Trans Activist on Why Fights Over Bathrooms Are Just the Beginning

Cherno Biko. (photo: Emma Parker)
Cherno Biko. (photo: Emma Parker)


Tessa Stuart | Rolling Stone | Reader Supported News | May 14, 2016

“There are so many causes that we have to champion. We can’t just pick one,” says Cherno Biko

herno Biko was forced to grapple with the grave consequences of even the most basic decisions early on in life. “I come from Ohio, which is one of the worst states for trans rights,” says Biko, co-founder of Black Trans Lives Matter. As a 15-year-old, “I went into the men’s restroom and I was beat up, and so I went into the women’s restroom and someone called the police on me and I was arrested.”

On Friday, the Departments of Education and Justice together released a set of guidelines intended to keep young trans men and women from being forced into a similar situation. The guidelines guarantee trans students equal access to sex-segregated facilities — the right to use the bathroom that suits their gender identity. The Human Rights campaign hailed the move as “groundbreaking,” but Biko is, largely, unimpressed.

“I fear that it’s just too little too late,” Biko, who uses the pronoun “they,” says.

Of course it should be a priority to protect equal access to bathrooms, they say, and to housing, and to employment opportunities — but no one should be congratulating themselves for taking a step that is, in the grand scheme of things, very, very small. “We have to confront a society that can murder 25 black trans women in the span of a year, not say anything about it, not care, and then when white folks can’t use the bathroom, that’s when President Obama gets involved,” Biko says.

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