Abigail Ruhman is a freshman journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life, politics and social issues for The Maneater.
This column is part 11 of Abigail Ruhman’s “Twelve Gays of Christmas” series. Twelve Gays of Christmas is a twelve-column series about a variety of LGBTQ topics. During the holidays, members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to experience depression. By informing readers of the issues facing the LGBTQ community, these columns are meant to support the community this holiday season.
At the end of the Pledge of Allegiance, the words “freedom and justice for all” ring out. They act as a reminder that Americans have freedom and autonomy built into the governing documents, but in practice this concept tends to fail.
One of the groups that experience this failure firsthand is the gender-nonconforming community. While there are many challenges the gender-nonconforming community faces, some are a result of the U.S. government refusing to recognize the legal justifications that the community has.
Finding validation is harder for gender-nonconforming individuals due to the small letter that indicates someone’s gender on official government documents. The good news is that many states and cities are starting to change this.
There are currently four states and two cities that allow people to switch the letter next to gender to an “X,” rather than the standard “F” or “M” on certain identification cards or licences. However, without this becoming an option on a national level, it is only going to cause confusion on identification documents.
In order to provide freedom to gender-nonconforming individuals, the U.S. needs to provide this option to individuals across the nation on all official documents. While it may seem like a small step, allowing a third option on everything from passports to driver’s licenses, could help create a culture of acceptance.
The act of adding a third option for identification documents not only supports gender nonconforming, it also helps to show other nations that have discriminated against the LGBTQ community, such as Russia, that people are allowed to identify this way.
The U.S. government has no right to define which gender identities are valid, especially in a nation that prides itself on individual freedoms. As the nation that is “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” why does the government get to decide who gets access to those freedoms?
With the separation of church and state, as well as scientific data that supports the existence of more than two gender identities, there isn’t exactly a reason that the U.S. has yet to supply this option to every American.
The main source of debate is the bathroom. The logic is that if someone can legally change their gender identity on their identification, what’s stopping them from using whichever bathroom they want? What’s stopping them from doing something bad to someone else in the bathroom?
The assumptions that fall behind these types of statements fail to recognize reality. The number of times that a transgender or gender nonconforming individual has attempted to attack a cisgender person in a bathroom is a giant zero, according to Mic.
That’s right — there hasn’t been a case that showed a transgender or gender nonconforming individual wanted to cause harm. Only one man has cited the anti-discrimination laws as a reason for changing in the middle of a women’s restroom, which he did as a form of protest against bathroom rights. Gender-nonconforming individuals simply want to pee without having to invalidate their own gender identity.
The idea of a gender specific bathroom is actually a rather recent one, and it was due to an influx of women in the workplace. By 1920, most states required workplaces to have two bathrooms, one for men and one for women. As time passed, states started to require two separate facilities for men and women. Soon, regulations made it practically illegal for businesses to have gender neutral bathrooms.
The gender nonconforming community isn’t the only group looking for gender neutral bathrooms. Parents of younger opposite-sex children and caregivers have asked for very similar facilities.
While legislators use bathrooms as a reason to not allow a gender neutral marking on identification documents, their arguments tend to ignore the truth surrounding the community. They are simply asking for respect and a chance to have the same rights as the rest of America, and that shouldn’t be too much to ask for.
As moral, scientific and political arguments tend to point in favor of supporting gender nonconforming individuals, it is time for America to implement a national system that offers a gender neutral option. By refusing to do so, the freedom that America is so proud of crumbles under the weight of yet another injustice. It is time for the U.S. to provide freedom and justice to all — not just some.