Supreme Court’s Lack of Decision on Transgender Bathroom Rights Elicits Student Reactions

By Morgan Caplan
Staff Writer

After the Supreme Court recently scrapped a major transgender rights case, the Supreme Court moved it to the lower courts, without reaching a decision.

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Photo by Lauren Fuchs

Previous to this case, the Trump administration withdrew federal protection for transgender students in public schools that allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding to their identity. Seventeen-year-old high school senior Gavin Grimm sought to use a bathroom based on his gender identity, but the school board denied him access.

The decision, which could take a year and a half to reach, is a blow to the transgender community’s health and safety, said junior English major Charles Aube.  

“There is an air of uncertainty for the fate of LGBTQ people and protections for us in this political climate,” Aube said. “More and more state legislatures are bringing forth ‘bathroom bills.’ The decision reflects a lack of education with regard to trans people and trans issues.”

In response to the delayed Supreme Court case, students from the LGBTQ community at the University of Maryland have remained vigilant, but the lack of decision making has upset students in the community. This decision, is rooted in political pressure specifically from the makeup of Congress and the White House, Aube said.

“It reflects deep-seated transphobia in our society that can be deadly,” Aube said.  

Although Maryland is a state fortunate to have laws in place to protect their youth, not every state such as Virginia has the same guidelines, said Luke Jensen, this university’s LGBTQ Equity Center director. The case has not directly impacted the students at this university as much, because this university does not depend on federal case law for protection, but rather has its own state laws for transgender students.

The issue at Maryland, Jensen said, is not specifically about that case, but the “aura” of transgender issues and its portrayal in the press. According to Jensen, the  marginalization transgender people face empowers other people to act out against them.

This university has already started the movement by implementing multiple gender-inclusive facilities in Ritchie Coliseum, Eppley Recreation Center and Stamp Student Union. Jensen and Aube both urge Maryland to move further with this initiative and implement an explicit policy so that individuals have access to gender inclusive spaces.  

“We need to go building by building and figure out which bathrooms would work to be converted as gender-inclusive bathrooms,” Jensen said. “No one should have to leave a building to go to the bathroom. It’s just not acceptable to ask someone to leave for the restroom.”

Jensen is hopeful that this university and its students will be receptive to this change, and if people feel uncomfortable, they can use the respective gendered bathrooms. sophomore supply chain major Madison Rajhel appreciates the diverse environment that Maryland embodies and the initial steps it takes to continue being an accepting campus.

Although there may be backlash in any community where schools implement this initiative, this university will try to be supportive in an initiative such as gender-inclusive bathrooms. Privacy, Jensen said, is a universal concept that people can agree on, and these bathrooms would embody that ideal.

Rajhel has already seen this movement towards acceptance in the most basic way.

“On my way to the Women’s March in D.C. I stopped at a restroom where I found women and men flooding into any bathroom regardless of what doors the entrance said,” Rajhel said. “That was a very impactful moment for me in the acceptance of gender inclusive bathrooms. We are all people doing what’s natural to us — why put boundaries on that?”

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