As of Feb. 22, President Trump's administration has rescinded federal guidelines designed to protect transgender students at public schools. This action is a direct attack on transgender communities and transgender rights. While superficially this fight surrounds bathroom usage, we recognize that it is truly about a larger issue: the systematic denial of transgender individuals’ right to exist and participate in public spaces.
In the aftermath of House Bill 2, our university’s administration released a statement stating its commitment to "fostering an open, welcoming, inclusive community." The statement was one of comfort, but offered no concrete plans for a move towards genuine inclusivity, openness or welcoming. We hope that in light of this action, the incoming Price administration follows through on that commitment—particularly in the form of solidified plans for addressing discrimination, rather than more statements or task forces. In this particular instance, the fight for more gender neutral bathroom options on campus has never been more salient.
While the conversion of single-occupancy stalls on campus to gender neutral facilities has been inspiring, the inaccessibility of many of those facilities remains an issue. Many buildings on Science Dr. have no single-occupancy stalls, and therefore no gender neutral option. Even where those options exist, they are sometimes limiting by nature of their inconvenience. To that end, a commitment to more gender neutral multi-occupancy facilities (gender-neutral multi-occupancy bathrooms already exist on the third floor of West Union and at the Center for Documentary Studies) is one that needs to be pursued in greater earnest. We encourage the incoming Price administration to listen and respond to those spearheading this project, particularly the students working towards this on the behalf of their constituents within Duke Student Government and the involved administrative collaborators.
Queer activism would not exist without the labor and work of trans activists (particularly trans women of color), and it is as such now the duty of LGB and Q individuals to return that labor in kind by standing in solidarity for the rights of trans people and for the safety of trans youth. We implore our allies in particular to use their privilege to foster dialogue and promote safety in spaces that not include LGB and Q individuals. While the entire trans community is affected by this action, the direct target here is trans, queer, and intersex youth. We encourage all reading this to commit to advocating for their safety in tangible ways: donating to organizations that seek to protect the rights of trans students (within Durham, Bull City Schools United is taking on this work), listening and showing up for trans kids, and taking part in trans-inclusive training are all wonderful ways to start.
We at Blue Devils United envision a Duke where all members of our community feel safe regardless of their gender identity or expression. We hope that the larger Duke community will actively participate in the move to resist discrimination both here and internationally, and that the fight to protect trans, queer and intersex rights will be met with solidarity and love.
Blue Devils United Executive Board
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