This week, the Redmond Library is taking on a nationally debated issue.
As part of the King County Library System’s (KCLS) “Everyone’s Talking About It” series, the library will hold “Bathroom Politics: Restroom Access for Transgender People,” a discussion whose goal is to answer questions and address some of the concerns people may have regarding transgender individuals and their rights and access to restrooms and locker rooms in public and private places such as schools, restaurants and workplaces.
Thursday’s discussion will begin at 7 p.m. at the Redmond Library (15990 N.E. 85th St.) and feature speaker Aidan Key, founder of Gender Diversity in Seattle, an organization that offers support to families with transgender children.
The organization’s services include in-person and virtual support groups for families, with the in-person groups meeting in locations from Bellingham to Tacoma. Gender Diversity also offers trainings for schools and school districts in Washington and around the country, helping them navigate the questions and concerns that come with supporting transgender children. Key said they also hold annual national conventions at the Washington State Convention Center — Gender Odyssey Professional for professionals such as doctors, social workers and educators and Gender Odyssey Family for families — in August.
“There are very few organizations out there offering these services,” he said.
Key said KCLS approached him to see if he would be interested in speaking at the Redmond Library.
Jeff Kempe, adult services coordinator for KCLS, said last fall, Key presented “Gender Diversity: Understanding Transgender Children and Teens” in several libraries throughout the system. The programs were well received so KCLS asked Key to return.
“Over the past few months, the media has covered many stories dealing with restroom access for transgender people in other states and we thought that following up on some of the successful programs we offered last year, it would be great to host Aidan for a program in KCLS that would give people a chance to explore the issue locally,” Kempe said.
According to the KCLS website, there is a state law in effect that guarantees access for transgender people to restrooms and locker rooms in public and private places. This law provides peace of mind for some and discomfort among others and has ignited a debate in the community.
While the law has been in existence for about 10 years, Key said one of the reasons this debate has become so controversial is because there is a more visible presence of transgender people than there used to be. Things are more concrete now as people can connect the term transgender to real people, with real names and real lives.
“It brings up a lot of questions we haven’t asked ourselves before,” Key said.
Some of those questions include how to ensure the safety of transgender people.
Key also acknowledged some people’s concerns that sexual predators could use the protections law to their advantage to prey on girls and women. He said there is an effort to get an initiative on the November ballot that would require people to choose the restroom that matches their anatomy.
This in turn, equates sexual predators with the transgender community, which Key said is inaccurate.
“There’s no foundation under that (fear),” he said. “Don’t scapegoat transgender pepole.”
Key also noted that in the 10 years since the law that protects transgender people from discrimination has been in place, there has been no evidence it has led to dangerous restroom environments.
“This argument is meant to confuse and divert,” Key said. “It’s just not right.”
He also pointed out that if people are going to talk about girls and women being targets of sexual assault, they also need to talk about boys and men being targeted, as well.
In discussing the topic, Key did not dismiss the fear people may feel. He said it is human nature for people to feel fear if they see someone in the restroom who they do not expect and to equate the situation as a threat.
“That’s the conversation,” Key said about what they will discuss at Thursday’s event.
Kempe said “Everyone’s Talking About It” is “a conversational, engaging and thought-provoking series that connects people to topics of local, regional and national interest. Whether initiatives on the ballot, social issues or programs dealing with popular culture and other trending topics, there are programs, classes and activities to pique everyone’s interest and curiosity.”
“Bathroom Politics: Restroom Access for Transgender People,” he said, is a good example of a program they sought out in response to media coverage and local interest.