Which Public Restroom Should A Transgender Child Use?

restroom sign

Transgender first grade student Coy Mathis has been banned from using the girls bathroom at her elementary school. Imagine telling a seven-year-old, "You can't go to the bathroom there!" If I were her parent, I would be outraged.

Of course, I'm already outraged by the bathroom pass rules prevalent in many schools. "Cross your legs, hold it in, and wait until recess to go," they tell children. It's ridiculous! And while it's not quite the same experience little Coy Mathis is facing, the bottom line is: when ya gotta go, ya gotta go! Plain and simple.

Consider this situation: Imagine you really had to use the bathroom, but for whatever reason, you didn't have access to the one assigned to your gender. Would you use the other one? Be honest. My guess is that almost every person has had to walk through the opposite sex's bathroom door at one time or another to take care of business. After all, what's the big deal? Yet, in an outrageous decision by Fountain Colorado Elementary School, little Coy, a transgender male-to-female identified child, is being told she can either use the boys restroom,  use the staff restroom or go to the nurse's restroom.

Here's why I find it so outrageous. First, it's a form of abuse and discrimination. Second, there are much better ways to use tax dollars, school administrator's time and teachers skills than to monitor where a child goes to the restroom. Third, a child's self-esteem is already fragile enough without adding "You're not good enough to use this bathroom!" And fourth, Coy's parents shouldn't have to fight this battle on top of all the other challenges that come with having a transgender child.

Excuse me for sounding unsympathetic to the socialized thoughts that little girls shouldn't see little boys' penises and little boys shouldn't gaze upon little girls' vaginas. God forbid a child actually sees the human form in its raw, natural state — naked. To me, it's these types of puritanical thoughts that have created the screwed up perspective on sexuality in our culture.

While I am sympathetic toward the idea that Coy, with a boy's body and a girl's identity, could cause some confusion among children, there are some additional factors to consider. For example: Girls restrooms only have stalls, so it's not like Coy's little willy would be on display for all to see; Coy is included in all the other normal classroom activities, identifying as a girl, except for this one thing; and Colorado has transgender discrimination laws protecting transgenders. 

I can't help but wonder how much time, effort and money is being spent on this incident that would be better spent paying for teachers' salaries, purchasing much needed classroom supplies and implementing diversity and tolerance programs in schools. Now, My stance may be coming from a soap box. Still, I have a secret to share. No, I am not transgender, nor are either of my daughters or my partner. My secret is that I've used a gender neutral restroom — and survived!

I experienced "gender neutral bathrooms" for the second time in my life just recently. The first time was a year ago at the GLAAD Awards in Los Angeles. This time, it was at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Creating Change Conference in Atlanta. Nearly every restroom in the public spaces at the Atlanta Downtown Hilton were temporarily converted to "Gender Neutral" restrooms to accommodate the diversity of the attendees — gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, ally, etc.!

Of course, as a gay man, I wasn't quite sure how I felt about walking into a restroom where my private parts would be exposed at a urinal where a female or transgender could see ... not because I'm ashamed of my body, but because, wel, I'd never really thought about it much before. But once I allowed myself to "come out of my shell" and do what comes naturally, I was just fine. After all, I'm just like you and Coy — a collaboration of muscle, cells, veins, blood and DNA.

Stripped down to our barest human particles — skin, hair, eyes, teeth, penises, vaginas and breasts — we're simply human beings. The irony is, we as human beings have created monsters out of sex, sexuality and the human form. This sort of behavior has now led to asking transgendered first graders like Coy not only to hide her human form and her gender identity, but also to use a bathroom that doesn't make her feel comfortable. That'sthe bare naked truth, and it stinks about as much as a Port-A-Potty after the Coachella Music Festival.

Rick Clemons, The Coming Out Coach
Certified Professional Coach (CPC), International Coach Federation Associate Certified Coach, Energy Leader Index, Master Practioner (ELI-MP)

Rick Clemons is a Certified Professional Coach who's been featured on The Ricki Lake Show, and is a highly sought after radio show guest, blogger, author, and Sex Coach U Faculty member, who lovingly addresses the many facets of Coming Out for all who are touched by this Journey. Rick also hosted his own radio show, The Coming Out Lounge, and has been an expert guest on numerous other radio shows, and in print on national blogs.

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