Perhaps the most commonly discussed aspect in regard to transgender people is something that is typically relatively private—which bathrooms should trans people use? The question is frequently asked in modern society, despite the embarrassment and awkwardness it potentially causes trans individuals. There isn’t a debate over whether or not trans people require a bathroom, relieving waste is a condition that everyone is plagued with. The problem is that “[in] bathrooms and locker rooms, cisgender children are portrayed as endangered by [Trans/Gender Non-Conforming] students...” (McLaughlin, 3)
Trans people are labeled as threats to the safety of cisgender people, causing a proliferation of court cases and so-called “bathroom bills”, legislation that attempts to force trans people to use bathrooms based on their assigned sex at birth rather than their gender identity. However transgender individuals are more likely to be the ones that live in fear of bathrooms.
“‘Bathrooms are really difficult for trans people, because you are in a space that is completely segregated based on your sex. And so, especially in schools, for instance, you don’t have people watching. There are no hall monitors. It’s more dangerous. You can get beat up in either the girls’ or the boys’ bathroom.’” (Bartolome, 37)
Student bathrooms are one of the few places that typically remain unmonitored by teachers and administration to provide students privacy. This lack of oversight can make them a dangerous place, an academic back-alley where trans students might be harassed or assaulted. Based on this, it could be easy to state that trans people use the bathroom where they need to, though complications arise due to the legislative issues (see the Privacy and Legality section for more specifics).
Due to the numerous legal issues and school district/administrative policies, there isn’t one set answer that will work best for all situations. These decisions usually have to be handled at the administrative level, but there are circumstances where it winds up under the teacher’s discretion (i.e. field trips, or out-of-school performances, etc.)
The following list contains a few different ideas, out of many, that can be used to help your trans student.
· Let the student use the bathroom that corresponds with the student’s gender identity and not their assigned sex at birth (this is the ideal option for the student). Depending on administration, school policy, community parents, and other students, this could cause community outrage, so tread cautiously.
· Know where gender neutral/unisex bathrooms are on campus or any other location and provide the trans student with their location. (This could be the safest option, though it can be cumbersome for trans students as some campuses have few to none gender neutral/unisex bathrooms. Usually, there is one in the school nurse’s office.)
· If they are required to use the bathroom that corresponds to their assigned sex at birth, help make sure that it is empty of other occupants before the student enters.
· Depending on the student, they might have a friend who wouldn’t mind accompanying them to ensure safety.
· If parents are aware of their student’s identity and are supportive, allow them to lead the charge for their student to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
· These are just some potential options for your student to use. Make sure that you find what works best for your student and your situation. Check with your administration and be mindful of your particular state’s laws and your school district’s policies so you protect yourself as well.
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