Trans students in US schools have revealed how they are treated, including being barred from bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities matching their gender identity, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) today.
While a crude alliance uniting right-wing politicians and fundamentalist Christians are currently campaigning to restrict trans access to these facilities even further, this report details a series of cases in which existing arrangements have led to abuse or violence against trans students.
This policy of exclusion has had negative consequences for their physical and mental health, academic achievement, and participation in school.
Willow K (names used are pseudonyms), a 14-year-old transgender girl in Texas, said how she was treated in her required eighth grade gym class.
‘I had to strip down into my girly underwear in front of a bunch of guys who would call me these rude names, and I couldn’t go to the bathroom [or girls’ locker room] to change … and it made me so uncomfortable,’ she said.
The previous year, she had been assaulted by a group of football players in the locker room, making the requirementshe use the male locker room particularly difficult.
Alexis J., a self-described genderfluid 19-year-old, also from Texas, described a gym class.
‘I had to strip down to girly underwear in front of a bunch of dudes,’ she said. ‘And they’re like, ‘faggot.’ And this was freshman year, so they’re just vicious.’
Tanya H, the mother of a 9-year-old transgender boy, said her son was required to use the girls’ bathroom and harassed by his peers.
After he stopped using the bathroom and mentioned suicide, she enrolled him in a new school that recognized him as a boy, with a noticeable boost in his mental well-being.
According to Tanya: “He’s so much happier. He’s making friends who know him as a boy.’
This case also underlines the health consequences of bathroom bigotry.
HRW identified a number of cases where trans individuals who did not have access to safe or accessible bathroom or locker room in school, simply avoided all school bathrooms and locker rooms – with predictably negative consequences for their overall health.
Cassidy R., a self-described agender 18-year-old in Utah, said: ‘I know a lot of my friends just didn’t go to the bathroom and suffered a lot of infections and health problems because of that.’
According to research, avoiding bathroom use for extended periods of time is linked to dehydration, urinary tract infections, and kidney problems.
Ryan Thoreson, a fellow in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights program at Human Rights Watch said: ‘Politics aside, schools should ensure that the rights of transgender youth are respected and protected on campus.
‘Schools aren’t doing that if transgender students spend their days worrying about something as basic as finding a safe and accessible bathroom.’
The 23-page report – ‘Shut Out: Restrictions on Bathroom and Locker Room Access for Transgender Youth in US Schools’ was compiled following the decision in August 2016, by several state legislatures, including North Carolina and Texas to ignore federal guidance instructing schools to provide access to bathroom and other personal facilities, pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging this advice.
Based on in-depth interviews and discussions with 74 transgender students and more than 50 parents, teachers, administrators, and service providers who work with transgender youth, in Alabama, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah, the report examines how transgender youth are adversely affected by discriminatory policies that bar them from using bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity.
In addition to the impact of such policies, it also examines the preferences of some of the students involved. It notes that while all students should be able to access options consistent with their gender identity, some students expressed a desire to use “all-gender” options because they did not identify as male or female or because they experienced harassment in gendered facilities.