Thursday, February 28, 2013

A House Divided Again: Really Folks?

So the issue of the day on the PSR Facebook Community page is about making our bathrooms non-gendered in order to create a more fair and egalitarian access. This is a laudable goal, and I support the proposal 100% because it is the right thing to do.

As a person with twenty-plus years of experience with accessibility issues I pointed out that when we examine such issues we need to be clear on compliance with ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. If we ask PSR to spend funds on altering bathrooms then we are creating a legal liability if we do not address issues of access for people with physical limitations. And, ironically, we are much more likely to get the change we want if we approach it from the ADA perspective because ADA is very clear on these issues. This is an opportunity to create a win-win where both populations -- transgender folks and folks with disabilities -- have their needs met equally. And there is precedent for this at PSR itself: when the Chapel restroom was rebuilt a few years back, the result was a fully non-gendered restroom that is fully ADA-compliant. This is the most ideal solution for the "men's room" on the first floor of Holbrook.

So of course when I pointed this out I get shut down by people reminding me that the "original question of the post" was about transgender inclusion not the needs of people with disabilities. So, umh... which group is more equal?

Separate but equal is BULLSHIT.

When you are trying to affect change, don't piss on your allies. When someone steps up and says "hey, here's a way to do this that will meet everyone's needs" then listen and learn: coalition-building gets results. Putting one agenda forward at the expense of other groups does not engender mutual respect and it gives power to the inertia of the bourgeoisie. Put another way: we are stronger when we stand together for everyone's needs rather than cherry-picking which groups we are going to work for.

I was saddened to see that when I -- someone who has seen the results of successful coalition activism -- pointed out an opportunity to make a strong statement that will meet everyone's needs, naïve activists with less experience retreat into a corner of entitled self-interest rather than seeing the bigger picture on how win-win scenarios are stronger victories.

A house divided is not a good home.

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