Introduction to My Website

 

For whomever is viewing my site, welcome. The purpose of this post is to try and explain why a number of these posts exist. The posts that are categorized as “Reading Analyses” are there as smaller exercises that were given throughout the semester to help myself and my classmates to think rhetorically. These were exercises to help us with our “Built Environment Descriptions” which supplement our final “Built Environment Analysis.” The Descriptions are three parts, and comprise of me analyzing different aspects of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. Through my digging, I was able to find several differences in the physical representation of the Police Department versus the Department’s website. The Final Analysis is the fruit of my discoveries. Hopefully the information found within the site interests you; I guarantee you’ll walk away from it thinking a little more about the world around you.

Juxtaposition of Digital and Physical Spaces: An analysis of the Metropolitan Police Department Headquarters and its Website

During the time I spent looking into the Metropolitan Police Department, I found myself immersed in two different narratives. One was written by the people in which it serves, the District government headed by Muriel Bowser, the city’s mayor. The other one was written by myself, an American University Freshman from a small town in Utah.  The narrative written by the District is one of great detail. It paints a picture of positivity and order; a picture that would make the community it serves proud. Everything from a written history of the Police Department to information regarding countless details of Police affairs in the city is but a small piece of the digital puzzle created by the Department. Everything from the meticulous neatness of the lists and links demonstrated in the website to the name of the building itself shows a proud, noble, organized police force. From what I saw of the Metropolitan Police Department was far from impressive, noble, and organized.

The District has had hundreds of years to build the narrative of the police force. The Metropolitan Police began in one form in 1790, when Maryland and Virginia sent officers to patrol the land they called the “Federal City.” It was a disorganized force, consisting of officers from surrounding communities in both states. This system was kept in place for 10 years until a charter granted the District the ability to have its own officers. This centralization of power is where the organization began, even though there were only a total of 16 officers in this police force. The Metropolitan Police Department that is part of our public sphere today was born on August 6th, 1861 under President Abraham Lincoln.

Residing on 300 Indiana Avenue NW in the heart of Judiciary Square, the Headquarters sits amongst the D.C. Federal Court, Veterans Affairs, and several other federal buildings, and it is comfortably close to Pennsylvania Avenue and the Capitol Building, which the Headquarters would respond to in an emergency. It sits between 4th and 6th streets, which are both screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-11-18-48-pmlined with street vendors, restaurants, commercial, and the occasional residential buildings. The area enjoys a minimal crime rate, possibly due to the proximity to the Police Department. Part of the Department’s mission is “protecting the community.” This community used to be much smaller, and was very manageable with one department. But like all cities, it expanded, and the city was divided into 7 different police districts. According to the information found on the MPDC website, the Capitol, Headquarters, and surrounding area are in District 1. American University is in District 2, and this trend of suburban or affluent neighborhoods continues until we reach the 4th District, which has the first mention of a housing projects, which are generally associated with lower income citizens.

It seems the higher the number of the district, the more there seems to be a focus on crime. Up until the 5th district, there was no mention of  criminal activity. The appointment of William Fitzgerald to the chair of 5th District Commander is interesting, considering his oversight of all seven district detective units under the “Criminal Intelligence Division.” Is this an implication that there is a significant amount of crime in this area?  While the messages that were on the site from each respective District Commander were still positive, the ones further away from the Capitol mentioned the presence of housing projects and attempts to reduce crime. This is on the Police Department’s website, so this is a rather propagandized way of saying that there is a noticeable problem with crime in the Southeast parts of DC, one example being the troubled Anacostia, which is in the 7th (and last) police district. The Police use very specific language on their website to downplay the severity of crime situation in the area.

Even the Headquarters’ name is directly linked to a crime that took place in the city. The Metropolitan Police Headquarters, or Henry J. Daly building, is named after an MPDC officer that was killed in a November 22 shooting in 1994 along with two FBI Special Agents Martha Dixon-Martinez and Michael John Miller. The shooting took place in the building, which then had little to no security. Still, the Police Department wants to maintain its proud history, naming its building after a tragedy but instead focusing on the officer that died nobly in the line of duty, instead of the fact that he is dead because of an alarming lack of security measures. Bronze statues of eagles are perched on either side of the entrance, high above the concrete barriers that rest near the street in front of the granite building. While I could gather no information as to why the barriers are there, it may be the same reason why cars cannot park or drive directly in front of the White House anymore; The Oklahoma City bombing made major changes in security measures across the country, just like the shooting did for the Department. The absence of security in the building  has since been addressed by the installation of metal detectors into the building.mpd-facilitieselement223

My journey inside the Metropolitan Police Department left me thoroughly unimpressed. I was met with a dimly lit atrium, empty aside from myself and the two security guards who seemed to be annoyed that I had interrupted their conversation. While there were barriers, stanchions, and metal detectors blocking my path, the gigantic atrium felt vacant. After my easy passage through the security measures and brief but thorough interrogation by one of the guards, I was told I had access to only the first two floors. While I think this may have been a mistake on the guard’s part –a sign near the elevator said civilians had access to the first three floors– I followed my blunt instructions. All that I found on the first floor of the building were empty hallways filled with maintenance closets, utility closets, bathrooms, and hearing rooms. I understand the guard’s suspicion and reluctance to let me look around, because I couldn’t give him a straight answer as to why I was there besides I was working on a project for American University. I certainly wasn’t about to outright ask, “Where did the shooting happen?”

The real efficacy of the Metropolitan Police Department comes from their website, which is found under “Public Services” on the District’s site along with Homeland Security, Fire Safety, and the Emergency and Safety Alliance. As it was previously mentioned, the MPDC website is expansive, screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-12-51-07-pmconnecting the citizens of the District to whatever resources that they deem necessary or helpful including information on hotlines, tip lines, the filing of police reports, registering a firearm or registering as a sex offender, event permits, and much more. All of this information is under the “Services” tab alone.

It is clear to me that the Police want to use the site as a community building tool. There are links to Community affairs, youth outreach, and liaison units that help underrepresented groups within the districts like LGBT community members, Asian community members, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing. These are just a few of the options provided by the site. Once visited, each link has more information on each group, which then lead to more links and more information. The amount of information the people who built the site incorporated is amazing. You can dig so deep into the links that I would argue that there are some that many people have never visited. There are also several ways the site benefits the Police Department outside of community building as well. There is a tab named “Get Involved!” on the site, which has several links on how to file a complaint, get a job with the Metropolitan Police Department, volunteer, or how to get involved with Neighborhood watch. If people become more active in their communities by helping police officers, either by volunteering or even becoming law enforcement, they can improve conditions within the city and make the Department’s job that much easier.

While the MPDC website has an impressive amount of detail, the applied use of this information and staying in contact with the community is less than satisfactory. Riverdale City Police Department in my home town in Utah uses Facebook as a tool connecting the department to the community, while the MPDC only uses their Twitter as a live news update of sorts, only posting about crimes in the area. Granted, it isn’t fair to compare the affairs of a police department in a major metropolitan area to a smaller commercial town in Utah, but my point remains the same: even the MPDC social media has no personality.

The District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department has thousands of officers at its disposal, and is not much different than most other law enforcement in major cities across the country. The Department has done well to keep crime away from the Capitol, but on the fringes of the city crime is still rampant. MPDC has built an army of links and information to convince the people of the District that they are strong and organized. The point of this analysis isn’t to claim that the Metropolitan Police Department is impotent or ineffective, but to say that if the Department applied the same effort to their website that they did to treating their officers with respect and making sure they are well-trained and happy, they might be more effective fighting crime in areas like Anacostia.

Annotated Bibliography

Brief History of the MPDC.” Metropolitan Police Department, Accessed 5 October 2016.

  • This article discusses the beginnings of the Metropolitan Police Department, including information on how Maryland and Virginia ceded land to created Washington D.C.. I’m using this primarily as a background source so readers can get an understanding on where the Department came from and why it was created.

Chen, Jackson. “2 FBI Agents, Detective Killed in D.C. Shooting.Los Angeles Times, 23 November 1994, Accessed 16 October 2016.

  • Article from 1994 detailing the shooting at the Metropolitan Police Department HQ involving the perpetrator, two FBI Special Agents and an MPDC detective. I wanted to use this because it is from the time of the shooting so readers could get an idea of what it was like during that period of time.

Get Involved!Metropolitan Police Department, Accessed 4 December 2016.

  • This is a link to a very specific part of the Metropolitan Police Department website. It includes links to career opportunities, joining the Metropolitan Police Department, volunteer opportunities for citizens, tip hotlines, and several other resources that I wanted to connect to the Department trying to created a community connection.

Metropolitan Police Department.Metropolitan Police Department, Accessed 4 December 2016.

  • This is a link to the Metropolitan Police Department’s home page for their website. My point in showing this was demonstrate how expansive and involved the MPDC website is. It has numerous links to whatever information the user might find useful, including how to report a crime, register a firearm, and become a part of the Metropolitan Police Department.

Security and Policies.Smithsonian, Accessed 25 November 2016.

  • This is a link to a Smithsonian page on their website detailing their security protocols to get into their building. The reason I’m including this is because the security system to the Smithsonian is very similar to the security system when you first walk into the Metropolitan Police Department.

Street in front of the White House closed to traffic.History, 1995, Accessed 5 December 2016.

  • This page specifies how events like the Oklahoma City Bombing may have influenced the decision to not allow cars to park (or even pass) in front of the White House anymore. While there is still a driveable road directly in front of the Metropolitan Police Department, I used this as speculation as to why there are large concrete barriers in front of the building.

Honoring the Fallen.fbi.gov. N.p., 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.

  • This is another article discussing the 1994 shooting of FBI Special Agents Michael J. Miller, Martha Dixon-Martinez,  and Metropolitan PD Detective Henry J. Daly. It’s worth noting that the name of Daly is wrong in this article. They call him Joseph Daly. The point of this is to give a retrospective background of the shooting.

Law Enforcement Commemorates 20th Anniversary of Deadly Shooting.fbi.gov. N.p., 19 Nov. 2014. Web.

  • Brief article regarding the shooting of Henry Daly and two FBI Agents. It also talks about the shooter who is referred to as Bennie Lee Lawson in this article. It gives details on the events as they transpired and the weapon Lawson used, but I did not need these for the purpose of my paper.

Police Districts and Police Service Areas.” N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2016.

  • Details what parts of the district are divided into which precincts. I wanted to use this to demonstrate that the district may have possibly been divided by crime rates. I don’t have enough evidence to prove this, but I discuss the language used by District commanders in each of the respective seven District’s and how the ones further from 1 (5, 6, and 7) have more references to crime and the presence of public housing.

Police Headquarters.” N.p., n.d. Web.

  • Description of the Police HQ building, or the Henry J. Daly building named after the MPDC detective killed during the shooting on November 22, 1994. It also describes a number of services provided in the building, including obtaining clearances, sex offender registration, and firearms registration. The building also houses a DMV branch, parole, and probation offices.

Deeben, John B. “To Protect and Serve: The Records of the D.C. Metropolitan Police, 1861-1930.The National Archives Spring 2008. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.

  • This was just more information regarding the background of the creation of the Metropolitan Police Department.

Washington D.C.DC.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2016.

  • This is a link to the city page. I wanted to use this in a very similar way to the way I wanted to use the MPDC page in demonstrating how expansive the site is. It has useful links to connect citizens to all kinds of resources throughout the city. It serves primarily as a hub for the numerous sites of the organizations connected to the city.

Commonplace Book Entries

Commonplace Entry 1: Introduction

My name is Brandon Ermer and I’m from Ogden Utah. I’m originally from Swampscott, which is about thirty minutes north of Boston, Massachusetts, but I moved to Utah because my stepfather had a better job out west. I love music, and I play a few instruments including bass, piano, and guitar. I’ve been involved musically for about 10 years, and I even taught guitar with a company for about a year. I decided that I wanted to go to a University on the New England/ Eastern part of the country. American University just felt right to me. I am currently studying Film and Media Arts here and hope to double-major in Audio Production.

Commonplace Entry 2: Passage Deconstruction Using “They Say/ I Say”

“In June, 1996, when Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced the $1 billion Near North Redevelopment Initiative, the neighborhood he targeted for help–the northwest corner of the city’s Near North Side–was one of the most troubled in the city.  Just across the river from the downtown Loop… it was tantalizingly close to the booming Chicago of the 1990s. But proximity to wealth and power had not helped this place much”(Fleming 1).

  • This uses the G&B template by using the “They say” in the form of explaining the construction of the housing projects near the “booming” city. “I say” is represented by Fleming saying “But proximity to wealth and power had not helped this place much.” There was an implication to putting the projects near a powerful city would make them successful but Fleming argues they were grossly unsuccessful.

Commonplace Entry 3: Deconstructing One of My Favorite Quotes

“Impossible is nothing.”-Muhammad Ali

ali

“Impossible” is an adjective and is also the subject of this sentence.

“Is” is a form of “to be” but in this context acts as a link to “Nothing.”

“Nothing” describes what “Impossible” is, and it serves as an adjective in the sentence, considering “Impossible” becomes personified, making it the subject.

Commonplace Entry 4: Gender-Inclusive Bathrooms

The purpose of this notice, created by the Housing and Dining Program at American University is to let people know that this specific restroom is gender inclusive. I have seen this message myself on the door to the bathrooms in the lobby of Anderson Hall, a residence hall at American. That being said, this is the only place I have seen this. I think the university may be doing this not to test the waters, but kind of to prove bathroomsthat they are in fact an inclusive and accepting university. Having this in the lobby of their residence halls demonstrates tolerance on their part. While this may be true, I haven’t seen any gender-inclusive bathrooms on any other floors. The fact that this can only be seen in a common public space may just mean that the university is trying to prove a point rather than implement it throughout campus.

Commonplace Entry 5: Georgia Referendum

Georgia Referendum to Amend State Constitution:

“Shall Property owned by the University System of Georgia and utilized by providers of college and university student housing and other facilities continue to be exempt from taxation to keep costs affordable?”

  1. “Shall Property utilized by providers of student housing and other facilities be exempt from taxation?”
  2. Words that jump out at me are “utilized,” “providers,”  “exempt,” and “taxation.”
  3. This was created by Georgia legislators to try and convince its constituents to allow for “providers of student housing and other facilities” to be exempt from taxes. At first glance, the original sentence seems uncontroversial, but at a second glance, the wording is troubling. The University and the “providers” mentioned could be different entities. If it isn’t clear who these separate entities are, why aren’t the constituents being made aware of who they are? Would constituents not like who the providers are? Why should the constituents feel obligated to allow them to continue to be exempt from taxation if they don’t even know who the providers are?

Commonplace Entry 6: DC and IC sentences

I don’t live in Utah anymore; I live in DC.

I wish I could go out this weekend; I have homework.

I have too much homework. I’ll do the rest in an hour.

My room is a mess. I have to clean it.

Commonplace Entry 7: Deconstructing Quote from Fleming

“The question is, what would an education look like that was designed to support a truly direct, deliberative democracy? In simplest terms, it would be, I believe, a fundamentally civic (that is, of literally city-based) education, adapted to the practical and ethical demands of living with others in an open, free, diverse, relatively sovereign, but always accessible community– large, dense, and heterogeneous, but also known, lived in, and loved. It would be an education well-suited for a public small enough to encourage and reward the active participation of ordinary people in its governance but large enough to possess the diversity–and power–to make that governance matter. It would be an education oriented to the ‘strong publics’ of decision-making rather than the ‘weak publics’ of opinion formation” (Fleming 205).

Fleming uses the x,y,z sentence structure in the second sentence. He uses a conjunction (but) in sentence three. He does soimething similar in the final sentence using the preposition “rather than.” The overall point of this is to demonstrate Fleming’s ideal education system. It doesn’t uses a conversation structure because there is only one side (They say, but no I Say).

The Metropolitan Police Department’s Vibrant Digital Presence

In contrast to the actual building itself, which is a boring, unremarkable box in the heart of Judiciary square, the website of the Metropolitan Police Department is a vibrant, expansive, and useful tool to help the people of the District of Columbia. The website — which is an offshoot of the greater dc.gov website, has countless links that send the user deeper into the Metropolitan Police Department website. These links all lead to useful information regarding what police precinct you live in, how to access the Metropolitan Police Department’s many services (permits, registration, filing of police reports, etc.), safety information, and so much more.report

Something that is worth mentioning is that mpdc.dc.gov (the police website) is one small part of the puzzle that is the District’s government site. While dc.gov has a very similar structure, the information on it is far more expansive than the Police Deparmtnent’s site. It has links to job opportunities, school profiles, and visitors information just to name a few. This information is valuable to both residents and tourists alike. Parents can find information on the best schools for their children under the “School Profiles” link on the “Education” tab. Residents or people planning to move to the city can explore job opportunities in the government sector under the “Jobs” tab, or get instructions on how to start a business in DC under the “Business” tab. Additionally, tourists can find the site useful as well. There are links to tours, information on monuments, things to do in the city, and many more options for tourists under the “Visitors” tab.precincts

The MPDC website has been an invaluable tool to me throughout the duration of this project. It is structurally identical to the dc.gov site, but the links and tabs are a little more focused on information that would concern the police department. The uniformity of the site reflects order, which is a message that police have historically tried to send. Most of the information is organized into eight neat and distinct tabs: “Home,” “Services,” “Your Police District,” “In the Community,” “Safety and Prevention,” “Statistics & Data,” “Get Involved!,” and “About MPDC.” The acronym “MPDC” is used regularly throughout the site, probably because typing out “Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia” gets old after a while. The “Get Involved!” tab interested be because of the exclamation point on the end. Some of the links under the tab include career opportunities, volunteer opportunities, and ways to contact the police through text and tip lines.

The Department definitely wants to build relations to the DC community. This can benefit the Department in a number of ways: if the people of the District trust the police enough to give them tips on crime in the area, that makes their job infinitely easier. Additionally, including links to jobs in the Department increases the MPDC workforce, theoretically making them more effective in the city. Another benefit to having the site cover so much ground is to reduce questions asked by residents. If the information is easily accessible on the site, then there is no reason to waste time with an email or phone call. Another way I can see the Department trying to connect with the community is through social media. They have links to MPDC’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. This is a way residents can see what is happening in the city with the Police Department without having to subscribe to the email list (which is also an option.

While the outward appearance of the Metropolitan Police Department seems dilapidated and neglectful, the website reflects a different side of the story. The website provides a feeling of safety; like the police are making an effort to make everyone feel safe, and no where to find what help they need. Getting to know the District Commander and any information regarding the safety of your family might be enough to feel safe and welcome in the city. The Department would seem far more impressive if their outward appearance reflected their site.mpdci

The Interior of the Metropolitan Police HQ: A Lonely Home for the District’s Men in Blue

As I made my way back to the Metropolitan Police Department for my second trip, I took the opposite route from last time. Previously, I took a left from the Judiciary Square Metro then took a left down fifth street and walked two blocks until I took another left down Indiana Avenue. This time I inverted my previous actions, taking a right from the Metro, walked down 4th street, then took a right to find myself in front of the Metropolitan Police HQ. While there were similarities between the two, taking a walk from only two streets over made a noticeable difference.

screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-11-18-48-pm

When I made my way down 6th Street NW, I noticed a considerable number of people in suits in addition to the regularly dressed people seen around the entire city. Federal buildings were still visible from 6th of course, but there were noticeably more street vendors and traditional urban buildings and businesses around like coffee shops, bars, and restaurants; they are presumably there for the federal employees during their lunch breaks and after they get off of work.cg

During my trip down 4th Street I was walking through the heart of Judiciary Square. With the D.C. Federal Court on my right and Washington D.C.’s Veterans Affairs building on my left, I found myself once again looking at the front of the Metropolitan Police HQ.

As I entered, I was immediately met with a wall of barriers in the form of desks, stanchions, and metal detectors, somewhat reminding me of the security guarding the entrances to the Smithsonians. These security measures are presumably in place to prevent another major attack on the building like the one that took place in 1994, claiming the lives of two FBI agents and an MPDC detective. While comparable to the Smithsonian’s with the immediate impression of security, the atrium of the Metropolitan Police HQ was dark, lonely, and unimpressive. There were only two guards present when I walked in, once behind the desk, the other leaning on the desk talking to him. The lack of a significant security presence in the form of guards was surprising, but considering I was the only person in the atrium besides the guards, additional security is probably never necessary. Both guards turned to me, looking annoyed that I interrupted their conversation. Emptying my pockets, I put my belongings on the conveyor belt next to the detector like I would at an airport security checkpoint, and walked through the overhead detector for the inevitable beeping telling the guard my watch and belt were still on. After the guard reluctantly searched me, he asked me what I needed at the HQ. I told him I was  working on a project for my writing class at American University, but he kept insisting I needed to be more specific. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be more specific than “I need to look around for a class project.” He was reasonably suspicious, so he limited my access to the first floor and the second floor atrium where we currently were.

I gathered what little I could from the atrium, with the two long hallways leading off in either direction that were off limits to me, and the bathrooms on either side of the elevators behind the security checkpoint. I took the elevator down to the first floor, and found myself to be equally disappointed. The hallways were virtually empty. I made my way through the vacant halls looking into vacant hearing rooms and locked utility closets. I assume they were placed on the bottom floor which has less security because it is easily accessible by citizens who would need to get to the hearing rooms. The only thing worth mention was the courtyard that was in the center of the building where the door was also locked and also empty. My journey inside the MPDC HQ was disappointing. However, I did learn a bit about the value they place on their security presence.

The Fight for the Reinvention of Gender Roles

In Suzanne Tick’s “His and Hers: Designing For a Post-Gender Society,” Tick addresses society’s attempt at becoming more inclusive and accepting through progressive reforms including changing bathrooms, and transgender individuals challenging societal norms in the workplace. Tick claims that “gender neutral design” is the next “frontier in the workplace,” citing the idea that the once traditional  roles of males and females are no longer clearly defined. However, these ideas of inclusion are still met with some opposition, and Tick makes a call to action for fellow designers to help push the effort in promoting this accommodation for non-binary individuals.

A problem many activists run into is that in many ways, society is still set in its ways regarding binary gender norms that have been in place for generations. Tick claims that the “design landscape is still deeply rooted in Modernism” which was shaped by the male perspective. Modernism was a philosophical movement beginning with the dawn of the industrial age, where men like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie of the oil and steel industries still dominated power roles. Even today, being a CEO at a major company is considered to be a largely male role (Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, etc.) Even Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook, while pushing forward societal progression by coming out as gay, is still a man.tim-cook

While this is true, Tick provides an example of the changing paradigm by telling the story of Martine Rothblatt, the transgender CEO of United Therapeutics. Another prominent figure demonstrating the changing tide in the business world is Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has done a number of things for consumers in the Senate including helping with the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Cropped Approved CFF
Cropped Approved CFF

The push for inclusion is also evident in the “He for She” movement, pushing men to help in the effort for gender equality; an example of the binary sexes working toward gender equality together (Watson).

Going back to the design aspect of this progressive paradigm, Tick brings up the widely discussed gender binary bathroom issue. People who have undergone gender reassignment surgery often have problems finding their place in the workplace. Tick reinforces this by talking about a specific case where one person who had had such a surgery experienced discrimination by their co-workers when they went to HR saying they weren’t comfortable having the person in either the men’s room or the ladies room. Some major corporations like Google have gone so far as to create unisex bathrooms to make sure all of their employees felt comfortable at work (Tick).

In her final call to action, she talks about how the Americans With Disabilities Act has still not been fully implemented, with many buildings around the country still without accommodations for handicapped or disabled persons. She wanted to make it clear that this same mistake should not be made with the implementation of accommodations in public spaces for non-binary individuals. However, she says all of the information above including the implementation of non-binary bathrooms and more women challenging the traditionally male roles in the workplaces are significant first steps. This movement is spreading, now with students “standing up to institutions” by not checking the binary genders presented in many college applications, additional advances in the changing paradigm. In her own words, Tick states “Masculine and feminine definitions are being switched and obscured,” so it’s society’s job to accommodate for these changes.

The “Accommodation” Problem

In “Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating,’” Emily Bazelon makes a number of cases in favor of bathrooms being inclusive for all– including people who identify as transgender. She addresses the issue of the binary bathroom system that has been previously implemented through recent legislature and stories from individuals while additionally providing examples of ways this can be and has been combatted. Additionally, she ruminates of the issues of the word “accommodation” itself, claiming it sets up a “distinction between the normal and the other” (Bazelon).gnb

Bazelon begins her article by discussing the difficulty many people had addressing the gender binary bathroom issue. She mentions the discomfort created on both sides when people asked (or even just wondered) if people were in the “correct” bathroom. She goes on further to mention the rejection of a “broad, equal rights ordinance in Houston” (later known as the “bathroom ordinance,”) where lawmakers voted against legislation allowing for people to enter bathrooms based on their gender identity vs. the gender that was assigned to them at birth (City of Houston). This could be a result of the hyper-conservative mindset of Houston as a whole, whereas lawmakers reflect the views of their constituents. A similar situation was created in North Carolina with the implementation of the “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act,” a discriminatory law allowing for the denial of entry into public restrooms unless the user is of the same gender identity as their birth certificate. Many have condemned the implementation of the latter, citing its discriminatory and socially regressive nature, including activists and politicians.adfgpfps

Despite this blatant discrimination by state legislation in multiple states, some efforts have been successful in making bathrooms more inclusive. Bazelon cites an incident where a transgender student was denied access to shower with her peers at school by her school district in Illinois. The U.S. Department of Education required the district to allow the girl to shower with her peers. Bazelon also mentions how a simple “privacy curtain” could fix this problem of discomfort created amongst peers in bathrooms. If everyone were able to dress and undress behind a piece of fabric obstructing the view of others, then the problem of intrusiveness is eliminated.

Even though efforts are being made to “ accommodate” for transgender persons across the country, part of the problem could be the word “accommodate” itself. “It often sets up the distinction between the normal and the other,” states Bazelon. It could be argued that a distinction needs to be made in order to satisfy politicians on the more conservative end of the spectrum, while making sure the rights of transgender people are met in the Constitution.

Looking at the bigger picture, even women’s restrooms are disadvantaged. Starting in the Victorian era with the birth the Industrial Revolution, where women more often found themselves in the workplaces that used to be dominated by men, bathrooms were created separating men and women (Bazelon). However, women often have to wait significantly longer than men in the bathroom, considering women only have stalls while men have the luxury of urinals to get in and out of the bathroom quickly. Another form of accommodation could take place in the form adding more stalls to women’s restrooms proportional to the number of stalls/urinals in the men’s room.mb wb

Barring the efforts of conservative state legislators trying to deny transgender accessibility to the bathroom of their gender preference, many progressive efforts have been made to ensure LGBT rights are not encroached on. Bazelon’s concerns of the word “accommodation” itself seem unfounded, because it implies inclusion, regardless of the frame of thought that it implies “normal” people going out of the way of “other” people. The point is, we are moving towards a more inclusive, “accommodating” society.