The Idiocy of the Great Bathroom Debate
Trigger Warning: Use of Offensive Language
It's your first day of high school and you're super excited to see all your friends again. Earlier that week, your mom took you shopping at the mall and you found the cutest dress ever to wear for your first day. That morning, you put that wonderful dress on and did a little twirl - feeling pretty and confident. Then you curled your hair and slapped some mascara on before grabbing your Hello Kitty backpack and swinging out the door.
You have a great day, at first. You chat excitedly with all your friends about what you did over summer break and what classes you're looking forward to. It even works out that you'll have your lunch break with your best friend - something that almost never happens. It's going to be a good year, you tell yourself. Until you have to be excused to use the restroom.
Your teacher nervously nods as you ask to leave the classroom and out you flounce, only to be stopped at the door of the girl's room by the gym teacher.
"Where do you think you're going?" He towers over you.
"The bathroom?" You're confused.
"Not in there, you're not," he replies. He then points to the door next to the one you're standing in front of. The one with the 'boy' symbol on it. "You use that one, son."
"But I'm not a guy," you tell him. He sneers down at you.
"That's not what your transcript says," he's leering now. "We all know you're a little boy."
"No, I'm not," you're angry now. You just want to use the toilet and go back to class. What is his problem?
"Then prove it," the gym teacher insists. "Prove you're a girl. Show me."
"Show you!?" you cry. "But that's sexual harassment. You can't do this!"
"You can't sexually harass a f*ggot."
In tears, you realize now that you can't win this. He won't let you in the girl's room, not without a scuffle. You quickly glance around the empty hallway before darting into the boy's room, hearing the teacher's "that's what I thought..." as the door shuts behind you. Luckily there's no one else in the bathroom, so you race into a stall and do your business as quickly as possible. On your way out of the stall, another male student walks in and stops dead in his tracks....
What do you think happens next?
The Great Debate
Recently, South Dakota has come under a lot of fire for introducing a bill that would force transgender students to use the restroom corresponding to their assigned sex at birth, rather than their gender identity. According to the Washington Post, 13 other states are also considering similar legislation as a national debate rages on about the civil rights of transgender people vs privacy concerns in schools.
The bills supporters are lawmakers, advocates, and parents who want to push an emphasis on 'traditional' values and protecting students. But...protecting them from what, exactly?
State Rep. Fred Deutsch who sponsored the bill said that while he is sympathetic to transgender students, it's the other students that have to be protected from the biological opposite sex while they're young and impressionable. But again, protected from what?
Another force in the fight for restricting access to public restroom and locker rooms is the Alliance Defending Freedom - who has created the model legislation that South Dakota used in their decision. They describe their model as a push to protect the "bodily privacy" of children - "including victims of sexual assault who might be traumatized by running into a member of the opposite biological sex in a restroom."
But a recent study has shown the statistics for how many times a transgender individual has attacked or harassed someone in a public bathroom. The number...is ZERO. There are zero reported cases of this ever happening. Despite this, many parents of school-aged children express concern for their child's comfort and safety while having the share a restroom or locker room with a transgender student. Much of this fear and uncertainty comes from ignorance.
Rebecca Dodds is the mother of a transgender boy in South Dakota. Though biologically female, her son has been presenting as male in high school, and felt uncomfortable and threatened having to use the girl's restroom at school. The female teacher and fellow student who happened to be in the restroom at the time were shocked to see someone who appeared male enter that space. Now, Dodd's son only uses the restroom if no one else is in it or simply doesn't use the restroom at all during the day.
To read more about the struggles faced by transgender youth being forced to use certain facilities, read the Washington Post article linked HERE.
Do you know any transgender people?
A transgender man forced to use women's restroom
Bathroom Laws and Harassment
Bathroom bills help no one and harm everyone, especially transgender folks. 70% of trans people have reported being denied entrance, assaulted, or harassed for simply trying to use a restroom. They report being questioned about their gender, verbally mocked, stared at or given strange looks. In 9% of cases, actual physical/sexual assault has occurred and others have had the police called on them or been stalked leaving the restroom.
As stated above, there are zero occurrences of trans people perpetrating attacks on cis-people in bathrooms. Lawmakers who claim otherwise use this fear-mongering to create policies to openly discriminate and rely on the public's ignorance of the evidence to perpetuate harmful stereotypes.
With laws on the books dictating which toilets are acceptable for use by trans people and the public's open hostility about restroom use, many trans people try to avoid using public restrooms altogether, especially where there are few gender neutral toilets available. This can lead to serious health problems, including but not limited to: dehydration, UTI's, kidney infection and other kidney problems.
Has anyone ever harassed you in a public bathroom?
Kevin hated wearing dressed when he was little and could never understand why his mom insisted on keeping his long hair in pigtails. It was gross, he didn't want to look like a princess. As he grew older, his mom's understanding deepened and he was allowed to buzz his hair and wear dinosaur t-shirts to school. All his friends were boys and he liked them better than hanging out with girls - all they wanted to talk about were Disney princesses and dolls.
When Kevin started middle school, everyone treated him like the boy he was. Everyone that is, except the school administration. They took Kevin and his parents into an office room and told them that Kevin would have to use the girl's bathroom and that it would be inappropriate for him to change in the boy's locker room with all his friends. Kevin didn't understand and his parents were outraged, but what could they do?
So Kevin did as he was told, and used the girl's restroom one day.
What do you think happened next?