South Dakota -- Separate Is NOT Equal

02/19/2016 09:39 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017
Toronto International Airport, Ontario, Canada
Toronto International Airport, Ontario, Canada

"More than 40 years ago, the US Supreme court in Brown versus the Board of Education said very simply that separate is inherently unequal." Well, it seems we must learn that lesson once again hopefully for the last time.

I was outraged when I heard that South Dakota is one signature away from passing an anti-transgender bathroom bill for students. I realized that I needed to channel my rage and do what I do best to help make a difference and that is to write. I write to remind South Dakota residents that they are on the wrong side of history and that their ignorance must be stopped.

In 2012, Vice President Joe Biden called transgender rights "the civil rights issue of our time." South Dakota should be aware of just how true that statement truly is and how their proposed bill looks to set us back to times of segregation. I am reminded of a time when white people refused to share a bathroom with "colored" people as African Americans were called. They feared they would "catch it" or that "colored" people were "dirty" and couldn't be trusted. Thankfully that day is gone for good as I hope one day the bathroom debate will be for transgender children everywhere. The basic human right to pee in peace needs to end here. South Dakota residents should be aware of the strides transgender rights have made and continue to make.


In September 2012 New Hampshire showed South Dakota how it should be done. New Hampshire treated a 3rd grade transgender girl as she should treated as a girl. District superintendent Mark Conrad acknowledges, "The issues that public schools must often address mirror the broader issues in our society... It's our policy not to discriminate against any student, and that would include transgender students." The district has agreed to treat the girl "the same as all female students in every aspect," including using her female name in school records, and letting her use the girls' room. Furthermore, her transgender status is considered "confidential medical information" that can only be shared among "appropriate and necessary" staff. It'll be up to the child and her family to decide whether to reveal that she's transgender -- as it should be."

South Dakota take note that in 2013 the Colorado's Civil Rights Division in a landmark decision ruled in favor of a transgender girl using the restrooms that correspond with her gender identity. The strides kept coming when in 2014 Maine's highest court ruled in favor of a transgender girl who had been blocked from using the girl's restroom in school. It seems Vice President Biden was correct in his statement and I advise South Dakota residents to rethink their atrocious bill since we all know how this ends. All we need do is look at past civil rights movements to know the outcome of the transgender civil rights movement. We can look to the African American civil rights movement, the women's movement, the disabled Americans movement, to the gay rights movement to predict the transgender rights ending of success. Every single time in America's history when a minority is discriminated against and when the minority fights back the minority rightfully wins. We must start treating ALL people as equal in order to gain ultimate peace.


Gov. Daugaard admits when addressing whether or not he would sign the proposed bill; "I have not met a transgender person that I'm aware of." I am reminded of a To Kill a Mockingbird quote when hearing Gov. Daugaard's statement; "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." How can Gov. Daugaard in good conscience sign this bill without any notion of the discrimination transgender people face every day? I plead with Gov. Daugaard to do the right thing and veto this bill so South Dakota remains on the right side of history.

I ask South Dakota residents when you pass judgment on transgender students and their parents were you truly aware of what transgender children go through every day? Transgender children want to be able to use the bathroom they identify with but worry they will get in trouble with their school or worse bullied and hurt. If they use the nurses bathroom not only do they fear other kids teasing them it demoralizes them. It makes them feel as if they are freaks and don't belong in either bathroom.


My 17-year-old son is transgender. He and I took on the transgender bathroom battle 5 years ago with his school. I know this battle personally and I can tell you the torture it was for my son. One of my proudest moments was when my son said to a school official: "You call me he and say you feel I have courage and say you accept me as a boy BUT if you really did then you would allow me to use the boy's room. Since you don't your words don't mean anything and I don't trust you. When you won't allow me in the boy's room and force me to use the nurse's bathroom you make me feel like an "it" and that is discrimination."

I have heard hundreds and hundreds of stories like my sons. Thankfully, my son and I with the help of the NYCLU fought his school district and won the bathroom battle and his right to use the boy's room. He has used the boy's room now for 4 years without incident.

When discussing South Dakota's proposed discriminatory bill Senator Brock Greenfield states: "Do you feel it appropriate for a 13-year-old girl to be exposed to the anatomy of a boy," or for a boy to be exposed to the anatomy of a girl because of the decisions we make out here?" This statement makes me question just what kind of bathroom Senator Greenfield is using since I've certainly never been in a bathroom where genitals are exposed. It's also important to note that transgender children have not yet had gender reassignment surgery so the genitals they have are horrifying to them and certainly nothing they would ever wish to show off. Instead, it's about what all civil rights movements in the end are about: acceptance and human dignity.


Bathrooms should stay a place as they were meant for, a place to relieve ourselves nothing more and for transgender children being accepted in the bathroom they identify with is one of the biggest reliefs of all.

I wish to remind Gov. Daugaard when he decides on signing discriminatory Bill HB 1008 the Richard Dawkins quote; "Segregation has no place in the education system." Gov. Daugaard please help me show South Dakota once again that separate is not equal.

Mary J. Moss
(feisty single mom to a terrific 17-year-old boy who just happens to be transgender)
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Tweet me at @MsMaryMoss