Community should understand differences in sexual identity

The Nov. 6 issue of The Flor-Ala included an article about SGA Senate’s expressed intentions to bring a resolution urging the university to implement gender-neutral bathrooms. Contrary to a published social media comment, nowhere in the article did it say senators would pass the legislation — only it would likely be presented for discussion and voting.

As news editor, I love nothing more than seeing our stories spark discussion and debate among members of the UNA and Florence communities. The purpose of news is to suggest topics to think about — not what to think about the topics. And that is exactly what we did.

But, the discussion about having these bathroom options on campus quickly became reprehensible. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and The First Amendment guarantees the right to share those opinions. However, sharing them in a way that is blatantly demeaning and degrading of others is distasteful and, in my opinion, appalling.

While some people may not think gender-neutral bathrooms are a good idea, at least one student was compelled to bring the idea to SGA senators, the chosen representatives of students.

This student was humiliated, harassed, threatened and verbally assaulted based on the decision to use the women’s restroom. Born in a woman’s body, he does not dress the way our society seems to think a woman should, rather identifies as a male because that is his gender.

Society constantly tries to dictate how people should act, look, think, feel and dress based on gender, race, nationality and other obligatory factors. Who has the right to decide how a woman, man, white person, African American person or transgender person should act? No one has the right to tell anyone what he or she can or cannot be. And, no one has the right to force his or her opinion of “normal” on others.

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I do not know what world this commenter is living in, but I do not recall anyone making her the authority on defining “normal.”

As a heterosexual, cisgendered female, I also do not understand what transgender people go through on a daily basis. But, no matter what I think about the implementation of gender-neutral bathrooms, I respect my fellow students as human beings. Being degrading toward the people one does not agree with will not carry a person far in life.

If a student or community member thinks gender-neutral bathrooms are a bad idea, he or she should gather reliable research as proof and submit it to SGA.

Senators should study the concerns students have raised. If it is suggested sexual assaults will increase, leaders should find out. It is the job of elected representatives to do what is best for their constituencies.

That does not always mean doing what the majority thinks is best. Being a leader means making tough decisions. Being a leader means knowing what is best for the people in the face of wrong. Being a leader means setting aside personal beliefs and biases to make a decision based on what is most pertinent.

Before any decision is made regarding gender-neutral bathrooms, SGA members must educate themselves and campus about the subject. All people involved in the discussion should be considerate and compassionate, regardless of their opinions.