, “Defending Inclusion,” Library Journal, April 26, 2016.

Tags: , , ,



Leave a comment

Name required

Website