Georgia takes the heat in gender neutral restroom controversy

By: Nadia Pressley

National media has recently had a lot to say about gay and transgender individuals. The controversy over House Bill 2 (otherwise known as HB2), which banned residents of North Carolina from using any restroom that does not correspond with their biological sex received numerous reactions, both positive and negative. Ultimately, the argument over transgender people and their right to have access to the public restroom of their choosing has led to what looks to be the beginning of a gender revolution, and Georgia is currently at the forefront of this revolution.

About two months ago, Georgia’s very own Athens received its 15 minutes of fame when a local Kroger’s bathroom sign went viral. The bathroom room sign read “unisex” and was accompanied by a note that explained the reasoning behind the new gender-neutral restrooms.

“I think it’s super cool that they did do that because I think it is important to normalize trans issues or non-binary issues in society,” said Mariah Manoylov, the director of outreach and advocacy of the Lambda Alliance at the University of Georgia. The alliance works to provide an influential voice for the LGBTQ+ community on campus.

Georgia also experienced time in the limelight this year, when House Bill 757 proposed a law that would allow businesses to deny services to the LGBTQ+ community to preserve their “religious freedom.” There was national outrage; even companies such as Disney, the NFL and Coca Cola threatened to cut off business relations with Georgia if the bill was passed. Although Gov. Nathan Deal did veto the bill, it sparked national conversation about the direction in which this revolution was headed.

“I’m so glad it got vetoed but the fact that it was brought up and that it did, I believe, go all the way up to the senate, the fact that there was so much support for that was scary,” said Manoylov. “It would be scary to live in a world, or at least in a city, where people could just simply be discriminated against because of love, the way they love.”

Nathan Deal’s bill sparked Kroger’s bathroom transformation, which has inspired the revolution to spread to college campuses, including UGA. Many universities across the state, including UGA, are making strides to provide facilities for trans students. Manoylov knows for a fact that UGA does have gender-neutral restrooms located in Tate Student Center, she says.

“I think for Lambda we have an importance of gender neutral bathrooms and gender-neutral housing has been discussed as well,” said Manoylov. “I think one meeting was just about gender neutral facilities. I think it is something that is important and it is a way for a safe place to be available for every student on campus. They do need that facility, it should be an option.”