The GOP’s Bathroom Bill Crusade Could Be Killing Trans People

There is a wave of anti-transgender bills sweeping legislatures across the United States. Now, a new study connects bills that regulate facility use — like gendered bathroom access — with a higher lifetime risk of suicide.

The study, published in February in the “Journal of Homosexuality,” can be read online here.

Researchers suggest that, due to discrimination, LGBT people face a higher lifetime risk of suicide than their heterosexual and gender conforming peers. Intersectional pressures leave transgender people particularly vulnerable.

But few studies have examined the potential impacts of bathroom and housing restrictions on trans suicide rates.

Using data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the largest survey to examine the lives of transgender individuals in the United States, researchers from Georgia State University gauged the effects of institutional biases that prevent adults from accessing bathrooms and gender appropriate housing.

The researchers found that about 25 percent of the sample reported being denied access to bathrooms or other facilities while in college due to their trans or gender nonconforming identities.

The study couldn’t collect data on what “not being allowed to use appropriate facilities” meant, but we might reasonably infer that respondents either faced implied prohibitive policies or were actually told that they could only use facilities that matched their birth-assigned sex.

Around one fifth of respondents — 21 percent — were prevented from accessing housing that matched their gender. Again, the data didn’t allow the researchers to say precisely what those restrictions entailed, but many schools base their housing policies on birth-assigned sex.

Researchers then evaluated the lifetime risk of suicide among trans people. The NTDS indicated that the overall risk is remarkably high — at 46.5 percent — and even higher among trans people of color. The researchers then examined the characteristics of groups with a high risk of suicide.

The researchers found that discrimination was, undeniably, a major component of suicide risk:

Interpersonal victimization by fellow students—but not teachers/staff—was significantly associated with suicidality. Victimization by students related to suicidality as one would expect from the minority stress model—that is, those who face greater stressors related to harassment, prejudice and assault from peers are at greater risk for psychological distress, in this case indicated by at least one suicide attempt.

Researchers stressed that while they can’t tell whether the actual suicide attempt preceded the individual beginning college, the finding remains significant.

Furthermore, they note that while reported incidents of teachers victimization were low, there was a significant connection between people reporting teacher harassment and those reporting student harassment. This suggests what we might guess anyway: teachers who discriminate may create a climate that facilitates where peer-on-peer discrimination.

The real question, though, was whether there could be any direct correlation between bathroom and housing restrictions and suicidality. The data suggests yes:

Within the logistic regression model, the finding of most interest to the research question was that both denial of access to bathrooms and denial of access to campus housing due to being trans*were statistically significantly associated with lifetime suicide attempt. These results held even when controlling for interpersonal victimization in college. This suggests that there may be a distinct relationship between the stress of not being able to use bathrooms or gender-appropriate campus housing and one’s mental health. This evidence is an initial step in supporting the idea that institutional climate factors such as gender-segregated bathrooms—although perhaps not intended to be hurtful—may negatively affect the well-being of trans* people.

There are several limitations of the study, but this analysis offers important insight into how discriminatory legislation might affect trans people.

Thanks to the GOP, restroom use is currently a massive issue across the nation. The Human Rights Campaign estimates that there are currently 44 anti-trans bills under consideration across 17 states. Many aim to prevent trans people — including young trans students — from accessing the bathrooms, changing facilities and sports teams that accord with their gender identity. 

One such piece of legislation is advancing in Tennessee. Called HB 2414, the bill would mandate that students only use restrooms and locker rooms that match their birth sex. As Tennessee gives no way to officially change gender, the bill essentially denies trans students all ability to safely access gender appropriate facilities.

The bill is on course to be taken up by the state House in the next few weeks. 

If lawmakers care about children’s lives, they may wish to consider the potential impact of these bills. Discriminatory legislation could contribute to a climate that, as the data demonstrates, may severely affect trans people’s mental health — and even contribute to higher suicide rates.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

80 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Nina S.
Nina S1 years ago

tyfs

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David Youmans
David Youmans1 years ago

Ron, you just don't get it I'm afraid.

You must have faith and accept Jesus as your savior, but Both Jesus and James made it clear that it also take good works, and treating others as you would treat Jesus, showing compassion for others, and not judging or condemning, in order to get to Heaven. Faith alone isn't enough.

Apparently you need to buy a dictionary, because condemning is passing sentence, judging is to to point fingers and scream "you're sinning" at people. Only God has that right, not you, or the rest of these bigots. You have been judging in nearly every post I've ever read by you, which is why I stated that you need to buy a dictionary, because you keep using that word, but it doesn't mean what you think it means...

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Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman1 years ago

Ron Grubner wrote, : ... Therefore , instead of promoting accepting it , it should be about eliminating the source of the issue ... " Ron, how do you propose eliminating the source of the issue?

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Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman1 years ago

Sandra Harrity wrote, What about a 5 year old hetero female having a 14 year old Trans peeing next to her? .. " What about her? The two of them are in separate stalls.
"

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Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman1 years ago

Jenn C. wrote, " ... - if these people had ever received concerted therapy to accept themselves as they are instead of of coddled into confusion by allowing them to behave as their mental illness ... " Jenn, what is your evidence that anti-gay and anti-transsexual therapy have helped people?

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Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman1 years ago

Steve F. wrote, " ...The existing system has worked fine for as long as anyone can remember. ... " To me this sounds like someone who does not know and does not want to know about the problems that transsexuals face. His statement seems too me to be much like the statements of many white Southerners when Jim Crow was being challenged.

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Marie W.
Marie W1 years ago

Concentrate on some real issues USA!

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Karen H.
Karen H1 years ago

"God created man in his image. And it was good." So either God made a real oopsie and created LGBT by accident, or he had a purpose for doing so. What's that purpose? The Bible tells us we don't know God's purpose, and it's not our place to question it.

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Scott haakon
Scott haakon1 years ago

The US has a problem with sex. That is the real issue. We want it ,but we fear it.

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