The fight for equality did not end with the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in June 2015. It is a relatively unknown fact that the gay rights aspect of the civil rights movement started at the hands of a few proud and courageous transgendered individuals in what became known as the Stonewall Riots in New York City. Without these passionate activists, namely Marsha P. Johnson and Silvia Rivera, the freedom to marry movement would not have been accomplished with the vigor it had been nor would LGBTQ individuals enjoy the many rights they do today. Simply, those individuals who put marriage equality on the map have had to accept compromise in the place of representation while allied activists concentrated their efforts elsewhere. Rather than focuses on policies that included protections for all individuals that label themselves as LGBTQ, the conversation has been dominated by the fight to recognize marriage equality. Transgender persons should not have to wait on the sidelines while others reap the rewards of our collective efforts.
As we began our first year as co-presidents of OUTLaw, our main focus was to correct that error. With The John Marshall Law School recently being named one of only eight LGBT friendly law schools by the ABA, OUTLaw is committed to promote an atmosphere of inclusiveness and friendliness of all individuals through our mission statement. Our mission is to bring together students within both the JMLS student body and the greater Chicago area in the bounds of fellowship, scholarship, and community. We hope to strengthen those students within our group to achieve a higher level of success academically and personally while ensuring that they are treated fairly as an LGBTQ student. In the prior years, we have hosted events that followed the road to the marriage decision and also specific instances of discrimination against homosexual professionals in the workplace. However, this year we knew that we need to have more of a focus on our Transgender and Queer individuals to truly be an inclusive group. Installing all gender restroom signs was an obvious agenda that will no doubt help us in achieving this continued objective. All gender restrooms, while perhaps unimportant to most, is a little gesture that shows the big commitment JMLS has to its LBGTQ students.
Before the 2014-2015 school year began we met with Troy Riddle, who is the Director of Diversity Affairs and Outreach. We expressed our desire to install all gender restroom signs in order to show our commitment to diversity within the John Marshall Law School. Immediately, Troy was excited to assist us in achieving our goal and directed us to Dean Niedwiecki. Having realized the importance of having all gender restroom signs, Dean Niedwiecki entrusted us to find restroom signs while he recruited support and discussed the suggested changes with the proper individuals at The John Marshall Law School. It was later determined that the school was willing to modify four handicap restrooms to both handicap and all gender restrooms.
After locating several businesses that manufacture signage, we discovered MyDoorSigns.com. The company was particularly appealing to us because MyDoorSigns.com shares OUTLaw’s belief of inclusiveness and was offering gender-neutral signs to college campuses at no charge. We contacted the company and our request for signage was happily granted. OUTLaw then coordinated with the property manager of The John Marshall Law School to install the all gender restroom signs in the previously approved locations; one restroom in 19 W. Jackson, one in 315 S. Plymouth, and two in 304 S. State.
The fight for a genderless restroom, luckily and unsurprisingly, was no fight at all. The idea was welcomed with open arms and excited with deliberate speed from the faculty. However, this was not consistent amongst all the student body. Questions of ‘why’ and ‘who really cares’ could be heard from some, but this only goes to the point of its need; just because some students do not see a need does not mean the need does not exist. Though this project may have helped many at our school, or as little as one individual, its continued presence at The John Marshall law School will help the campus be more inclusive for generations to come.
By Mark Grotto and Sean Varsho, OUTLaw co-presidents