This university's transgender bathroom signs are on point.

Michigan Technological University's bathrooms signs are being widely shared for good reason.

With greater visibility and acceptance in society, LGBTQ+ communities have also faced greater scrutiny in certain areas, including where it's appropriate for people who are transgender to relieve themselves.

Most of us have been using bathrooms with transgender folks for our entire lives; we just haven't been aware of it. But thanks to widely publicized anti-trans "bathroom bills" that attempt to require people to use the bathroom designated for the genitalia they had at birth, the issue of who goes where has become a much bigger thing than it needs to be.


But signs at Michigan Technological University bring us back to the basics of decency, respect, and privacy, which is all any of us really want in our public peeing experiences.

The simplicity of the instructions highlight why the transgender bathroom debates are rather silly.

So much of the fuss over transgender people and bathroom use comes down to basic human decency.

First of all, it's incredibly rude to assume anything about anyone's genitalia, especially in a public restroom. I mean, really.

Secondly, some women can have a masculine appearance. Some men are quite feminine. That may be because they're transgender, or it may not be. There is zero way to know unless you want to cross some very clear boundary lines that no one has the right to cross.

Third, it's really no one's business what a stranger has in their pants unless they're doing something inappropriate, which would be a problem in a public restroom no matter what your gender or gender expression.

That's why these signs from MTU's Center for Diversity and Inclusion emphasize treating everyone in the bathroom with respect and dignity and then moving right along.

The signs read:

"DO YOU FEEL LIKE SOMEONE IS USING THE WRONG BATHROOM?

DON'T:

X Stare at them

X Challenge them

X Insult them

X Purposefully make them feel uncomfortable

DO:

> Respect their privacy

> Respect their identity

> Carry on with your day

Transgender and non-binary students—You have the right to be here:

- In this facility

- In this university

- In this community

- In this world.

We're all simply using the facilities we feel safe in. Please don't take this right away from anyone."

Connie Rice/Facebook

So simple, and yet so hard for some people to grasp.

But what about pedophiles? Yeah, no.  

Fears over people who are transgender using the bathroom that matches their gender have been proven over and over to be unfounded. The people most at risk in a bathroom transgender people are using are transgender people themselves.

But people still ask questions such as "What's to stop a pedophile man from using a women's bathroom and preying on girls if people can choose the bathroom they use?" That may sound logical to some, but the scenario doesn't make sense when you think about the way many transgender people physically present.

If someone has physically transitioned so that their body matches their gender, you often can't even tell that they're transgender. By forcing people to use the bathroom that matches their biological sex at birth, you'd be forcing transitioned men to use women's bathrooms (and vice versa). These are men with beards and pectoral muscles and broad shoulders—men you wouldn't be able to differentiate from non-transgender men. See the problem? If transitioned men have to use women's bathrooms, then any man easily could—without even going through the hassle of dressing like woman. Therefore, anti-trans bathroom laws would do exactly nothing to make it harder for male pedophiles to use a women's bathroom.

But the pedophile argument is a scapegoat anyway, and a rather offensive one at that. The truth is that pedophiles have plenty of ways to prey on kids without using public restrooms, and that issue is entirely separate from where transgender folks go to the bathroom. As the sign from MTU points out, all people who are transgender want is to use the bathroom where they feel safest, and they have the right to pee in peace just like everyone else.  

It would be great if everyone just used the basic public restroom etiquette that's always been there: mind your business, keep your eyes to yourself, and wash your hands when you're done. It's really that simple.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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