Staff Editorial: Pitt's transgender students stalled
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2012 01:03
As of Tuesday, transgender students at the University of Pittsburgh are required to use the campus bathrooms of the sex listed on their birth certificates rather than the gender they identify with.
According to The Pitt News, a University representative announced the new standard on Tuesday. The policy contradicts a unanimously-passed February resolution from Pitt’s Anti-Discriminatory Policies Committee, which would allow students to use bathrooms of the gender with which they identify.
Committee members say their suggested resolution was already practiced across campus and would even require “documentation from a health provider (confirming that the student identifies as a person of that gender).”
The advisory committee’s resolution seems more sensible for multiple reasons.
Although there may be no way to effectively enforce the University’s standard, it is discriminatory and close-minded on principle. Such a policy does not acknowledge a very real issue that a portion of its students deal with daily: their natal sex does not match their lived gender.
The Pitt News interviewed junior Alice Haas (who identifies herself as female), for a story posted Wednesday. Haas said changing her birth certificate would require a surgical sex change and legal processes — which would take years. She said the new standard requires “forced castration in order for me to be considered female” by Pitt, even though her driver’s license and passport both say she is female.
Although it may seem like a “modern” issue to some, many feminists and gender scholars have understood since the 19th century that sex and gender are not synonymous, and that not every individual fits into a gender dichotomy with a clear line drawn down the middle.
Most people who call themselves men are born male, but some are born female. Some people who identify as women and dress the part were born with male body parts. Pitt, an urban, often progressive university, should understand this.
In addition to putting its transgender students at risk for further discrimination, the new standard contradicts logic; if a person who identifies as a man, dresses and looks like a man, wants to use the men’s bathroom, no one should not force him to use the women’s just because that is the sex on his birth certificate. Most students in that women’s bathroom would likely agree.
Gender identity is a complex, constantly evolving issue that relies heavily on individual experience. Although, determining gendered bathroom use on a case-by-case basis is not the answer, neither is a sweeping black-and-white standard to such a personal, intricate issue.