Transgender Youth Access to Restrooms



Date of Publication
January, 2016

All people need to be able to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity. This is a safety issue that arises for transgender people in places that are open to the public like gyms, restaurants, and retail stores. A unique issue for transgender youth is safe access to restrooms and locker rooms at school. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality:

…59% of trans students have been denied access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Rather than focusing on their education, many students struggle for the ability to come to school and be themselves without being punished for wearing clothes or using facilities consistent with who they are.

It’s a Human Rights Issue

Using the restroom or locker room consistent with a young person’s gender identity is part of living as and being seen by others as that identity. Transgender youth often feel unsafe at school, and this can impact their education. A school supporting their ability to access the appropriate restroom can reduce their safety concerns and mitigate these impacts.

It's a Health Issue

Youth who are denied access to the appropriate facility may delay using the restroom and experience harmful health effects because they often have safety concerns with using a restroom inconsistent with their identity.

Issues with Schools

When schools refuse to allow access, sometimes students and their families or advocacy groups take legal action. In October 2015, the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice filed a brief in support of a transgender teenager in Virginia who is seeking access to the boys’ restroom at his school. In Washington State, the Washington Law Against Discrimination prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity (RCW 49.60). In addition, the Washington Human Rights Commission has stated that

A person does not need to have had surgery or otherwise have undergone medical treatment in order to be considered transgender, or to be protected under the Law Against Discrimination.

Advocates’ Roles

With increased attention at the national level, and existing supportive state law, more schools will be faced with parents and children advocating for use of facilities consistent with a young person’s gender identity. Advocates need to understand this issue, be capable of dispelling myths related to transgender people, and be familiar with resources to help families and schools support transgender youth.