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Colleges and bathrooms

Texas’ colleges and universities have not yet been affected by Dan Patrick’s potty obsession.

At the University of Houston, transgender students can enroll in voice feminization or masculinization clinics. At the University of Texas at Austin, students can write a simple letter to change how their gender is listed in school records. And many colleges in the state have maps on their websites showing the locations of dozens of on-campus gender-neutral bathrooms.

Across Texas and beyond, politicians have been arguing about who can use what bathroom, or how much legal protection transgender people need. But at most universities in Texas, the issue was decided before it became a national fight. Officials across the state have already adopted policies to make sure transgender students and staff are accommodated and comfortable.

Last month, the universities — like every education entity that receives federal funding — received a directive from the U.S. Department of Education saying transgender students should be allowed to use the restroom of the gender they identify with. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced that he would send his own letter to schools telling them to ignore those orders, and Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the federal government over the policy.

So far, however, the universities haven’t received much pressure. Patrick’s letter to Texas schools didn’t go to colleges or universities. And most universities say they see no need to re-evaluate their policies.


Josephine Tittsworth, a social worker who is transgender, began advocating for a non-discrimination policy at the University of Houston-Clear Lake shortly after she became a student in 2002. The effort involved lobbying the university president, its legal office and the student and faculty senates, she said.

“It took about three or four years before the university president agreed to sign on,” she said.

Soon, transgender students from other schools called seeking help changing their schools’ policies. Eventually, she helped create the Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit, which organizes a conference every year to help strategize for policy changes.

The group came up with a plan for students advocating for change at their schools, Tittsworth said. Advocates shouldn’t focus on lobbying university boards of regents, whose members are appointed by Republican governors and may be resistant to addressing issues for transgender students, they decided. Instead, they should push for changes during routine reviews of university policies, which are often handled by more sympathetic committees made up of faculty and staff.

On its website, the Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit lists 27 universities and community college systems that have adopted nondiscrimination policies. The number may actually be higher, Tittsworth said, since the group hasn’t reviewed the policies of every school.

You can see a list of colleges and universities and their inclusion policies here. I can’t imagine this will be off Dan Patrick’s radar for long, but one should note that some of these policies have been in place for years, and last I checked the Republic still stood. So you know, maybe we could hold off on the potty panic for a little while longer, at least until there’s even the tiniest bit of evidence to suggest that it may be warranted.

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