Bathrooms have become a battleground for transgender kids


By Sonali Kohli
April 5, 2015

As the US begins to recognize the transgender community, and as some transgender youth feel more comfortable coming out at younger ages, the battleground for rights is shifting—from adult venues, like workplaces, to schools. One of the most basic places the conflict often unfolds on school grounds: the bathroom.

In 2013, a Portland high school added unisex bathrooms, and Colorado transgender child Coy Mathis won the right to use the girls’ bathroom; last year a teen in Maine won not only the right to use the students’ girls bathroom instead of a separate staff bathroom that the school required her to use, but also a $75,000 settlement.

It’s hard to get an accurate estimate of the number of transgender youth and adults in the US, says Gary Gates, a research director at UCLA Law School’s LGBT research center, the Williams Institute. By his estimate, about .3% of the US adult population (pdf, p. 3) identify as transgender. Recent surveys of transgender youth produce higher numbers, ranging from 1.3% of middle school children in San Francisco to around 2.25% of youth and young adults (pdf, p. 3). This suggests that transgender young people today may be more likely to come out than in the past.

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