My day job- the way I pay the bills- is working at the University of Pittsburgh, which has recently raised an uproar concerning the use of bathrooms by Trans persons. I’ve received a number of emails/communications from activists and organizations outraged at the policy announcement. It places me in an odd place. I both want to be a supportive employee-supportive of my employer- and I must be a vocal critic of bad policy and an advocate for the fair treatment of all persons including Trans persons. An odd place, but not really a difficult one. My experience is that holding a position different from the University Administration has never caused me any problem in the past, and in fact, my differing viewpoint has always been welcomed.

Anyone who has been following the local news, knows that Pitt has been experiencing bomb threats to the extent that it is more like a terrorist attack, so the timing of this is a challenge. While the physical safety of all faculty, staff, and students continues to be threatened, may be a poor time to get anyone to be willing to talk about the bathroom policy. But it doesn’t hurt to begin to work on this. What I want to do on the blog here is document my actions regarding this. I may at some point write commentary about the policy, but my real interest is illustrating what I am doing, as both an employee as well as an activist/advocate towards this issue.

The University is a big entity, and there are a handful of different levels of authority that all play a role in decision making. In my experience, Pitt has sought to make student life welcoming to all students including Trans persons, yet this policy decision isn’t that surprising. The needs for Trans persons are not always well understood, and what are really needed are sometimes confused. I remember back to the push to get partnership benefits- Pitt can be a hard entity to push. Impossible to sway some might say, especially if Pitt feels pushed against a wall. Though most any organization or person  is like that. My goal is to try and navigate through this and see what role I can play towards a win/win for all- the Trans persons accepted with Pitt as well as Pitt itself.

Action 1: Find out who I can talk to directly

My first action was to send an email off to a close friend in the Administration, who I know to be sensitive to the issues of LGBTQ persons. I have had a very long working relationship with this person, and I respect them in a huge way. In my email to them, I asked to be directed to the most appropriate person to speak to about this issue. My hope will be to include this person in my efforts, at least coming to a first meeting. This may not seem like much of an action, but in my opinion, getting to talk to the right people is always the first right step.

People and business entities make decisions based on facts and on their evaluation of the issues. When it comes to LGBTQ, that sometimes means, fear of the unknown plays a big role. I do not know what led to this decision, so my goal is to come to understand that.

Activists always want to get to the end result, and sometimes this gets portrayed as if Equality were a light switch that can go from off to on, just like that. What do we want, queer rights, and when do we want them- NOW! But the smart activists and advocates both push for change and make their demands known, and work behind the scenes to affect the process and create change. A person who makes a policy decision that appears homophobic, isn’t going to just change their mind because some activist told them to. The change will come with bringing real information to the issue and getting all parties to work together on a different perspective.

Action 2: The Staff Association Council

My second action was to email Deborah Walker who is president of the Staff Association Council. Because this policy affects Trans persons on the staff, SAC should have had a voice in the crafting of the policy, and it isn’t clear that happened. SAC has a Diversity and Inclusion committee, but that committee has not been meeting and has no chair or vice-chair. This could explain a lack of SAC involvement. SAC, to be a really useful entity must be advocating for all staff including LGBTQ staff, and the failure of the SAC to keep this committee active is troubling.

http://www.sac.pitt.edu/AboutUs/Committees/tabid/799/Default.aspx

So, at this point I have 2 goals:

  • Get a meeting with someone high level regarding the policy.
  • Get the SAC to reform the Diversity and Inclusion committee and make sure it is a vocal advocate for all staff persons at Pitt.

I have one other path I want to start as well. In the Fall, there was a case concerning a Transgender student at a branch campus that I believe ended in court. Without knowing more details, I am wondering how this situation may have impacted or formed the recent policy announcement. I want to dig further into the details of that situation. It could provide much useful information.

 

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/becw/

 

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  • Just Some Dude

    FFS people.  This is not that difficult.  EVERYONE needs to subscribe to the program that human beings with penises (natural or man-made) use the mens room.  Human beings with vaginas (natural or man-made) use the women’s room.

    What a huge waste of personal, university, and government time this issue has become.

    • tcwaters

      It really isn’t that simple. A transman or transwoman may or may not have bottom surgery, so the penis or vagina issue doesn’t really meet the need. Although I would say, bathrooms are perhaps the easiest of the issues to resolve, even though they generate most of the controversy

      • Just Some Dude

        Actually, it is that simple.  For all the talk about being an opposite gender trapped in a current gender’s body, the plain and simple fact is the your genitalia is a key for a designated restroom.  Your “key” only fits one of two locks and you must use the door that you can open.  If you do not have the right equipment for a designated bathroom, then you must use the other one.  Unless you’re a eunuch, there is no third option.  Generally, there are no complaints from either sex about same sex heterosexuals and homosexuals sharing a locker room.  Why?  Because they all have the same parts.

        I’m all for equality – don’t get me wrong, but some people seem to have a sense of entitlement or feel like society needs to change to suit him or her.  It’s my opinion that Seamus thinks this way.  Unless he has had the gender reassignment surgery and now has a penis, he is still ANATOMICALLY a woman, and should not be in the mens room/changing room.

      • tcwaters

        I really appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts, and ideas. I’d like introduce the notion of Gender Expression here, and say that a Trans person should use a restroom constant with their expressed gender. So, a person who is a FTM trans person who has had upper body surgery, and has been talking hormone therapy such that their facial hear is “male” looking would use the men’s restroom. They would most likely go into a stall to use the toilet, but many men who are CIS go into a stall as well. That is about the desire for privacy. I don’t think this is about entitlement.

        In regards to Seamus , and the specifics of his case, I agree he feels an entitlement that because he self-identifies as “male” then everyone else just simply accept that even though his gender expression is female as well as being on hormones. In a restroom setting where his nude body is not displays his expression is “male” and there is no reason why he couldn’t use a men’s restroom. But in a locker room/shared shower facility, his gender expression is not male, and I would agree he doesn’t belong there.

      • Just Some Dude

        After viewing some of the videos that Seamus and Katherine posted to YouTube as well as their television interviews, I must say that I’m kind of disgusted.  It appears they are using the court questioning as a platform to make this bathroom sexual discrimination case heard by a larger audience.  From what I have read, neither the FBI nor the University of Pittsburgh released their names to the media in connection to the threats.  The couple contacted the media, themselves, to gain exposure.

        Genders, sexual orientations, and lifestyles aside; these two are disgraceful and give the LGBT community a bad reputation as petulant infants.

        In response to Thomas Waters above: I’m a heterosexual male and I don’t have an issue with homosexual men in the mens room or locker room.  However, I do have a problem with someone without male genitalia using the same rooms regardless of his/her “Gender Expression” – even if they use a stall for privacy.  There are still men changing or urinating in a urinal leaving themselves exposed.  It does not matter if a person like Seamus uses the stall, he still needs to traverse the room to get to the stall and the sink.  If this transgender person must use a stall for privacy, then I feel he or she should use the restroom defined by they’re current genitalia.

      • tcwaters

        In my personal opinion, I’d completely agree with you that Seamus and Katherine-Anne are using the FBI action to get as much publicity as they can for themselves. Many others in the trans community are outraged. Thanks for your comment.

  • tcwaters

    THANKS!!!

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  • Katherine Anne McCloskey

    Tom.

    “In the Fall, there was a case concerning a Transgender student at a
    branch campus that I believe ended in court. Without knowing more
    details, I am wondering how this situation may have impacted or formed

    the recent policy announcement. I want to dig further into the details
    of that situation. It could provide much useful information.”

    The student’s name is Seamus Johnston. He was a student at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus. Seamus took the University at its word, i.e. “Accordingly the University prohibits and will not engage in discrimination or harassment on the basis

    of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, genetic information, disability, or status, as a veteran” from the Pitt Non-discrimination Policy and Equal Opportunity Policy http://www.cfo.pitt.edu/policies/policy/07/07-01-03.html.

    Seamus was designated by a Social Security an.administrative law judge to be completely disabled for the purpose of employment, but not education, as of July 1, 2010. This was in part do to Gender Identity Disorder. Since then Seamus has obtained a PA drivers license saying he is male and U.S. passport stating the same. In the Spring of 2011, Seamus signed up for a physical education class entitled” Men’s Weight Lifting.” He used the men’s locker room and shower for the entire semester without complaint or comment He was frequently in the locker room when the instructor was here. Seamus enjoyed the course and then signed up for the same course again in Fall semester and used the locker room and showers without comment during the month of September. In early October, Vice President Jonathan Wescott on the orders of Ted Fritz, JD, of the Pitt General Counsel’s office, told Seamus that he was to stop using the men’s showers and restrooms. Apparently Mr. Westcott feels that showering with “real men” was much more dangerous than Seamus squatting 1and 1/2 times his body weight, dead lifting more than twice his bodyweight, and lifting nearly his body weight over head. As Seamus has been on inter-muscular injections of testosterone since January 2011, he does not look very feminine and would likely  frighten the women with whom he might shower. Whereas, Seamus is short and does not scared the men he just spotted in the weight room. Besides, they know him to be heterosexual.

    Seamus was then arrested twice by the campus police for “disorderly conduct” I.e. section one: fighting in using the men’s showers.It should be pointed out that the only to enter the men’s weight room from that floor is trough the men’s locker room. Also interesting is the fact that Seamus was first arrested on November 16th the same day a story ran in the campus newspaper”The Advocate.” in which Seamus said he would go to court if necessary to protect his rights.http://www.upj-advocate.com/features/2011/11/16/transgender-student-claims-discrimination/  After two citations and two campus “judiciary proceedings” UPJ offered a “compromise”. Their solution was a unisex bathroom, one of two on the entire campus, that also had a shower like arrangement for the disabled. We looked over the alternative accommodations and believed it a real safety hazard.The door can be locked from the inside, but there is no way to check from outside if the facility is in use if the door is not locked. How many college students lock the entire wash-room not just the stall before relieving themselves? There is no way to protect oneself from assault from behind while entering, Seamus would be a handful for anyone near his size but there plenty of students taller than 5 foot, 2 inches and heavier than 134 very muscular pounds. See:http://www.wjactv.com/videos/news/transgendered-student-claims-discrimination-by-upj/vFPgJ/. Remember this solution was only though of after Seamus had twice been arrested and subjected to campus sanctions.  

    On November 28th Seamus expected to be arrested again and some violence used. Remember this was immediately following the UNC Davis, pepper spray incident and beatings of Occupy demonstrators all over the world.  I went along to film the arrest and to diminish the prospect of violence. I was arrested for summary disorderly conduct and possession of a video recorder. The arresting police officer said it under oath, I have a recording of the entire trial. At point the officer began arguing with himself as to whether the UPJ Sports Center was private public place or a public private place. The whole thing is recorded in side splitting humour. The Magistrate thanked me for the legal education had given him and then found me guilty. He said he felt that it was good the U.S.Supreme Court and PA Supreme Court had opinions, but he had opinions of his own.  Hysterical ii was not so sad, a functional illiterate acting as a judge.

    Meanwhile Seamus was arrested again  for using the men’s room. He was subsequently suspended and then expelled. On January 26, Seamus addressed a meeting of the Anti-Discrimination Policy Committee ( ADCP) at the request of its chair, Dr. Jane Feuer. See: http://www.utimes.pitt.edu
    /?p=19466. In February the ADCP crafted a policy to be in line with the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County ordinances. Many media outlets wrote that the ADCP also condemned Seamus’ expulsion. See:

    “That’s what happened late last year at the Pitt-Johnstown branch
    campus, where a transgender student who identifies as male was expelled
    for using the men’s locker room.The ADPC unanimously passed a resolution in February charging that
    the expulsion violated Pitt’s anti-discrimination policy. The committee
    also stated that students should be allowed to use bathrooms that match
    the gender with which they identify, and asked for a specific policy
    regarding bathroom usage for transgender people.” ww.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/pittsburgh/pitt-bathroom-policy-surprises-outrages-transgender-faculty-students/Content?oid=1509064.

    Then in March. the General Counsel’as office announced that it was stripping the APPC of any authority in issues involving transgendered people and bathrooms despite two years of study into the issue. This my
    favorite bit of verbiage on the subject:

    “[ADPC] brought in some students to tell their story and had it all
    reported in the University Times. It seems to have caused a lot of folks
    on both sides of the debate to get upset,” he said. (See Jan. 26 University Times.)

    Pinsky noted that ADPC had approved a resolution that birth
    certificate-only verification of gender identity may violate Pitt’s
    nondiscrimination policy, as well as city ordinances — a resolution             { University Senate president Dr.Michael}
    Pinsky said was too radical to present to Faculty Assembly for
    discussion. “[ADPC members were trying to determine what discrimination
    is and that is not their role,”

    First, only one student addressed the ADPC–Seamus. Actually check the University Times, Jan.26th issue. Then Pinsky calls abiding by the laws of Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh “too radical” to be discussed. The last line is just too funny for words. The Anti-Discrimination Policy Committee trying to determine what discrimination, what is their job Dr. Pinsky? 

    As I understand the General Counsel and Chancellor’s offices policies, they are that Pitt is a state chartered facility that extends over 5 counties. Therefore Pitt is not subject to the laws of any county, city, our township. Pitt is responsible only to the Pa legislature. So in fact even state-wide laws don’t apply only specific acts of the legislature directed toward Pitt. An argument like this should be grounds for disbarment. 

     The summary charges against Seamus were withdrawn and he now faces misdmeanor charges for Incident Exposure, Disorderly Conduct, and defiant trespass or a possible six years in prison/ and or more than $100.000 in fines. This is the first time in American history any college or university has brought misdmeanor charges against a student for acting in a gender dysphoric manner. 

    I happen to know all this because I am Seamus’ wife. We were asked to meeting of transgender activists in Pittsburgh exactly a week ago tonight. Seamus has already filed a Title 42, section 1983 “deprivation of rights under color of law” suit against the University. I suggested this could be amended to be a class action suit. The one attorney present agreed but said she had little experience with such suits. As political activist whose best friend was a radical lawyer I have probably prepared or helped prepare  about 100 1983’s. Unfortunately Neil was a bit to radical hence the past tense on him being a lawyer. Now the people at the meeting have stopped speaking to us as they feel doing anything will make the University crack down even harder. Perhaps they are right. Today our office was raided by the FBI and Seamus and I have been given subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury looking into the Pitt    bomb scares. We of course had nothing to do such maniacal and totally ineffectual activities, but the General Counsel’s office feels we are the two most disgruntle people ever to deal with University of Pittsburgh. Actually, I got my B.S. at UPJ in 1977. It was a vary racist school as it is now. Less than 1% of faculty are non-white. There is one black administrator, one black faculty member, and two blacks on the maintenance staff. That unfortunately the same number there were when I went there 37 years ago.

    Any way Seamus and I will be in Pittsburgh Monday to file a complaint with Pittsburgh Human Relations Committee, file the class action suit and then wait around to appear before the grand jury on Tuesday We would love to meet with and detail all that is above.

    I should tell you that Wendi Miller of Miller’s Framing hates me. She says you and she are doing a private deal to make things right with the restrooms. I certainly would not want to interfere with that.

    Sorry for the very long response but you have plenty of details now. My office phone is 814-262-8941 and my email is redkatieanne@gmail.com If anyone else wants to discuss this you know how to get in contact with me. 

    Cheers,

    Dr.Katherine-Anne McCloskey,  D.Div; Ph.D. 

    • tcwaters

      Blogger’s note:
      1) I have removed 2 sentences that first said inaccurate things about what I am doing, and attributed those comments to another person. Because I can not confirm that the other person actually said what was written about my actions, I have snipped just that portion.

      2) The commenter included an email and phone and I have removed those as I think they were intended for me, but am unclear if they were really intended for the whole of the world wide web.

      The rest of the comment is a thorough explanation of one side of what happened at UP Johnstown. In my opinion, there are some facts that are omitted by the commenter, but I am glad that they have chosen to voice their ideas and opinions. I may address the specifics of the UP Johnstown case in a separate post, and if I do can address any omissions at that time.

  • tcwaters

    John, please save your sarcasm and hot air. We are busy getting a policy changed. Keep reading my blog, you may learn somethng. 🙂

    I’m keeping this diary-like thread of posts going exactly this way- detailing out my actions. The things I do, the folks I talk to, and all the things that make up getting real change to happen. There is a real place for the chanting and the true- but not too helpful rhetoric. but there is also a real and meaningful place for advicacy that creates change. I’m going to detail my path of that here.

    You can throw out your snarky comments about win/win, but in rthe real world because they come to see how the way things are (and in this case, it is an unacceptable policy) isn’t good for everyone and needs to be changed to be good for everyone (win/win).

    Your last comment may have been fun to write, but it is really counter productive. It won’t change a policy, and if anything it just antagonizes the issue further. Fortunately here in Pittsburgh, we have a Trans community and others working to get the policy changed, so you can save your nifty rhetoric for some other battle that you won’t win by those tactics, OK?

  • Steve Zupcic

    Yes Tom, PLEASE contact Deborah Walker about bieng more active as a SAC member and offering to chair the Diversity & Inclusion Committee.  This would give you a representative seat on the ADPC.  I was hoping that you would do this ever since I retired 6 months ago; and particularly since Jesse Nicholson left the Univetsity for Afghanistan.  Deborah will be particularly good to work with on this.

    • tcwaters

      Steve, glad to hear from you. Already done. I self-nominated to be the Diversity and Inclusion chair and working to get a committee meeting set up. Dids you know too, that I was nominated to be on the Pittsburgh Citizens Police Review Board? DEborah also sits on that. We are likely to get to know each other pretty well.

    • Kathleen A Ferraro

      Tom, I share Steve’s enthusiasm for your commitment to reinvigorating the SAC Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Most likely this means that you will also serve as a SAC representative to the Senate Anti-Discriminatory Policies Committee that my partner Jane Feuer chairs. I know you will enjoy collaborating with the Committee’s thoughtful, intelligent members who, like you, are strongly committed to equality. As you no doubt know, the ADPC has been a leader in promoting transgender equality–not only in the current bathroom access campaign but also on larger issues, most notably insurance coverage for gender reassignment surgery. The ADPC also contributed significantly to the campaign for full benefits for domestic partners and the establishment of the Allies (Safe Zone) Program in collaboration with the Rainbow Alliance and Dean Humphrey. I look forward to catching up with you in person sometime soon. 

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  • Former Pittsburgh Resident

    While you are busy finding a “win-win”, trans students and staff have to pee. What would you advise? 

    While you don’t expect equality to come at the flip of a switch, staff was happy to create inequality with exactly just such a flip of a switch. Moreover, Pitt had to contravene prevailing City of Pittsburgh non discrimination law in order to create this inequality. 

    The policy is illegal in spirit if not in letter. Making excuses for it is really unacceptable.

    • tcwaters

      John,
      As to what to advise those who have to pee? 
      1) What have they already been doing? That would be useful information.
      2) Send them over to my building. I’ll happily assist them to use the restroom of their choice on my floor.

      I know you think you know everything, but you really don’t, so I’ll refrain from further pointing that out. Just that your hot air rhetoric doesn’t get those needing to pee any closer to what they need.

      Organizations create policies and people find fault with them with good reason, and policies get changed and fixed. That is a standard order of operations. I am not making any excuses for anything. I am not supporting a policy, nor suggesting it was a good idea, or that it should be allowed to remain. I am however, embarking on a process to actually get it changed which your hot air rhetoric won’t accomplish. 

      I just love those self-righteous California guys who are so full of it. Why don’t you turn your energy to getting Marriage Equality back. Oh yea, your state had it and then took it away. Tell me about unacceptable? Get a grip.

      • Former Pittsburgh Resident

        I’m sorry Thomas, you’re right. Us self righteous California guys should just stop demanding that we be treated like human beings with real biological and psychological needs, and we should stop demanding to be treated with respect and dignity. The wheels of justice will ultimately prevail, next semester, next year, next administration.  When that day comes, the urine can flow where it will. Until then, we should just be patient and hold it in. 
        The University has bent over backwards to make trans people feel welcome, and so we can’t expect bureaucrats  to ask trans people in advance, or even after the fact how they feel about policy changes aimed directly at regulating their behavior. They should just be grateful that the University allows them on campus at all.And when Trans seniors graduate in a few weeks, I’m sure that they will be happy that the last memory they had of Pitt was the fact that there was not a potty for them until they returned home.Or they should be sure to carry their Birth Certificate, because I’m sure that will prevent this from happening to them http://www.bilerico.com/2011/04/transwoman_severely_beaten_at_baltimore_mcdonalds.php

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