Trans staffer reflects on lack of bathroom inclusivity

The issues that transgender students face in the education system have been in the spotlight since 2016, when the Obama administration issued directives that granted protections for trans students in schools. Since then, guidelines concerning school policy have been rescinded and reissued, and hotly debated within state legislatures. One issue regarding school policy, however, stands above the rest as a very ordinary but nevertheless pressing concern for trans students. This is the problem of access to school bathrooms. What should be a simple and straightforward process is unnecessarily complicated for trans people, as politicians and school administration often bar us from using the bathrooms of the gender we align with. Using the bathroom corresponding to our assigned gender at birth is an experience many trans people would feel deeply uncomfortable with, eliminating that as an option. Some gender nonconforming or nonbinary people wouldn’t want to use a men or women’s bathroom at all. So, what should be done?

Certain protocols are in place in some schools to assist trans people with this dilemma, namely allowing us to use staff bathrooms. This would be an acceptable alternative at our school if there were not only two staff bathrooms in the entire building accessible to students, both in the upstairs D hall. If you are a trans person who needs to use this staff bathroom, no matter where you are in the building, you may be forced to trek to this specific corner of our large school just to use the bathroom. This could be a major inconvenience for you depending on where your classroom is located at the time you need to use this bathroom, and an action as simple as using the bathroom can waste a massive amount of time that frankly didn't need to be spent.

Similar situations to ours exist in high schools everywhere across America, and barriers against trans people exist outside of the school system as well. In June of this year, the Human Rights Campaign officially declared that 2021 had already set the record for the highest amount of anti-transgender legislation in recent history, as a record number of over 100 bills targeting trans citizens have been filed in state legislatures across the country. Seventeen of those bills have become law. The common thread between these laws is that they are aimed at restricting trans people from public resources--bathroom bills, sports, restriction from medical care, and religious refusal from goods and services. The most malicious implication of these bills, however, is that many are explicitly intended to target the most vulnerable members of our community: trans minors. These bills specifically regulate the school sports teams trans students can join, how teachers interact with them, and, of course, what school bathrooms they can use. The assault on our rights as trans minors has pervaded all spheres of our life.

One of the most blatant attacks on the rights of trans minors this year was a bill belonging to our own state legislature, Texas Senate Bill 1311. The bill would have revoked the medical license of any physician who prescribes hormone replacement therapy or puberty blockers to minors, intentionally depriving trans people under the age of 18 of medical treatment which, in many cases, saves them from long-lasting mental anguish--or worse. SB1311 failed to advance in the House, yet the bill’s existence is a depressing reminder of the reality that for thousands of young trans people nationwide, our ability to express ourselves with the gender we align with is constantly under threat. From federal legislation, to state legislation, to even local school policy, trans people are consistently marginalized in all areas of life.

As a society, we are far from eliminating the social stigma attached to the existence of trans people. However, we can take steps towards allowing us the same convenience and comfort of our cisgender peers in the school system. The solution should be simple: at the very least, begin allowing transgender people in the bathroom of the gender they identify with, and create more gender-neutral bathrooms that do not rely on archaic perceptions of sex and gender to function. If the education system wants to churn out happy, successful trans students, this is a demand that becomes all the more urgent with each passing day.