Transgender students fear backlash over bathroom rule

Published on August 25, 2023 at 3:21 pm

The Florida Board of Education this week unanimously approved a rule that adds harsher penalties to a new law barring transgender students and staff at state colleges from using restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.

The rule requires colleges to create a penalty system for people who violate the law and mandates that second offenses result in termination.

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Boards of trustees will be required to update their student codes of conduct and general policies and procedures, establish procedures for investigating each complaint and retaining documentation, and “implement specific disciplinary actions dependent upon the documented offense.”

Charles Suor, a graduate assistant, student and member of the Trans+ Student Union at the University of South Florida, said the rule limits where he can use the restroom on campus.

“If I, as myself, were to walk into the woman’s restroom … the amount of backlash I would get would be alarming. Like I feel like there would be problems there. Something that a lot of people don’t think about because they’re so worried about this fictionalized predatory trans woman.”

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He said there’s a limit to how many gender-neutral and single-stall unisex restrooms exist on campus, and students and employees may have to go out of their way to find one on a different floor or in a different building.

“I’m worried that if people, someone sees me using the men’s bathroom, and they know that I’m trans, because I’m openly trans, they report me, I could lose my job.”

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The new rule applies to the 28 schools in the state college system and stems from a law approved in May, which supporters dubbed the “Safety in Private Spaces Act.”

It also requires Florida public colleges to update policies on restrooms and changing rooms to have separate facilities “based on biological sex at birth,” or unisex bathrooms.

The rule will require each college president to submit a form certifying compliance, with the requirements applying to “all facilities on all campuses.” The rule also applies to campus housing.

“Now you’re putting trans men in women’s bathrooms. Of course we’re not predatory but they’re enacting their own fears of a man being in a woman’s restroom,” Suor said. “They just have it a little backwards on how that’s gonna happen.”

The board decision is the latest in a series of moves state lawmakers have taken against transgender people. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, at least four anti-LGBTQ bills became law in Florida this year.

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