Gender-affirming restrooms recommended for schools

March 30, 2017, Springer

Educational policies and practices should explicitly ensure the wellbeing and healthy development of all students by supporting the right of students to use a bathroom in an institutional context that affirms their gender identity and expression. There are many ways that this can occur including providing gender-neutral restrooms in schools, says Laura Wernick of Fordham University in the US, lead author of a study in Springer's Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Co-authored with Alex Kulick and Matthew Chin, the study showed that ensuring safe access to bathrooms and other school facilities for trans students is vital if educational equality is to be ensured.

The issue of bathroom access to trans youth has been of great significance in the United States since President Donald Trump issued a directive earlier in the year to rescind protection of transgender students. The rights of such to use the bathroom associated with their gender is currently also the subject of legal deliberation by US courts. In this regard, Wernick and her team's research makes an important contribution, as very few empirical studies have so far focused on this issue within the context of high schools.

The researchers analyzed a multi-school climate survey conducted in 2014 at five public high schools in southeast Michigan to examine the relationship between students' , how safe they felt using bathroom facilities at school and their grades and self-esteem. The school climate was also taken into account, and how much acceptance people from different sexual identities enjoyed. The study also took into account school climate, race, and grade level.

Considerable variation in the ability of schools to provide opportunities for the healthy development of students was found. For instance there are significant demographic disparities by gender, as well as race and sexual orientation. The findings affirm a wide range of research that has documented the existence and persistence of inequalities throughout the US educational system. Marginalized students who did not feel safe when using bathroom facilities, in general, did not find school to be a secure place.

Compared to their cisgender counterparts, bathroom safety for trans safety in particular had a significant impact on overall school safety, self-esteem and grades. "Together, these findings suggest that while identifying as trans may help students, on average, to affirm their sense of self within the broader community, it also exposes students to multiple barriers of sexism and genderism in successfully accessing both social and educational opportunities in environments," explain the authors.

"Given the current legal and political contentions over the rights of trans students, our findings are particularly important in elucidating the specific dynamics of bathroom safety among adolescents who are both more substantially limited in their mobility and agency than adults, as well as engaged in crucial years of identity development, relative to both gender as well as a range of other identities and experiences," they add.

Explore further: 731 people get gender changes on NYC birth certificates

More information: Laura J. Wernick et al, Gender Identity Disparities in Bathroom Safety and Wellbeing among High School Students, Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2017). DOI: 10.1007/s10964-017-0652-1

Related Stories

Trans and gender-fluid teens left with few 'safe harbors'

February 28, 2017

Transgender and gender-fluid teens, particularly those born male, face up to three times more mental and physical abuse at school and at home than their gender-conforming peers, according to a new study from UC Berkeley.

Study finds schoolyard homophobia affects grades

October 12, 2016

A Western Sydney University study investigating the experiences of gender and sexuality diverse high school students has found derogatory language and harassment is linked to lower academic and wellbeing outcomes.

Better care for transgender youth

July 30, 2014

A fact sheet on ways to improve the wellbeing of transgender youth in New Zealand has been developed at the University of Auckland.

Recommended for you

Archaeologists find ancient necropolis in Egypt

February 24, 2018

Egypt's Antiquities Ministry announced on Saturday the discovery of an ancient necropolis near the Nile Valley city of Minya, south of Cairo, the latest discovery in an area known to house ancient catacombs from the Pharaonic ...

A statistical look at the probability of future major wars

February 22, 2018

Aaron Clauset, an assistant professor and computer scientist at the University of Colorado, has taken a calculating look at the likelihood of a major war breaking out in the near future. In an article published on the open ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.