Fear has been Quinn Shreve’s constant partner for years.
The root of this fear lies in the University of North Georgia student’s sexual orientation and identifying as transgender and non-binary, which means not identifying as either male or female (and going by the pronouns “they” and “them” in reflection of that orientation).
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump reversed a directive that former president Barack Obama put in place to protect transgender students like Shreve. The directive specifically allowed transgender students in public schools to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, not their biological sex.
Shreve said restrooms are a major struggle, and isn't fully satisfied with the way the Obama administration dealt with the situation, either.
“Obama’s anti-discrimination law did provide some meager amount of comfort and support,” Shreve said.
Ivan Alexander, a gay cosmetologist who lives in Flowery Branch and owns his own salon, is frustrated it’s even an issue.
“First and foremost, we live in a first-world country. This should not be an issue,” Alexander said.
The 25-year-old said it’s baffling that the nation has allowed this to go on for so long.
“If we are the ultimate Christian nation, why do we set ourselves far apart from Jesus’ teachings? Let us love one another, accept one another for our differences,” he said.
Shreve didn’t feel loved or accepted for their differences, and still feared violence most days and in most places. The previous directive as least gave Shreve a legal standing if ever found in that situation.
“There’s no real laws in place stopping them from harassing me,” Shreve said. “These are real fears that I live with every day, and they are magnified under a Trump presidency.”
Faith Brown doesn’t personally face the fear of choosing the wrong bathroom but can sympathize with those who do.
“Where this action is really going to have an effect is in public schools where students face daily harassment, and now can’t even do something as simple as use the restroom in peace,” said Brown, a lesbian who lives in Oakwood.
At the university, Shreve hasn’t ever had a problem. In fact, Shreve said UNG has made efforts to install gender-neutral bathrooms.
“It would be a positive step in supporting the trans community and helping them feel safe,” Shreve said.
Sylvia Carson, director of communications for the school, confirmed the addition of bathrooms.
“UNG has assessed every building on all the campuses and, where we could structurally do so, we have created gender neutral restrooms,” Carson said. Some single-stall bathrooms were given new signs.
“Transgender people don’t want to have to worry about bathrooms when they have so many other things in college to worry about,” said Parker Jordan, president of the Gay Straight Alliance Club on the Dahlonega campus. “This repeal is only adding to a stigma that shouldn’t be a stigma to begin with.”
The sophomore said she doesn’t feel comfortable using the restroom since she doesn’t look quite female or male.
“I would love to have more bathrooms labeled as unisex throughout campus, but I appreciate the steps that the university has taken thus far,” Jordan said.
On the Gainesville campus, there are 17 bathrooms and five were converted. Dahlonega has 27 restrooms, and 11 were converted. Oconee’s four and Blue Ridge’s two were all that existed.
“To my knowledge, all changes have been made and signage is in place,” Carson said. “Moving forward, there is a commitment to providing gender neutral/family restrooms in all new buildings.”