The debate over who uses what bathroom is more intense than ever. That's because earlier this year, the Trump Administration rescinded Obama-era protections granted to trans teens under Title IX (a civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in places that receive federal funds).
The big issue: Whether trans people can use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender that they identify with. North Carolina already passed a law banning it. Meanwhile, in Virginia, the American Civil Liberties Union is fighting on behalf of Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school senior, who wasn't allowed to use the boys' bathroom at school.
Pro-restriction advocates argue that keeping trans people out of certain bathrooms is a safety issue. Lucas, a senior from Hot Springs, AR, shares what it means on a personal level.
If you didn't know me and my story, you would never know I was assigned female at birth. I have a goatee, I wear men's clothes, and I have a girlfriend—I'm a typical guy. So if I walked into a women's bathroom and you were in there, you'd be freaked out. I know, because I've had to do it, and I've seen the reactions.
When Things Shifted
Let me take you back to my sophomore year. I had started my transition from female to male that summer, and my mom came with me to talk to the principals at my school about how they could support me through my changes. One of the things that came up was the bathroom.
My school, which is pretty conservative, proposed I use the nurse's bathroom instead of the boys' room. I was hurt. It's demeaning to feel as if you're not welcome to pee anywhere except the nurse's bathroom—it's like you have a disease or something. But I'm aware that some people in the world are afraid that anyone who is transgender is secretly a pedophile.
That school year was really rough for me—teachers often didn't call me by the correct name or pronouns, and students would make rude comments to me about my transition. Just going to the bathroom made me so anxious that I decided to avoid it until I got home.
But one day during lunch, I just couldn't hold it. The nurse's bathroom is halfway across the school, and I didn't have time to get there before classes, so my only choice, it seemed, was to use the girls' room. Some of the girls who were in there—who didn't know I was trans—said I was in the wrong place and told me to leave. I felt so uncomfortable.
After that, I went back to holding it in. I'd try not to drink anything while I was at school, but all that did was leave me dehydrated and unable to focus in class. My grade point average fell. I knew I had to act.
Using My Voice
Hoping that the school would change its mind about which bathroom I could use, I decided to share my story to raise awareness of the issue I was facing. I spoke to different clubs and classes, presented my case to the school board and met with administrators directly.
Instead of adopting a uniform code, they've decided to deal with transgender students on a case-by-case basis. I can use the boys' bathroom now, but I'm nervous when I do it because some people are openly opposed to who I am. Still, I've been told by many of my conservative teachers that by speaking out, I've changed their opinion of what being transgender means. I can't say that my advocacy has led to giant policy shifts, but the opening of minds is where change starts.
Lucas with his mom and sister