The Transgender toilet debate.

The current hot topic of whether or not schools should have gender-neutral bathrooms has sparked a debate for many different reasons; some good, some shocking, and some downright heartbreaking.
 

FACTS

  • Transgender: Someone whose gender differs from the one they were given when they were born. Transgender people may identify as female or male, or they may feel that neither gender fits them.
  • Transition: transgender people may transition/change from the gender they were given at birth. They may change their names, pronouns, or the way they express themselves – such as their style of dressing. Some people may even choose a medical transition, which involves the help of medical specialists who prescribe hormones and/or surgery.
  • Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are NOT the same thing.
  • According to the American Psychological Association (APA), Sexual Orientation refers to a person’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person.
  • The APA describes Gender Identity as an internal sense of being male, female, or other. Some people say, ‘Sex is of the body, and gender is of the mind/soul.’
  • Roughly 11% of Australians identify as transgender
  • Information sourced from: IndividualiTy, a social group for young Trans people and anyone questioning their gender identity, and Medical Daily.
     

THE DEBATE

The issue of whether or not trans people can use the bathroom of the gender they identify with has been going on for a lot longer than most people will realise. Currently, there are debates, from Australia to America, about whether or not schools should provide gender-neutral toilets for transgender people to use.

Many people, both men and women, said YES. They were in agreement to schools providing gender-neutral toilets. One mother of two primary school-aged children said that she didn’t see a problem with this at all. She even went so far as to say that she wouldn’t care if all the toilets were unisex and/or gender-neutral so that nobody had a problem or felt uncomfortable about using a toilet. Others expressed their empathy for transgender children and the hardships they endure. One woman informed me that she was definitely for gender-neutral toilets, explaining how trivial she felt it was that people would deny another person to use a toilet based on difference of opinion and the idea of being “right”. She believed that although a transgender child should just be able to use the toilet they so wish to, that perhaps gender-neutral toilets were a good idea. A father contacted me saying he was all for it too; that he couldn’t see what the issue was – especially in a primary school setting. Secondary school may be a different matter altogether.

This then raises the issue of bullying and harassment that trans children could potentially be subjected to. The Internet is bursting with cases of attacks and bullying of transgender individuals, and unfortunately, the reality of bullying will most likely walk hand-in-hand with gender-neutral toilets in a school setting. Further education, understanding, as well as respecting another person’s story and experience will be needed if gender-neutral toilets are going to work – well that’s my opinion anyway. Back to the debate!                                      

Many men and women were against these particular toilets being available in schools. Whilst a very uninformed and quite aggressive person contacted me, I received many interesting opinions and beliefs as to why some people were opposed to gender-neutral toilets. In particular, one man expressed his view that he didn’t believe those of us who are not transgender should have to share a bathroom with the opposite sex, unless that person had undergone medical transitioning surgery. Furthermore, he admitted he may sound blunt, but he believed that trans children could just use a disabled toilet, or even arrange with teachers to use staff toilets. Similar beliefs expressed by some were mainly focused on safety issues of all children involved, and perhaps other arrangements for the trans child/children could be made so no child in particular is outcast or made to feel uncomfortable.                                                

Furthermore, going back to the inevitable theme of bullying, many people were against gender-neutral toilets in schools, not because they were against trans people, but because they deeply worried about the effects it could have on them; physically and emotionally. One woman told me that trans children should just be able to use whatever toilet they want, because if we start to separate them it would most likely end up in a negative way. Having toilets for boys, girls, a disabled toilet, as well as gender-neutral does sound like very reasonable facilities to have in a school, but many people, particularly this woman, were strongly against it. Making trans children use a different toilet to the one they actually may want to use could be distressing. Another dad told me that he was all for whatever the children wanted – both trans and non-trans. He believed that if trans children who identified as neither male nor female actually wanted a gender-neutral toilet, then why not? It is 2016; a different type of toilet is not the end of the world.                                                                                         

This is a very thought-provoking and difficult debate to think about. At the end of the day, the happiness and safety of all children should be the main priority for schools. In my opinion, I believe that it would be best for transgender children to make arrangements with their school so that they can use whatever toilet they desire to use.  At the discretion of the school, a child can safely use a toilet; to me this just makes so much sense. I don’t really think it is anyone else’s business. I also believe that further information and education on topics and realities like this should be taught and provided to children – both Primary and Secondary – as well as parents. Hopefully then, everybody will be happy. Unlikely. But a girl can hope.


SHOCKING STATISTICS

  • In 2012 the Australian Human Rights Commission reported that 47% of trans men and 37% of trans women experienced verbal abuse
     
  • Young people who have experienced transphobic abuse:
    - Are more likely to develop depression
    - Are more likely to skip school or drop-out
    - Are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, have unsafe sex, and/or deliberately self-harm (beyondblue).
      
  • Up to 50% of trans people have actually attempted suicide at least once in their lives (beyondblue).


A MOTHER'S OPINION

‘As the mother of a young transgender child, and another older child, my first and foremost hope is that they are both safe everywhere they go. My transgender child and older child use the bathroom to go to the toilet, wash their hands, and then leave. It’s simple isn’t it? This is really more about acceptance and understanding; being transgender isn’t a choice, it’s about being your true self, the real person that you feel you are. These children are brave and resilient. My little one uses the girl’s toilet and yes, she is physically male, though it isn’t really anybody’s business what is under her clothing. Unfortunately for my daughter, there are those who think this is wrong. Some people base their thoughts on uneducated opinions, and they neglect to look at any research, talk to professionals, or have not spent anytime with gender variant people. I would like to ask those that refuse to understand if they would like to be the cause of driving innocent kids into extreme unhappiness, depression, or even suicide.’

MIA BEVERLEY FRANCISCO

Mia Beverley Francisco