All-Gender Restrooms Are Our Right

Submitted by Patricia Komoda, a Portland State University student majoring in history, with a concentration in public history, and Judaic Studies. Komada also volunteers in the Queer Resource Center.

A recent newsletter by the Portland State University American Association of University Professors suggests that its current actions against the All-Gender Bathroom Policy is rooted in and in practice continues to be transphobic.

On March 9, the PSU-AAUP, a union that represents over 1,200 instructional faculty and academic professionals at PSU, published an article in their newsletter titled, “University Violation of State Statute and its Own Policy on Policies Slows Implementation of All-Gender Bathroom Policy” which stated, “PSU-AAUP recently learned that during the 2015–16 academic year, administrators, without any faculty or other stakeholder input, promulgated an All-Gender Bathroom Policy.”

PSU-AAUP listed two issues: The university failed to give PSU-AAUP an opportunity to bargain, and therefore violated university policy to create and approve new policies with stakeholders.

Some background

The all-gender bathroom policy was approved by the Capital Advisory Committee on August 11, 2015. The Student Building Fee Committee in the spring of 2016 approved the funding of converting the remaining single-occupancy restrooms into all-gender ones. The policy and its effects were widely advertised and most likely caught the attention of PSU-AAUP members. The delay in PSU-AAUP’s awareness could potentially stem from broad acceptance of the policy by the majority of PSU-AAUP members.

So I wonder, why did the PSU-AAUP raise the issue now?

It’s possible an organization member investigated the policy due to being uncomfortable with the presence of all-gender bathrooms and decided to bring it to the attention to the PSU-AAUP to seek action against the policy, cloaking transphobia in procedural error. This theory lends credence to the fact that it was not until the school of social work implemented the policy this year that the all-gender policy came into question.

This is not to say that it is inappropriate for the PSU-AAUP to ensure their ability to intervene and negotiate in future policy decisions. Furthermore, the PSU-AAUP may argue that the first paragraph of their article acknowledged that they inherently approved of the policy’s implementation in stating, “PSU-AAUP is disappointed by University’s actions that have slowed the implementation of the All-Gender Bathroom Policy.” The PSU-AAUP could be argued to have submitted this Demand to Bargain merely as a reminder to PSU to follow lawful procedure, not out of any ill will towards the policy’s values.

But, I question the meaning of their intentions. I question the internal processes that led to this Demand to Bargain, starting from the first investigation to the present day. Despite the sympathetic language of the newsletter, pursuing a Demand to Bargain ultimately undermines our university’s values of access, inclusion and equity for transgender students and faculty.

Due to the current political climate, the delay in the PSU-AAUP to address the All-Gender Bathroom Policy and the effect that the potential delay or removal of this policy will have on the queer and transgender community of PSU compel me to regard this Demand to Bargain as transphobic.

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