Have you ever dreaded going into a locker room? The sad truth is that most locker rooms do not have any protection policies in place for the Transgender/Nonbinary (T/NB)community. In school, I didn’t join any sports teams because I was terrified of having to change in front of my peers. I imagined that I would be lucky if I got off with just verbal harassment and not physical assault…or worse. Instead I did everything I could to change in the nurse’s bathroom before gym class to avoid having to be around anyone who might see me. It wasn’t until I got slightly older and started to hear other people’s stories that I realized this was a common experience.
Whether it’s in schools or commercial gyms, locker rooms have never been a friendly or comfortable environment for T/NB people. In a study done by GLSEN in 2017, it was found that 70% of transgender students said that they avoid bathrooms because they feel unsafe and uncomfortable. There have been many reported stories of trans teens who have either been prevented from using the correct locker room, and/or attacked. One of the most disturbing instances that comes to mind is the story of Kenidra Woods. Three school officials came into the bathroom while she was using it and opened the stall door on her while telling her to get out. These experiences of danger are what prevents T/NB people from accessing spaces they need in order to improve their wellbeing.
There is a disproportionate ratio of T/NB individuals who will face sexual and physical assault just by trying to use the correct locker rooms/bathrooms. In 2015, there was a study conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality consisting of about 28,000 T/NB participants. They found that 60% of the participants have reported avoiding using public bathrooms, while 12% of those individuals have experienced verbal harassment. That means 16,800 people have purposefully not used a public bathroom in fear of suffering a hate crime.
The violent experiences the community faces is perpetuated by transphobic systemic policies. As an example, North Carolina tried to pass a law called “House Bill 2” in 2016. With this bill in effect, it would prevent people from using the bathroom that doesn’t match the sex marker on their birth certificate. Luckily, the bill was repealed in 2017 after North Carolina was sued for violation of rights. The fact that this bill lasted as long as it did is absolutely disgusting. This bill came into existence because of transphobic rhetoric from hateful and uneducated minds who claimed that T/NB folk were going to display “predatory behavior.” They claimed that many trans people were “tricking” society; that in fact, it was really “men in dresses” seizing an opportunity to assault women. In reality, people just want to be able to use the restroom for its intended purpose and move on.
As someone who has actively been a part of the T/NB community for about four years now, it exasperates me that these policies haven’t had any real change. By neglecting to enforce safer laws and policies in these environments, people are being prevented from doing this such as go to the gym, use the restroom, take their health into their hands, and seek aid they may need. People’s safety and well being shouldn’t have to be something that is argued over. And yet, in 2020 we are still having this discussion.
Author: Marshall Moreno