Trans Children Face Dehumanization and Discrimination at School

After the major marriage equality win of 2015, anti-LGBT forces made a decided shift in their battle against LGBT rights and turned much of their attention to promoting religious exemptions under the law. Unfortunately, transgender schoolchildren have become a major target for discrimination.

In fact, to date estimates suggest that at least 17 state legislatures have considered some form of legislation specifically targeting trans people and their access to gender-affirmed facilities. Many of those measures including school bathroom bans.

Perhaps in response to these proposals, the Obama administration issued formal federal guidance in August of 2016. The directive stated that any public school or university receiving federal funding must abide by federal anti-sex discrimination laws, which the administration believes to be trans-inclusive.

Despite this guidance, states like North Carolina have passed and continue to enforce legislation, like the odious HB2, which aims to criminalize trans people for using gender-affirming facilities and pressure schools to go against federal law.

In a major new report entitled Shut Out: Restrictions on Bathroom and Locker Room Access for Transgender Youth in US Schools,” Human Rights Watch exposes the many ways in which anti-trans policies harm and abuse the rights of American schoolchildren.

Human Rights Watch conducted in-depth interviews with 74 trans students, as well as 50 parents, teachers and administrators from across five states: Alabama, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Utah.

Though several states on that list have flirted with anti-trans student legislation, none have on their books legislation comparable to HB2. A number of those states are, however, fighting the Obama administration’s federal trans-inclusive guidance in court and, indeed, have various policies that are anti-trans anyway.

Human Rights Watch identified several alarming problems. One comes from Texas mother Tanya H whose trans son Elijah is nine. She recounts how difficult Elijah’s transition was at school because he lacked the right kind of support network:

A year ago at this time, he was having a really hard time, and he’d go into the girl’s bathroom and girls would yell, ‘There’s a boy in here!’ and he couldn’t go to the boys’ bathroom, and so he stopped going to the bathroom. There were a lot of meltdowns.

Elijah later became suicidal and was briefly hospitalized. As a result of all this, Tanya put him in a new school where administrators were fully aware of her son’s gender and agreed to support him to the best of their abilities.

Similar issues may stem from a lack of staff training or a failure to understand trans student needs. For example, to avoid providing bathroom access for trans students, some schools have tried to use “all gender options.” This, in fact, defies federal guidance and amounts to sex-based discrimination because it specifically segregates trans students from the rest of the student body.

Occasionally, however, students will ask for those options if they don’t feel comfortable using either facility. These students must be accommodated when possible — for example, by allowing them access to staff facilities. Yet, the HRW report cites several instances in which trans students faced difficulties accessing these facilities due to hostility from teaching staff:

Silas G., a 15-year-old transgender boy in South Dakota, said “My teacher would grill me, ‘Why are you going to the nurse, why are you going to the nurse, why are you going to the nurse?’ And I got yelled at for using the faculty bathroom.”

The report details how one child who attempted to access a staff bathroom was outed to his or her parents by staff who insensitively raised the issue. Other times, if children did use facilities that were aligned with their gender, they were forcibly removed from those facilities and faced disciplinary action. The report highlights:

In one incident, a student in Alabama was dragged from the bathroom by the school principal, and, in many others, students were told they had to stop using the bathroom immediately.

Many of the young people who participated in the report said they simply avoided going to the bathroom entirely while they were at school. This puts them at risk of serious health problems including urinary tract infections and, potentially, future kidney damage.

There are also mental health repercussions. The inability to access gender-affirming facilities may, if the child experiences gender dysphoria, contribute to stress and anxiety.

The students also report having to use P.E. changing facilities and programs that don’t match their gender. As a result, many children declined to take part in classes, which ultimately could prevent them from graduating. The report highlights how single-use changing facilities, staff facilities and inclusive physical education policies — for example, those used in California – can help to alleviate this problem.

The report recommends a number of strategies, but one key action is that schools adopt trans-inclusive policies at the individual and district level. This can give teachers absolute clarity on what is expected by federal law when they interact with trans children. Such a policy also helps to provide trans kids with a framework to understand their rights and responsibilities.

No child should ever experience harassment and bullying due to who they are, and no one should have to risk their education simply to live a gender-affirmed life. Clearly, we have a long way to go in order to make that a reality for trans students.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

90 comments

Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago

thanks

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Jim V
Jim Ven9 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Jim V
Jim Ven9 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Leong S
Leong S1 years ago

tks

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Philippa Powers
Philippa Powers2 years ago

The best solution is to either install or change the designation of one bathroom to allow transgender students a safe place to go. The student could use the bathroom of the sex of their choice and the only other people in there would be transgender.

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Bayla D.
.2 years ago

Why can't people just learn to mind their OWN messed-up business! This makes me SO angry!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Marija K.
Marija K2 years ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqm36seHkyc -- ''Transing a 5 year old tomboy''

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byU3Ix1bLOA -- ''Children are not transgender''

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddfQK30Iyk8 -- ''Parents of girls and transgender fad''

https://autogynephiliatruth.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/munchausen-by-proxy-medical-child-abuse-and-paraphilic-fantasy-in-mainstream-transgenderism/

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Marija K.
Marija K2 years ago

Abolish gender and problem solved.

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