a few days ago i went to a candle light vigil outside of University Center here at CMU. it was the kick off to Transgender Awareness Week and a handful of people gathered to bring awareness to Central Michigan’s campus. we lit some candles, read names of trans people that are, sadly, not still with us, and had a moment of silence. it was short. about a ten, maybe fifteen, minute deal.
the whole time i was sitting there, holding my candle between finger tips frozen from chilled almost-winter wind, i couldn’t help but think how cool it was to even be a part of a small event like that. it was a small event, but it addressed a big topic: transgendered individuals. now, i’m fairly new to the LGBTQ community, but so far, i don’t have many complaints. from my experiences, at least around campus, this community is so much more than tolerant of people; they accept people and embrace them whole heartedly. that can’t be said about every group of people i’ve run into here. no matter what you’re personal interests are, if you’re gay, trans, bi, or just flat out questioning gender identity or sexual preference all together, you’re going to have one thing in common…you are part of a group of individuals who have so much pride in who they are and what they can do when they come together.
i’ve kind of rambled now, and strayed from what originally inspired me to write this post. while using the restroom in some random lecture hall i found this note in one of the stalls:
in a nutshell, this little handout explains the issue of no gender neutral bathrooms on campus. we are now in a time where genders are not simple “boy” or “girl” and even when they are, the look of “girl” and the look of “boy” cannot be filed in only one folder. there are boys who wear tight pants, boys who wear big baggy t-shirts, girls who wear sweats everyday, and girls who won’t leave the house in anything but a skirt and ten layers of makeup. it’s personal preference and it cannot be described in a one syllable word.
i’ve talked about gender neutral bathrooms with a few of my friends before. even though i’ve never had any problem being called out in a girls bathroom for being in the wrong place, and i’ve never gotten in trouble for wandering into the boys bathroom when the line for the girl’s bathroom was five times as long, i have many friends who have had situations where they were dragged, physically removed, from a bathroom they had all the right to be in. that, to me, is just unfair. after one incident, my friend, B, called me all worked up. a lady had grabbed her arm, told her she was in the wrong bathroom, walked her out of the door into the busy hallway of a lecture hall, and continually told her she had entered the wrong bathroom. now, i don’t know about you, but i think urinals not being on the wall might give something away…
B put it really well when she said that some people should just mind their own business. she said something along the lines of, “even if i did wander into the wrong bathroom, don’t you think i would have figured it out soon enough and leave? people can’t even trust someone else to know which bathroom they belong in?” and i can’t agree more. if one day i walked into the girls bathroom and saw a man with a beard and chest hairs longer than the hairs on my head, i would look at him, say “hi” and go into the stall to do my business while i trusted that he would figure out if he’s in the “wrong” place or not. because B is right: it is none of my business.
what i like most about this flyer that was left in every stall in this particular restroom…and on every sink, is that it gives little suggestions like, “trust that fellow bathroom users know which restroom they are in and respect their decision” or, “recognize that many people do not fit into the categories of man or woman” and lastly, “understand the difference between sex and gender and respect a person’s identity”.
i couldn’t have said it better myself, LGBTQ services, hats off to you. it’s tiny things like this that can make a big impact and also make me proud to be a part of such a community here at CMU. in a town like Mount Pleasant, it’s amazing to see how many people come out (no pun intended) to support groups and social..issues is the wrong word, but for lack of better verbiage, it will have to do.
tomorrow is the official Transgender Awareness Day, so i hope this post will kick off a few thoughts about this topic and maybe bring awareness to someone who has no idea what the heck i’m even talking about. so, everyone please, keep these individuals in mind, not only tomorrow, but as you continue to walk down streets that can be full of people with stories a lot longer than their first name.