Imagine waking up and not feeling equal to what you see in the mirror. How you are on the inside is the complete opposite of what’s reflected back to you. Now imagine trying to use the bathroom that` equates with what you identify as and who you are and being turned out because who you are is making others uncomfortable. Well I just described to you how 10% of just youth (The Williams Institute) or 150,000 children, feel everyday when they are forced to go to school and use the bathroom that doesn’t reflect what they identify as. 62.1% (Human Rights Campaign) of those 150,000 kids are reporting mental health struggles daily.
As a result of these feelings of not being supported and feeling alone, 41.8% (Human Rights Campaign) of that 150,000 children attempted suicide. But this can be turned around. These statistics of mental health woes and suicide attempts can be lowered. But it starts with changes to our schools. Gender neutral bathrooms need to be installed for the safety of the world’s youth, and to show that they are cared for. Even though many citizens feel these restrooms are not cost efficient, schools should contain gender neutral bathrooms because they would lower mental health issues in trans children, would help stop trans oppression, and they would help normalize being part of the LGBTQ+ community by breaking down stereotypes.
To start with, multiple studies have led to prove that transgender and gender nonconforming youth suffer through depression and other mental health issues more when not supported in their community. Gender-neutral bathrooms would help that 62.1% (Human Rights Campaign) of trans youth lessen their suffering. But a big issue is that; many adults and parents belittle a transgender youth’s true feelings on a much deeper level. For many trans kids, this doubt and belittlement usually takes the form of parents saying that this is all a phase or even sending their kids to conversion therapy. (EYNKADOTPB). When schools, parents, and communities start to disregard or make less importance of their child or students feelings and brush-off someone's identity, then it’s a perfect recipe for an unsupportive environment. Dr. Hansel Arroyo, director for the CTMS at Mount Sinai Medical even stated that; 'This isn't necessarily new data.
Transgender youth and adults have higher rates of mood disorders, like depression and anxiety.' He added that transgender people also have a much higher rate of suicide than people who correlate with their designated gender and are heterosexual (Health Day). But this hard path for transgender youth can be avoided; “ Socially transitioned transgender children who are supported in their gender identity have developmentally normative levels of depression and only minimal elevations in anxiety, suggesting that psychopathology is not inevitable in this group.” (MHTGNYCWTP). If a school, university, or even a local restaurant started installing gender neutral bathrooms, kids and young adults would understand that they are not alone, and shouldn’t be ashamed of who they are. Gender-neutral bathrooms would make kids feel comfortable with themselves, which bring me to my next point.
Having these non-gender restrooms in our schools can help stop trans oppression. Without schools showing their LGBTQ+ support or just simply being bystanders is contributing to trans oppression. Schools and communities cannot say they are in favor of something but not show any actions supporting that. And what better place to start than the restrooms? Using the restrooms is the “great equalizer in all of us” said by trans activist Janet Mock, and imagine having that basic right turned against you, just because of the way you look? “In the Jim Crow era, bathrooms—along with water fountains and lunch counters—were places that were marked with “white only” signs.” (EYNKADOTPB), and when you think about the Jim Crow era and what’s happening now, the unfortunate reality is that both of these situations aren’t that different. But change is already starting to happen in one of New Jersey’s neighboring states; Vermont; Lawmakers in the state of Vermont passed a bill recently that will require all single-user bathrooms in public buildings and other public places to be marked as gender-neutral. (Vermont passes gender-neutral bathroom bill). Change is possible, as proven by Vermont, but we first have to take the first step of action.
Although many local and global citizens feel that gender-neutral bathrooms in schools would not be a smart way to spend money, schools should contain gender neutral bathrooms because the bathrooms would lower mental health disorders, end trans oppression, and non-gendered bathrooms would help to stop trans stereotypes. The biggest hurdle is the mass amount of fear of the unknown due to the lack of education. But evidence shows that change can happen, but only if we are all willing and lenient. All that is needed is to show your pride and support. Once again, imagine waking up and not feeling equal to what you see in the mirror. How you are on the inside is the complete opposite of what’s reflected back to you. Now imagine using the bathroom that conforms to your identity, and feeling confident in who you are. Imagine being loved, supported, and accepted by your community.
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