Most arguments against allowing transgendered people to use the bathroom of their choosing can be effectively unraveled with a simple Google search of the facts. The No. 1 emerging concern on this issue is the alleged increased opportunity for sexual assault, specifically by men dressing up as women to fool potential victims inside bathrooms.
Instances of this scenario actually occurring are outliers at best. Anyone with a basic understanding of research knows that singular cases, even a handful of cases, cannot be generalized to the entire population.
When increased sexual assault in bathrooms is brought up, the conversation changes entirely. We are no longer talking about transgendered people; we’re talking about sexual predators. There’s almost no overlap between the two groups.
In 2014, the federal Office for Victims of Crime reported that one in two transgendered people will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. In fact, transgendered people are more likely to be victims of such crimes than anyone else in the United States.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “Most sexual offenses are committed by someone the victim knows. … About 27 percent of offenders are strangers.”
There is simply no evidence to support the idea perpetrators en masse will suddenly take an interest in cross-dressing in order to take advantage of women in bathrooms.
Perpetrators find ways to perpetrate, just like drug addicts will find ways to use drugs and serial killers will find ways to murder.
Disallowing a child to take responsibility for their own body and identity based on unsubstantiated fears is not only punitive but it is also hindering to their mental and emotional development. Further solidifying the scientific basis for allowing children to have fluid gender identities is the medical definition of gender itself.
Biologically, gender occurs on four levels: chromosomal (XY and XX), hormonal (estrogen and testosterone), external genital (penis, vagina and breasts), and identity (personal identification with a gender). During gestation, a fetus experiences incredible changes, and it is not unheard of for chromosomes to not match hormones, or for hormones to not match external genitalia — as in congenital adrenal hyperplasia or androgen insensitivity syndrome.
Gender is variable on every possible level. It is not the job of the government to police how people, in this case children, identify and express said identity.
President Barack Obama’s directive to allow school children to choose which bathroom to use sets a precedent for the next generation to accept and support people who have historically not been accepted or supported.
According to a 2002 study by psychology professors Christine Malecki and Michelle Demrary, social support — parents, teachers, classmates and close friends — is correlated to a child or adolescent’s self-concept, social skill, ability to adjust and behavior.
Statistics show that with the national spike in youth suicides, this is not something we should dismiss as unnecessary, especially when it comes to transgendered youth. More than half of transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.
The role of public schools in America is to educate, enrich and contribute to the upbringing of the next generation of Americans. The role of public schools in America is not to police where kids pee and apply their lip gloss.
Mallory Rogers is a clinical research coordinator at the University of Utah.