Restroom controversy closes doors

By Hannah Lathen/managing editor

For NE student Ollie Tausch, his weekdays include waking up and feeding his dog and cats. He later goes to his part-time job and then comes home, does homework and goes to bed. 

In between, Tausch tries to fit in time for his friends and interests, which include reading comics and watching anime.

With his multi-colored hair and skater clothes, he lives a pretty average life on the outside trying to juggle school and work while taking care of his animals. Unlike average working students, though, Tausch has added stress that comes from simple tasks like talking to a new person or using a public restroom.

Tausch is a transgender female-to-male student.

At 13, Tausch started to realize he was different. He told his mom about it, but she assumed it was just a phase. His mother had a hard time with Tausch being transgender.

“My mom has really bad depression and anxiety, and she never learned to manage it,” he said. “She would always take it out on me because I am the youngest, and I was the only one living at home.”

Now at 20, Tausch is no longer living with his mother and started hormone treatments around two and a half months ago.

“I can see changes a little bit, like my voice has gotten a little bit deeper,” he said. “It is not far enough to where a lot of changes have happened, but it’s things like little bits of facial hair. Little stuff like that.”

He still does not look completely masculine, Tausch said, which makes it harder to talk to new people.

John Erler, dressed as Moses, holds signs at the state capitol March 7 as a committee debates and hears public testimony over Senate Bill 6.
Rose Baca/The Dallas Morning News/TNS

“Talking to people and having them automatically call me ‘she’ or ‘ma’am,’ it’s really stressful,” he said.

He has not had any particular problems at TCC, but there was a time in a sociology class when gender identity and sexual orientation were discussed and other students made snippy remarks.

If there is anything TCC could do to help, Tausch said the main things are to educate teachers and provide resources that could be more unisex or one-stalled bathrooms, or it could have a lot more safer spaces to go to.

In March, Senate Bill 6 passed through the state senate, which would force people to use restrooms that align with their “biological sex” in public facilities, including TCC.

Director of institutional diversity and inclusion Andrew Duffield wrote in an email that TCC has designated facilities to be used one at a time by a person of any gender.

“However, under no circumstances may a student be required to use separate facilities because they are transgender or gender-nonconforming,” he wrote.

Although TCC does not currently have any policies regarding restrooms, locker rooms or changing facilities, Duffield wrote, students still have access to restrooms that correlate with their gender identity.

“Students, including nonbinary students, should determine which facilities are consistent with their gender identity,” he wrote. “Any student who is uncomfortable using a shared gender-segregated facility, regardless of the reason, shall, upon the student’s request, be provided with a safe and non-stigmatizing alternative.”

Tausch said the bill leaves him angry and anxious. He said in high school he was scared of going to the restroom.

“I would call out sick if I had to go to the bathroom because it wasn’t worth the stress and the risks that came along with it,” he said. “I know from personal experience that if you are trans, you already have so much mental anguish on a day-to-day basis that having people outwardly tell you ‘You can’t do that’ makes it worse because you’re already fighting an internal battle with yourself.”

To this day, Tausch said he will not go to any bathroom unless it is unisex. He has friends on other campuses and schools who struggle with not knowing where they can and cannot go and where it is safe.

One of the main things they worry about is judgment, Tausch said.

“Will I be judged if I walk into this restroom looking how I look? Will somebody say something? What if they do something? Is it safe?” he said. “Sometimes you walk in there and it is fine, and then there are other times where people stare at you, and you know but you can’t do anything about it. We are all just there to pee, but there’s that mind game that goes on.”

With Trump as president, Tausch said one of his biggest concerns was the public thinking that being transphobic and homophobic is OK. Tausch recalled an incident where he feared for his life when someone tried to run him off the road for having a trans flag sticker on the back of his car.

Tausch said he had to park. The other driver “rolled down the window, and called me ‘tranny fag’ and then drove away and flipped me off,” he said. “That really scared me because they had followed me through my neighborhood for, like, 20 minutes. I took that down because I got really scared by that.”

Paula Ellis, vice president of Transcendence, a support organization for the transgender community, said with Trump now in office, there is a concern among many trans people considering Vice President Mike Pence signed a statewide anti-LGBT law while governor of Indiana.

“The most recent appointee that Trump named for the Office of Civil Rights into health and human services is a well-known and rabidly anti-LGBT person with ties to major LGBT organizations,” she said.

Tausch’s advice to those struggling with being transgender is to surround themselves with good friends and good groups of people.

Even all that he has gone through being trans and with all the hate surrounding the trans community, Tausch said he would still rather be out.

“I would rather die with who I am than live as someone I am not,” he said.