Gender Identity Disparities in Bathroom Safety and Wellbeing among High School Students
- 2.7k Downloads
By examining the relationship between trans identity, bathroom safety and wellbeing among high school students, this article empirically investigates how educational institutions operate as sites through which gender is negotiated in ways that are consequential for trans youth. We draw cross-sectional survey data, from a multi-school climate survey (n = 1046) conducted in the Midwestern United States, to examine three aspects of high school students’ wellbeing: safety at school, self-esteem, and grades. The sample included students in 9th–12th grade who identified as trans (9.2%) and cisgender (41.2% boys, 49.6% girls), as well as LGBQ (21.6%) and heterosexual (78.4%). Most respondents were monoracial white (65.8%), monoracial Black (12.4%), and multiracial (14.1%). Using mediation and moderation linear regression models, we show that feeling safe using school facilities helps to explain widespread inequalities between trans and cisgender students. Based on these results, we suggest that in order to address disparities in educational outcomes between trans and cisgender students, as well as to improve student wellbeing in general, policies and practices need to ensure that all students have the right to safely access bathrooms and school facilities.
KeywordsTransgender Bathroom access Cissexism School climate Wellbeing Students
Thank you to the leaders involved in Riot Youth at the Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor and the school-based organizations who helped to collect this data and are working to ensure that LGBTQ and similarly identified students have access to educational opportunities and supportive communities. We’d also like to thank Fuhua Zhai and Daniel Coleman from Fordham University for their statistical support and Milo Inglehart and Adrienne Dessel for their collaborations in the larger project. Funding for this project was provided by the Faculty Research Expense Program, Fordham University (Grant awarded to LJW).
Riot Youth leaders conceived of the study in consultation with A.K. & L.J.W. L.J.W. conceived of this manuscript with A.K. and performed statistical analysis. A.K. contributed to the exploratory statistical analysis and interpreting quantitative findings. A.K. and L.W. consulted with legal experts and adult stuff at Neutral Zone. M.C. reviewed extant literature and crafted the introduction. L.J.W., A.K., and M.C. collaborated in writing the manuscript, including the theoretical framework and implications. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Baum, J., Brill, S., Brown, J., Delpercio, A., Khan, E., Kenney, L., & Nicoll, A. (2013). Supporting and caring for our gender expansive youth. Washington, D.C., WA: Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Gender Spectrum.Google Scholar
- Esmaeili, S., & Arabmofrad, A. (2015). A critical discourse analysis of family and friends textbooks: Representation of genderism. International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, 4(4), 55–61.Google Scholar
- Fischer, D., Bellinger, L. B., Horn, S. S., & Sullivan, S. L. (2016). Advocacy to support gender identity development in schools in the face of organized backlash. In S. Russell, S. Horn (Eds.), Sexual orientation, gender identity, and schooling: The nexus of research, practice, and policy (pp. 219–237). London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Gates, G.J. (2011). Issue brief: How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender? http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-How-Many-People-LGBT-Apr-2011.pdf Accessed 23 Dec 2016
- Grant, J., Lisa, M., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J., & Keisling, M. (2011). Injustice at every turn: A report of the national transgender discrimination survey. Washington, WA: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.Google Scholar
- Greytak, E., Kosciw, J., & Diaz, E. (2009). Harsh realities: The experiences of transgender youth in our nation’s schools. New York, NY: GLSEN.Google Scholar
- Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Hayes, A.F., & Rockwood, N.J. (2016). Regression-based statistical mediation and moderation analysis in clinical research: Observations, recommendations, and implementation, Behaviour Research and Therapy, doi:10.1016/ j.brat.2016.11.001.Google Scholar
- Herman, J., Flores, A., Brown, T., Wilson, B., & Conron, K. (2017). Age of individuals who identify as transgender in the United States. Los Angeles: Williams Institute.Google Scholar
- James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The report of the 2015 U.S. transgender survey. Washington, WA: National Center for Transgender Equality.Google Scholar
- Johnson, J. (2014). Transgender youth in public schools: Why identity matters in the restroom. William Mitchell Law Rev Sua Sponte, 40, 63–98.Google Scholar
- Julia, S. (2007). Whipping girl: A transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity. Emeryville, CA: Seal.Google Scholar
- Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Giga, N. M., Villenas, C., & Danischewski, D. (2016). 2015 national school climate survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth in our nation’s schools. New York, NY: GLSEN.Google Scholar
- Koyama, E. (2003). The transfeminist manifesto. In R. Dicker, A. Piepmeiser (Eds.), Catching a wave: Reclaiming feminism for the 21st century (pp. 244–262). Lebanon, NH: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
- Larsen, H.G. (2016). The antecedent of fear in the public discourse: From Donald Trump's nativism to transgender bathroom access. International Journal of School and Cognitive Psychology 3(2): 177.Google Scholar
- Lee, V.E.. (2001). Restructuring high schools for equity and excellence: What works. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
- Liptak, A. (2016 October 28). Supreme court to rule in transgender access case. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/29/us/politics/supreme-court-to-rule-in-transgender-access-case.html?_r=0
- Moffit, R. E. (2015). Keeping the John open to Jane: How California’s bathroom bill brings transgender rights out of the water closet. Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law, 16, 475.Google Scholar
- Nadal, K. L., & Griffin, K. E. (2011). Microaggressions: A root of bullying, violence, and victimization toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. The Psychology of Teen Violence and Victimization, 1, 3–22.Google Scholar
- Peters, J.W., Becker, J., & Hirschfield Davis, J. (2017, February 22). Trump rescinds rules on bathrooms for transgender students. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com.
- Reisner, S. L., Hughto, J. M. W., Dunham, E. E., Heflin, K. J., Begenyi, J. B. G., Coffey-Esquivel, J., & Cahill, S. (2015). Legal protections in public accommodations settings: A critical public health issue for transgender and gender‐nonconforming people. Milbank Quarterly, 93(3), 484–515.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Rosenberg, M. (1979). Conceiving the self. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Seelman, K. L. (2016). Transgender adults’ access to college bathrooms and housing and the relationship to suicidality. Journal of Homosexuality, 10, 1–22.Google Scholar
- Stanley, E. A., Smith, N. (Eds.) (2011). Captive genders: Trans embodiment and the prison industrial complex. Baltimore, MD: AK.Google Scholar
- Sterling, M. (2014). To pee or not to pee-where is the question: Transgender students and the right to use public school restrooms. Cardozo JL & Gender, 21, 757.Google Scholar
- Szczerbinski, K. (2016). Education connection: The importance of allowing students to use bathrooms and locker rooms reflecting their gender identity. Children’s Legal Rights Journal, 36, 153.Google Scholar
- Tobin, H. J., & Levi, J. (2013). Securing equal access to sex-segregated facilities for transgender students. Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society, 28, 301–330.Google Scholar
- Toomey, R.B. (2014). More than just queer or trans*: Exploring youth risk and resilience through a quantitative intersectional lens. In Keynote address, 2nd Annual LGBT Research Symposium. University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign School of Social Work. Champaign, IL: Author.Google Scholar
- U.S. Department of Education. (2015). Every student succeeds act. Washington, D.C., WA: United States Department of Education.Google Scholar
- Weinberg, J. D. (2009). Transgender bathroom usage: A privileging of biology and physical difference in the law. Buffalo Journal of Gender, Law & Social Policy, 18, 147.Google Scholar
- Yosso, T. J. (2006). Critical race counterstories along the Chicana/Chicano educational pipeline. London: Routledge.Google Scholar