Pitt Trans Policy: What to do if you have been discriminated against.
The linked story below is from today’s Pitt News (emphasis is mine):
While Johnston did not comment on the complaint to the Commission on Human Relations, commission Director Charles Morrison confirmed that Johnston did file a complaint against the University.
Morrison said that the Pittsburgh commission will have jurisdiction even though Johnston was a student in Johnstown, because the University’s policy regarding gendered facilities is the same in Oakland as it is at branch campuses.
Morrison said that while Johnston was the first student to file a complaint against the University, he encourages anyone else who feels discriminated against to come forward.
“We believe people whose rights have been violated should stand up and fight it, because otherwise, nothing will change,” he said.
I really appreciate Morrison voicing this idea. In a comment to my first blog post on this subject, Katherine-Anne who is Seamus’s wife left a very long message detailing her take on what had happened to Seamus. In my opinion, she sets up a binary- that either Seamus did what he did or there was no other option. Morrison demonstrates another action- file a complaint. I can easily imagine a whole different scenario today, had Seamus file a complaint way back in in the Fall when the situation happened. Please don’t misunderstand me- I am not blaming him. I am saying however, that both sides in the controversy made choices about their actions and reactions.
One option when Seamus was told he couldn’t use the Men’s locker room would have been to use the Referee’s locker room and immediately begin to publicize what he felt was discriminatory. He could have begun a complaint and not been expelled. But his approach was to rebel against the campus authorities and continue to return to the locker room, even after he was told he wasn’t permitted, and return several times. Seamus wasn’t expelled because he is trans. He was expelled because of how he chose to refusal and protest the University’s offer of a gender-neutral locker room.
Had he gone directly to the Commission on Human Relations, he may have had to deal with using the Referee’s locker room while the investigation was underway, but he could have taken the men’s lifting class, which was possibly his real interest, and he would probably still be a student today.
The issue of a gender-ambiguous person in a locker room where nudity is expected is an important issue. One that deserves to be brought up, discussed and Pitt ought to have a policy that articulates how the University handles this type of situation. But I’m not sure it is really is as simple as that the University, or the other students in the locker room must simply accept that Seamus is a man because that is how he self-identifies. Imagine the outcry if a MTF (male to female) trans person with a fully functioning penis decided she had a right to use the women’s locker room and shower facilities.
Truly, the best solution is to have private changing rooms and private shower stalls in both the men’s and women’s locker rooms, or to have all changing areas be gender neutral, but in older buildings, that may be cost prohibitive. Pitt is already treating new construction differently, but the older buildings may be slow to be changed.
When one experiences being discriminated against, one has the right to decide to take on the world all by themselves and rebel against all rules, or they can use existing mechanisms to seek change and bring justice. No one should ever accept discrimination, but not everyone will agree that Seamus was discriminated against. No one told him he had to use the women’s locker room. No one told him he couldn’t take the men’s weight lifting class. He was simply asked to use a facility that was gender neutral for dressing and showering after there were complaints by other students. I would go so far to say that even that may not have been an ideal solution, but we don’t live in a perfect world, and in my opinion, the goal is to work at getting closer to a perfect world together as opposed to by trying to fight each other.
Aside from the specifics of this case regarding Seamus and the school, is the larger issue of sex, gender, gender identity, and gender expression.
Consider a disabled person in a wheel chair. Should that person claim the University is discriminating against them by forcing them to use an elevator instead of making the steps accessible to the chair? Or do we discriminate against girls/women by requiring that they use a women’s locker room?
I can accept that Seamus is “male” but I am not so sure I accept that he is a man. His gender identity is incongruent with man-ness, but fully congruent with male-ness. I am not sure if a men’s locker room is a place where men (sex) change and shower. I think it may be. I don’t think it is the place where males are, if that makes sense. If Seamus had full top and bottom surgery such that his sex appearance was congruent with being a man, then I’d have no trouble with him in the men’s locker room.
You may have different opinions, please leave comments below, simply try and be respectful to everyone.
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