Rainbow Alliance Scores Early Victory in Battle Over University of Pittsburgh’s Gendered Facilities Policy

The first volley in a challenge to the University of Pittsburgh’s gendered facilities policy was resolved in the challengers’ favor last week, when the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations denied the University’s motion to dismiss a gender discrimination complaint filed by the Rainbow Alliance, a student group represented by the Women’s Law Project and Drexel University Professor David S. Cohen. As a result of this ruling, Rainbow Alliance’s case against the University will move forward.

Rainbow Alliance filed its discrimination complaint in April 2012, after University officials announced that students and faculty would be permitted to use only those bathrooms and other gender-specific campus facilities that correspond to the gender on the user’s birth certificate. This policy has had a particularly harsh impact on transgender students and faculty, as well as people whose gender expression does not conform to traditional gender roles.

Transgender people who don’t want to run afoul of this policy must travel with their birth certificate within easy reach and be prepared to produce it if challenged at the bathroom door. Moreover, changing the sex designation on one’s birth certificate can be a difficult, expensive and time-consuming process for transgender people; and in some jurisdictions, it is impossible.  For anyone without a corrected birth certificate, the choices are grim: violate the policy and risk the consequences; go off campus to search for a restroom; or endure the humiliation and harassment involved with using a restroom reserved for the opposite gender.

To bar transgender people from bathroom facilities is to bar them from full participation in the University community. Congratulations to Rainbow Alliance for challenging this policy!

For more information about the Women’s Law Project in fighting against gender discrimination and LGBT rights, please visit our web site.

About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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4 Responses to Rainbow Alliance Scores Early Victory in Battle Over University of Pittsburgh’s Gendered Facilities Policy

  1. Another issue that is missed in this complaint: As a major research university, UP draws many foreign-born professors, scholars and students. In the majority of foreign countries birth certificates cannot be changed — or in some countries such as Japan, birth certificates do not even exist as an official document. In addition it is more likely that those documents are in non-English languages. The UP administrators perhaps unintentionally created a very anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner policy here, as neither passport nor naturalization certificate is mentioned in lieu of birth certificate.

  2. ehungerford says:

    This is a gravely inaccurate assessment of the problems this issue raises for women. Trans gender and gender non-conforming people are NOT being barred from bathroom use. They are expected to use the bathroom that corresponds with their genito-urinal systems (shorthand for “sex”). This is not unreasonable; sex and gender do not mean the same thing. Bathrooms are SEX segregated. Non-feminine women, particularly butch lesbians, have been dealing with gender non-conformity in the bathroom for decades! They are still female and still women: many of them still have need for sanitary disposal boxes in bathroom stalls, and they have zero use for urinals because they do not stand to pee. Sex and gender are different.

    Further, there is NO “gender” designation on any birth certificate! It reads SEX. The legal connection between sex and gender such that “gender” is a acceptable substitute for sex without attendant surgical modifications to genito-urinary tracts has NOT been established. Redefining “sex” as one’s personal identification with pre-existing stereotypical characteristics that we currently associate with females or “women ”– ostensibly as a means of protecting trans* people– is incredibly harmful to the rest of the world’s women.

    The idea that gender should define (or can change) sex is shockingly conservative and far cry from any sort of “victory.” Compliance with feminine stereotypes and sex-roles is NOT what constitutes being a woman! Policies and laws that allow gender to override sex because “…there are traits, manners of expression, or modes of appearance that are inconsistent or consistent with one’s biological sex“ is a violation of the human rights of women.

  3. Pingback: Pittsburgh, PA (USA) « Gender Identity Watch

  4. bugbrennan says:

    This is a terrible result for women who do not wish to share facilities with male-bodied people (also called “men.”) It’s a shame that this is what now counts as a victory for “Gay Rights.”

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