On Tuesday, the SGA Senate approved Resolution 26-07 calling for a greater number of gender-neutral single-use restrooms in current and future campus buildings. The primary justification for this change, as the resolution makes clear, is inclusivity. The resolution’s proponents argue that the “gendering” of restrooms presents an impossibly exclusive environment for transgender students. (Or more broadly, GNC students — “Gender Non-Conforming”.)
As an issue of policy, the resolution is daft. Best estimates indicate that roughly 0.3 percent of Americans identify as “transgender.” To do the math, if we assume there are 35,000 students enrolled at UGA, it is reasonable to assume there are barely 100 transgender students at UGA, and possibly a great deal fewer. UGA already offers several dozen single-use restrooms, with no reference to gender, all over campus. The necessity of the bill is not well demonstrated, which the bill’s authors attempt to address by providing additional, ancillary justifications for the policy change: that gender-neutral restrooms are useful for breastfeeding mothers and parents with small children. But even then, this litany of supposed inadequacies does not seem to constitute a pressing policy need, much less a need that threatens the University’s commitment to inclusivity — which in another age was called “politeness.”
More important than the bill’s policy ramifications, which are minor, the push for gender-neutral bathrooms gives us valuable insight into the broader pathology afflicting SGA.
Reports from the Senate meeting indicate that the proceedings were indecorous, with voice votes turning into shouting matches; upon their victory, the resolution’s supporters celebrated raucously. Given the bill’s meager substance — the proposed addition of a handful of single-use restrooms —, this seems a disproportionate response. After all, the resolution accomplishes exactly nothing without the support of administration.
So what could be the deeper motivation behind this bill? Why, the activist wing of SGA was merely proving its activist bona fides to itself and, we suppose, to the world. Any opportunity to burnish these credentials must be seized, to the detriment of more important, and truly more unifying, issues. The “Voice of Every Dawg,” it seems, is more focused on personal résumé-building and myopic politicking than on representing the student body. ThinkProgress and Lambda Legal, from which half of the bill’s citations are drawn, do not represent the UGA population.
It is apparent that many in SGA feel a need to be part of what they see as a centuries-spanning, Manichean struggle for equality and progress. If there were no dragons to slay, they would lose a deeply-felt sense of purpose — indeed, of identity. To admit that UGA is a welcoming and inclusive place already would be a blow to the entire premise. And so, grown men and women cheer a proposal to encourage the future, indeterminate installation of restrooms.
It is our hope that there are senators in SGA who feel discontent with the current state of affairs, and that they make their voices heard. Otherwise, what could be a valuable student platform will continue to be hijacked by those seeking personal validation from politics — and by those padding their applications to trendy think tanks.