It’s well known at this point that gay kids don’t have it easy in school, at least most. While dealing with your own anxieties about being gay, there are also others’ perceptions of you to deal with. This is exponentially more difficult without support from your family at home.
Trans kids have it worse. While being out as gay has become easier for many, being out as transgender is becoming more and more difficult. Dealing with backlash from other students is an issue that is soul crushing enough, but being surrounded by adults who don’t exactly know what to do with you is another problem entirely. I say this because for all of the people out there hostile toward transgender people, there are also those who are confused, who don’t understand the needs of a transgender student or patient or prisoner.
Many states have no prohibitions on discrimination based on gender identity; we are lucky in Maine that prohibition of discrimination based on gender identity has been in place since 2005 with the updating of the Maine Human Rights Act. Because of that protection, a transgender girl in Maine, Nicole Maines, won her case at the state Supreme Court after being forced to use a separate restroom from the rest of the students.
Despite Maine’s progressive stance on gender identity discrimination, Governor Paul LePage got involved in a case in Virginia disputing a transgender student’s right to use the restroom that corresponds with his gender identity. In that case, the school required the student, Gavin Grimm, to use a separate bathroom; the suit filed by the ACLU argued that this is a violation of Title IX rights.
Gov. LePage signed a brief arguing that Title IX only guarantees a student access to the restroom of their “biological sex”. LePage seems perfectly comfortable making judgements about Grimm and his family, stating to the press that he is “appalled at the lack of parenting that child’s received” - despite his insufficient knowledge of important details in the case (for instance, he claimed that Grimm was 11 year old when he was indeed 15 years old when the lawsuit began).
It has been proposed in many circumstances that trans students should use a separate, private bathroom rather than using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. This solution, one that potentially outs trans students by not allowing them to use the restrooms that all other students use, is an unfair and unsafe form of segregation that puts already at risk students in further harmful situations.
It is not in the interest of transgender students to be forced to use separate facilities. While this is problematic for a trans student individually,it is also a step backward for basic human rights. Placing trans people in separate spaces is a short term solution that only obfuscates the problem, doing nothing to advocate for the person isolated for “their own protection” and hindering the progress of transgender people being treated equally in places like schools, hospitals, and the justice system.
Transgender youth are at a higher risk to be bullied in school already and many already in precarious or hostile home situations. The last thing they need is to be ostracized by administrators, coaches, and teachers. This attempt at protection is only doing further damage and encouraging other students to recognize a transgender student as ‘other’ than the rest of the students. Promoting this type of segregation in schools could have devastating consequences in all other public spaces and to the attitude of many students who observe this type of behavior from adults they trust or at least should be able to trust.
If teachers, administrators, legislators, governors, doctors, insurance companies, and others think transgender people are a “problem” they can solve on an individual basis, they are sorely mistaken. This approach will only lead to more discrimination suits from organizations like the ACLU.
It’s time to understand that progress can not be made by trying to hide trans people one individual at a time. Hopefully cases such as that of Nicole Maines open people’s eyes to the consequences of segregation, and to the progress that can be made for trans youth if we don’t accept it as a solution.