Karla: Are you sitting down? (Figuratively, I mean.) Under federal policy, Barbara is using the “gender-appropriate bathroom.”
“I know this question well,” says Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (www.transequality.org). “We built a secret lab at the NCTE; we’re trying to invent a transgender person who doesn’t have to use the bathroom.” It’s a question that the California legislatureand the Colorado civil rights agency recently resolved in favor of transgender students. Meanwhile, a U.S. Senate committee recently passed a bill protecting transgender workers, along with gays and lesbians, from workplace discrimination.
In your federal workplace, your office should be following the guidelines set by the Office of Personnel Management (www.opm.gov): “Once [a transgender worker] has begun living and working full-time in the gender that reflects his or her gender identity, agencies should allow access to restrooms ... consistent with his or her gender identity.” Barbara is not Tootsie or Bugs Bunny or any other caricature of a male in drag trying to game the system; she is, in all respects relevant to her co-workers, a woman.
That’s true regardless of whether she goes under the knife; OPM adds that transitioning workers do not have to undergo surgery to gain access to the men’s or women’s room.
You seem comfortable referring to “Barbara” and “she/her” — kudos for that — so it’s not clear to me what she’s done to bring you to “wits’ end.” If it’s simply that some folks just can’t get past sharing a bathroom with her ... well, I understand there’s a private toilet at your office up for grabs.
Thanks to Elaine Fitch of Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch.
Karla L. Miller is ready to hear your work dramas and traumas. Send your questions to
firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find her on Twitter,
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