After campaigning on a blatantly anti-LGBTQ platform, President Donald Trump revoked the transgender protections that Obama had afforded for trans students, just one month into his presidency. As someone who remembers my own discomfort with public restrooms and lockers growing up, I am incredibly worried for the many students who will be impacted by this policy.
When I was a teenager, I always feared going into the men’s locker room. I played football and volleyball, I was a decent athlete, and yet, I never felt like I fit in. I never felt comfortable or confident in those situations.
Even today, I refrain from using the bathroom in public as often as possible. I don’t feel comfortable walking into a women’s bathroom because I don’t want to cause a scene. We have all seen or heard about the things that have seemingly become normal in the first three months of Trump’s presidency — I have no interest in being another news story about how another trans woman is attacked or murdered. These fears may seem unfounded to many, but 2016 was the deadliest year for trans women on record. The last thing I want is to run into someone who thinks I am just a man playing dress up, or who thinks that I am just some pervert who is trying to be creepy while using the women’s room.
I go to the gym at six every morning. I have gone into the women’s locker room exactly zero times. I don’t wear makeup to the gym and my hair is barely long enough to pull back into a ponytail, so I know many will see my entering the women’s locker room as suspect. But I also try to avoid using the men’s locker room, because it doesn’t seem right for me to walk into that locker room either. Where do I belong? What is the right thing for me to do in this situation?
My worries are only compounded upon seeing multiple people, men and women, wearing shirts showing support for Donald Trump. I’m not delusional; I know there are plenty of people who voted for Trump and who live or visit my city, but that doesn’t make me feel any better when I’m debating which locker room to use, so I can go into the sauna or jacuzzi at the gym.
But for the many trans students across the country, these feelings of concern and worry for personal safety are much worse.
Transgender teens are far more likely to self-harm or attempt to commit suicide than the general population. About 41 percent of trans teens have reportedly attempted to commit suicide, over eight times the rate of the general population.
Nobody feels entirely comfortable or confident in high school, but it’s certainly better when students don’t have to stress about whether they might get assaulted or whether they are going to be teased relentlessly, simply for being themselves Teenagers have enough going on with adjusting to new things in their lives without having to constantly be in a state of fear about whether they are going to be attacked for changing into or out of their P.E. clothes or simply using the bathroom..
The rights that were taken away from trans students are particularly scary for what may be next to go when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Already this year, 15 states have introduced bathroom bills. Six of the states have chosen to try to legislate transgender people out of existence in one of the most basic, human ways possible.
These politicians are working toward reelection based mostly on ignorance and fear. There is simply no reason to be afraid of transgender people, regardless of their age.
Former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory made headlines last year with HB2, a blatantly anti-LGBTQ law that banned trans people from using the bathroom they feel comfortable in. But before that, there were roughly 17 states and over 200 cities/municipalities that had transgender protection laws. In all those places, there were exactly zero issues with transgender people assaulting anyone in any bathroom. Ensuring equal protection did more than fear-mongering about bathrooms.
For McCrory, running on a platform of fear didn’t help. He ran his reelection campaign on the bathroom bill and lost.
But for many others, spreading fear about trans people is working. After the backlash to HB2, North Carolina repealed the law and passed House Bill 142, which is notoriously similar in nature and prevents any cities in the state from passing LGBTQ protections until 2020. Dozens of other anti-LGBTQ bills are working their way through state legislatures across the country.
There are no laws protecting people who assault others — whether in the bathroom or elsewhere. But still, transgender people are targeted in the name of “safety.” But what about our safety? What about our children’s safety? It’s not fair to use your safety as an excuse for your hate.
Jamie Neal is a writer who was born in the Bay Area and now lives in Las Vegas, NV. She’s an expert napper, avid bat flipper, and wants you to remember that two is not a winner and three nobody remembers. Her favorite color is glitter and she thinks you should donate to The Trevor Project with her every time she hits a home run.