By Diane Anderson-Minshall
Originally published on Advocate.com November 10 2011 2:50 PM ET
Two transgender high school students in Fort Collins, Colo., say they have been forbidden to use student restrooms, and one of them, 16-year-old Dionne Malikowski, just got suspended for doing so. Malikowski, a trans girl, and her friend Kurt Peters, also 16 and a trans guy, say they have been told to use the staff bathrooms at Fort Collins High School. But, Malikowski told reporters, “There’s not staff bathrooms all over the school, so when you really got to pee, you got to pee.”
That’s what she says happened about a month ago when she used the women’s restroom, reports W9 News in Colorado. And then she was suspended for three days.
“I cried,” Malikowski said. “I told them that it was really messed up for them to do that to me, and they were like, ‘We’ve warned you before,’ and I was just like, ‘Obviously you don’t understand what it’s like.’”
Bathrooms are the single most common public place where the gender binary is strictly enforced, reports the Transgender Law Center. Since public restrooms are a place where people who are or are perceived to be gender-nonconforming are routinely harassed and often assaulted, the topic of bathroom safety and access is all too common conversation in schools these days. The center has been running a Safe Bathrooms Access Campaign and published the groundbreaking guide called Peeing in Peace.
Another organization, Safe2Pee.org, offers a growing online database of public restrooms that transgender individuals can access safely. There are six listed in Fort Collins, but that doesn’t help campus-bound teens like Malikowski.
A double standard may also be at play in this case. Peters told reporters he had used the men’s restroom but only got a warning, not a suspension. “Since it was a first time offense, they let me go,” Peters said. “But I think it’s really stupid that Dionne got suspended and I didn’t. I should have got suspended if Dionne did.”
School officials refused to comment on the case, and W9 reports that Fort Collins’s Poudre School District has no “across-the-board policy for bathroom use by transgender students.”