Trans visibility is not enough: Challenge to develop inclusive institutional policies and safe spaces

written by Kristine M. Diaz, PsyD, Chair, Advisory Committee of the Campus Pride Medical School Index

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.12.32 PMCampus Pride has served as a champion in the integration and inclusion of transgender faculty, staff and students in various areas of university campus life. The inclusion of gender-integrated restrooms for transgender individuals on university campuses has been a benchmark practice of the Campus Pride Index and Sports Index. The upcoming release of the Campus Pride-Medical School Index in 2017 seeks to extend theses provisions of inclusive institutional policies and safe spaces to address transgender health, which is an aspect of access to proper restroom use. The potential passage of anti-transgender restroom bills threatens the many institutional changes made at university campuses across the country. It is imperative that we understand the ramifications of these discriminatory practices on established advancements in the integration and inclusion of the transgender community in academia.

2015 marked both national attention and recognition of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in the media. From trans actors to television personalities and television series, the visibility of trans individuals led to public discussions regarding trans-related issues, such as, gender identities and expression, transitioning, trans-specific health concerns, discrimination, and hate crimes/deaths. The public support of trans celebrities lead to an increase in news media reports on issues related to transgender children and their families. The open embrace of families working collaboratively with healthcare professionals in the transitioning of their children suggested that we, as a society, were on the verge of finally including the “T” as part of our diverse culture. Yet, the introduction of 29 anti-transgender bills within the past year has brought into question how far as a society have we come in the integration and inclusion of the trans community into the fabric of the American culture.

A ban on access to using the proper restrooms that matches one’s gender identity for trans individuals not only violates basic public accommodations, but, it also impedes the physical and mental health of an already compromised community.

  • Discrimination – Encounter discrimination in the workplace when attempting to use a restroom that matches one’s gender identity (denial of proper restroom, verbal harassment and physical assault).
  • Physical Health – Report health issues as a result of avoiding to use public restrooms. Additionally, concern about access to proper restrooms contributed to the avoidance of seeking care from healthcare providers.
  • Mental Health – Limit one’s participation in public places or events due to concern about both access to a proper restroom and/or potential harassment/assault when attempting to use a proper restroom. The isolation experienced and/or stress associated with potential discrimination may contribute to depression and/or anxiety symptoms.

(Williams Institute LGBTStats, 2013)

Some of these restroom bills have used religious belief (First Amendment Defense Act) or the threat of potential sexual predators in women’s restrooms as a basis for this discriminatory legislation. To date, there have been no reports of sexual assault by transgender individuals in sex-segregated restrooms. Additionally, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects transgender individuals from sex discrimination in educational programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice explained that Title IX’s sex discrimination extended to gender identity and gender non-conforming individuals. Therefore, a ban on access to using the proper restroom imposes legislative restrictions on transgender individuals from obtaining full institutional and governmental support on university campuses.


References and Suggested Further Reading:

  1. Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and National Center for Transgender Equality. Model District Policy on Transgender and Gender Non conforming Students [PDF document]. Retrieved from
  2. Herman, J.L. (2013). Gendered Restrooms and Minority Stress: The Public Regulation of Gender and its Impact on Transgender People’s Lives. The Williams Institute LGBTStats. Retrived from
  3. Lambda Legal. FAQ about Transgender Students at Colleges and Universities. Retrieved from
  4. Seelman, K.L. (2016). Transgender Adults’ Access to College Bathrooms and Housing and the Relationship to Suicidality. Jo Homosex, Epub ahead of print. DOI:10.1080/00918369.2016.1157998

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