Brooklyn College Against Trump hosts Trans teach-in after Trump allows public schools to ignore trans student bathroom rights

Photo credit: Derek Norman

Just a day after President Donald Trump reversed protections for transgender students to use public school bathrooms, Brooklyn College Against Trump (BCAT), a social justice series, held a teach-in resisting the policy.

BCAT, a campus initiative which offers resources to combat the “Trump agenda,” began as a space to educate and organize students after the 2016 election. This semester they are hosting a dozen Trump-related seminars on health care, immigration, environmental justice and religious minorities.

The Trump administration confirmed the policy less than 48 hours before the meeting. According to a Facebook post by the Brooklyn College LGBTQ Resource Center, the teach-in was “unfortunately timely.” Brooklyn College professor, Paisley Currah of the political science department said that students need to advocate at a local level for the protections of trans and gender nonconforming students.

“We can’t rely on national institutions like the congress or courts to resist the politics of the agenda,” Currah said. “They [federal institutions] have their own interests then what we would like to see.”

“Changes on the ground through face to face politics is going to be what moves different movements forward,” Currah added.

While guidelines on bathroom rights for trans students vary from state to state, those registered in CUNY will be protected.  

Jane Sovern, the Interim General Counsel and Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs at CUNY, released a statement through the CUNY Wire last Friday, Feb. 24, that said bathroom rights for trans students in New York will not be overturned.

“I am writing to inform the CUNY community that this reversal does not alter CUNY’s policy of non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression,” Sovern said in a statement. “CUNY’s commitment to a diverse and welcoming environment remains strong and it is not affected by the Trump administration’s guidance.”

The teach-in educated students on the scope of transphobia. Opponents to the legislation argue that men will “pretend” to be women and cross-dress into the woman’s bathroom. Others say they fear increased incidents of sexual assault. According to the professor, there are no reports that support this claim of “perversion” in bathrooms by trans people.

“Why are conservatives so resistant to being exposed to the visibility of trans people?” asked Tara Accetta, a first year graduate student in school counseling.

She answered, “People fear what they don’t know and what they can’t wrap their heads around. Conservatives have a dichotomous way of thinking — it’s either this or that.”

Identity politics is not the only fight of transgender people. The faculty raised concerns about a disproportionate amount of HIV/AID viruses detected in trans women of color, employment discrimination, the struggles of undocumented trans communities as well as citing higher incidences of mental illness.

“It’s nice to have your identity documents sorted out,” one professor said. “But you also need a job that will pay you a living wage.”

In finding tools to resist Trump, one student recommended that President Michelle J. Anderson, one of the only administrative leaders to meet with an LGBT club, reiterates the CUNY policy on bathroom usage in a formal memo. While a faculty member said a town-hall style meeting on campus will be effective in combating the order.

Director of LGBTQ Resource Center, David McKay, said education is a key part of adding visibility to transgender students.

“If you don’t educate people it can turn into a real disaster,” McKay said. “There are plenty of trans students who have to plan to go to the bathroom so that they can find a restroom that their comfortable using.”

The single-occupancy bathrooms are “widely scattered” across campus, McKay continued.

“Trans students will sometimes put off going to a bathroom for hours because they are not near a bathroom they are comfortable with,” McKay said.

 

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