Conservatives often claim that allowing transgender people (especially transgender women) access to the restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity endangers women and children by violating their privacy. More often, it’s the transgender person who is unsafe, particularly if the facility doesn’t provide them with privacy options, as one student at San Diego State University (SDSU) recently learned.
Graduate student A. T. Furuya identifies as transmasculine and has been transitioning over recent months. He recently started using the men’s locker room in SDSU’s Aztec Recreation Center (ARC) after his workouts. On January 14, another gym patron allegedly told him — while he was showering — “Get your titties and go across to the other locker room. That’s where the women are. And, if you don’t go, I’ll remove you myself.”
Thomas Negron, a witness to the threat, told LGBT Weekly that ARC staff refused to heed requests to call security, instead making apologies to the aggressor and asking both Furuya and Negron to leave the facility. Negron called security himself, but in the meantime, two other ARC staffers joined the first insisting that the victim and witness leave the locker room.
SDSU released an official statement reasserting the campus’s transgender-inclusive policies, confirming that Furuya “was allowed to be in the locker room” but denying Negron’s account, claiming Furuya “was not asked to leave the locker room by university or ARC staff.”
This, however, was not an isolated incident. In fact, Furuya had made campus officials aware of how unsafe he felt in the gym back in November. His simple request was for shower curtains in the men’s locker room, which only has unpartitioned shower stalls. “I have to drive to campus, work out, drive home in my sweaty clothes and drive back to campus,” he explained to Associated Students Executive Director Christina Brown in a November email. “This gym is inaccessible to trans folks. My body has gone through some major changes and showering in any of the locker rooms is not a safe space for me, especially after the reaction I got at the pool from students, and I wasn’t even completely naked.”
Brown replied in December that she would follow up on the status of shower curtains, but another month later, they were still not in place. Furuya remains vulnerable to harassment in the locker room because he is trans and because the school simply will not provide him the privacy he needs to be safe.
A 2010 study of the campus climate for LGBT students in higher education across the country found that trans students are almost twice as likely to experience harassment on campus than cisgender men and women, and over 80 percent of that harassment was because of their gender identity. LGBT students overwhelmingly reported pessimism about whether their schools would provide adequate resources or respond positively to their concerns.
In other words, conservatives are right that privacy is a concern in locker rooms and restrooms, but it’s because transgender people need to be both accommodated and protected so that they can fairly use the same facilities without the risk of threats or violence.