While the legality of same-sex marriage is spreading across the nation, some LGBTQ+ activists are concerned the success of the fight for marriage equality will shift attention from the remaining struggle for equal rights.
With bills such as HB 583, known as the “Single-Sex Public Facilities” bill, making its way through the Florida House of Representatives, the next big fight for equality might center on the rights of transgender people. Transgender is an umbrella term referring to anyone who falls outside of traditional gender roles.
HB 583 would restrict use of single-sex bathrooms to only those who are biologically of the same sex. Since an individual’s sex is biological while gender identity is based more on societal norms, this would prevent transgender people from using the bathrooms matching their gender.
“Gay marriage is not the most important thing that needs to be taken care of, (the most important thing is) anti-discrimination,” said Shanti Cruz, a board member of the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida. Cruz, 29, identifies as genderqueer or androgynous and prefers the pronouns they or them.
“Transgender history goes back so long, and it’s a shame that only now is when we’re getting to stuff,” Cruz said. “This is not a new phenomenon.”
The University of Vermont is one of several institutions taking steps to become more accessible to transgender students.
According to a New York Times article, the university has enacted a program allowing students to specify which pronouns others should use when referring to them, including gender-neutral ones, and new first names if they use anything other than their legal ones.
This information is then recorded in a campus-wide information system available to professors to avoid any awkward or hurtful mistakes when calling roll.
“A lot of times people want to see things are this or that, black or white,” said Nadine Louis, a senior ambassador of LGBT Affairs. “There is a gray area; there are multiple genders out there.”
Since universities are part of the academic sector and focus on education, Cruz said it’s important they are inclusive.
“The term diversity is a huge cop-out,” Cruz said. “It should be more about not trying to exclude other individuals. So it’s more about accessibility.”
At UF, the only way for students to declare gender officially is while applying to the university, UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes wrote in an email. Potential students can choose either male or female, or opt out of the question. There are currently no plans to change this process, Sikes said.
Louis, a 21-year-old theater senior, said UF could do more to be accessible to transgender students, specifically with bathrooms and housing.
“We’re the flagship university of the state,” she said. “All Gators deserve the same treatment.”