Never in my life has it been an issue for me to go the bathroom.
I have never had to consider which bathroom I want to go in, or which bathroom is the safest for me to go in. I just knew. Recently, though, I've discovered that it isn't that way for everyone.
I live in a very small, conservative community. This year, one of the students at my high school came out as transgender. Although I acknowledged his bravery, I didn't see it as a huge deal at first. This was mainly because I overestimated my community's tolerance.
Very quickly into the school year I began hearing comments in the hallway--people complaining about which bathroom and locker room he was using, and about the fact that he suggested a non-gendered restroom. These conversations got ugly, so I prefer not to mention what was specifically said. But let it be known that transphobia is alive and well in my school.
Why is this happening? How are these kind, friendly students being so hurtful and purposefully using the wrong pronouns? I wondered. It boggled my mind. It just didn't make sense.
The main problem, I figured, is how our community views transgender people. You know, we're pretty religious. It must be a church thing. Then, something happened that made everything sort of click together. Just this week, one of my teacher's used, along with incorrect pronouns, the word "disgusting" to describe Caitlyn Jenner. In front of an entire class. A class of students who just so happen to know a transgender teen.
Click. Of course these students are transphobic! We are literally being taught it in the classroom! We are told to use the wrong pronouns because, they aren't really a boy/girl/whatever. We're taught that their struggles are meaningless, their hurt unimportant.
This has got to stop. We are so much better than this. It's easy to judge, and it's easy to hate, but I suggest we all take the high route and try to learn something new. Talk to transgender students. Listen to what they say. Pay attention to Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, Jazz Jennings, and other transgender public figures. Do research. Don't be the source of the problem; don't be the reason why someone wants to give up on life.
Transphobia is not what we should be teaching at our schools. Instead, we should be preaching and practicing tolerance and acceptance. Remember that transgender students are not lying, they are not dangerous, they are not tools for your bigotry. They are human beings trying to live their lives and learn. Let them be.
And let them use the dang bathroom.