Controversy swirls at UCLA over anti-transgender restroom signs

Thursday, May 12, 2016
Controversy swirls at UCLA over anti-transgender restroom signs
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Controversy is brewing on the campus of UCLA after pictures surfaced online of at least three members of the Bruin Republican Club holding anti-transgender restroom signs.

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A new battlefront has unfolded at UCLA in the nationwide debate on gender and access to restrooms.

On Wednesday, some UCLA students held signs of support to counter what they're calling intolerance. They plan to post posters, saying "Bathrooms are a RIGHT not a privilege," on social media in response to a picture posted by fellow Bruins on Facebook.

Three Bruin Republican Club board members who independently attended an event at UCSB held three posters that said, "Get your agenda out of our restroom!," "There are only two genders!" and "Transgenderism is a mental disorder!"

The posters and social media posts have distressed LGBT students at UCLA, according to Raja Bhattar, director of the UCLA LGBT Resource Center.

"It's been from students crying to students feeling like they're not safe on campus with people sharing these types of perspectives and negating their existence," Bhattar said.

The President Elect of Bruin Republicans, Alex Rhim, says they support freedom of speech, but personally he rejects the statements on the signs.

"I disagree with them adamantly, it's very much against my ideology and I see no merits to that side of the argument, but again they're just expressing what they believe and that's something that we support," Rhim said.

The Bruin Republican Club, however, is on the defense after being linked to opinions on the signs.

"We've received personal attacks to even board members who were not involved in the incident, and we've actually had a bit of a controversy in our club because of this difference in opinion.

Comments posted about the photo show opinions widely vary.

"At UCLA, we respect everyone's right to free speech and encourage open dialogue on all issues; however, hurtful language that seeks to belittle or trivialize any group is not reflective of UCLA's values and our ongoing work to be a welcoming and fully inclusive environment for all," Dean of Students Maria Blandizzi said in a statement.

LGBT students and supporters say they want this debate to advance understanding and encourage dialogue.

"We want to show love, we want to start with love and not with hate," Bhattar said.