Get to Know the 3 Teens Fighting Transphobia, One Bathroom At a Time
As you may have heard, on Friday the Obama Administration joined with the Justice Department and the Education Department to issue a sweeping directive to every public school in America telling them to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity. Between this moment and Loretta Lynch’s groundbreaking speech on transgender rights, 2016 is already shaping up to officially be the most historic year in transgender history. While the directive may not have legal standing, it did issue a warning that if schools disobey, they could face lawsuits and even the loss of millions of dollars in federal funding. It came in response to a transphobic North Carolina bill called HB2 that has spurred widespread boycotts and condemnation since being signed into law on March 23rd.
This isn’t just a political issue thrown around during election season with lawsuit after lawsuit between Governor Pat McCrory and the U.S. Department of Education. The right to access the bathroom that aligns with the gender you identify with rather than what a doctor assigned you at birth is essential to the safety of the trans community.
These oppressive bathroom bills lead to increased rates of suicide among trans youth—and this, coming at a time when trans people already regularly report experiencing “denial of access to facilities, verbal harassment, and physical assault” at distressing rates when trying to use the bathroom that their gender identity aligns with.
It sets a dangerous and demoralizing precedent, but somehow, transgender teens are summoning the courage to push through this oppression and fight back. Throughout their communities, there are trailblazing teens speaking out through a variety of mediums—from selfies, to lawsuits—to show the next generation of transgender youth that, as terrible as things may seem today, the community will endure and thrive tomorrow. To celebrate their courage, we highlight three tenacious trans teens fighting against transphobia in bathrooms.
16-Year-Old Gavin Grimm Sued His School District and Won
Almost exactly a month ago, a federal court in Virginia made history in the transgender community and set a precedent that could become vital to the explosive fight that’s begun in Washington. It all began when Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen in Gloucester County, VA, was denied access to the boys’ restroom at his school, despite identifying as a male. A public debate within the school only led to more issues when administrators decided that students could only use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological gender.
Grimm was not having that, nor their halfhearted consolation prize of instituting a unisex bathroom for him to use, so he did what any young activist would do—in 2015, he sued the school district. His argument? That the policy violated Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program funded by the federal government—which, for those who don’t know, includes every public school in the U.S. His win was a landmark moment because, for the first time in history, a federal court confirmed that Title IX protects transgender students.
17-Year-Old Nate Quinn Used Protests to Fight Bathroom Discrimination
A few states away in the low-hanging fruit of America’s craziest state, another battle was brewing. Last year, Nate Quinn of Sarasota, Florida was banned from using the boys’ restroom, despite that being the one that aligns with his gender identity. When he was forced into the girls’ restroom, the reaction was exactly what he’d been afraid of. “It was very uncomfortable for me and all of the second grade girls in there,” he said. “I didn’t need that happening every time I would go to the bathroom.”
To fight back against the discrimination and ease some of the depression that had nearly drove him to suicide, he began to fight back. Quinn began protesting earlier this year and, by the end of January, had won access to the boys’ restroom. And he hasn’t stopped protesting either; just recently, he began lobbying for a list of demands he’s calling Nate’s List.
Among his demands are a a county-wide bill that will give transgender students in Sarasota County access to the bathroom they identify with, a trans-inclusive dress code, and training and education for staff members of the school district about transgender inclusive policies. In April, he was joined by other students in front of the school board’s offices to protest against the transphobic bathroom policies in their schools. And he doesn’t plan to stop until the proposals are passed, no matter the risks. As he explained to the Herald Tribune, “I would rather be fighting for rights and have something bad happen than just sit back and let people be mistreated.”
19-Year-Old Mason Perkins’ Target Bathroom Selfie Went Viral
For Florida teen Mason Perkins, the battle isn’t in school bathrooms. It’s within the public restrooms at Target. Ever since Target enacted a company-wide policy allowing transgender people to use the restroom aligning with their gender identity, they’ve been the target (lol) of harassment, threats of boycott, and an endless supply of hatred. For Perkins, the company’s inclusive decision was cause for celebration, so he did what any normal teen would do—he took a selfie. Well, he took three, and in each one, his eyebrows looked fantastic.
In a now-viral Facebook post, he had this to say about the policy and the ensuing backlash: “SHOUT OUT TO TARGET for letting me get up close and personal with their toilets, really enjoyed it, raped a total of zero children while pissing it was great 10/10 would piss again.” Typically, using public restrooms has been an uncomfortable and awkward experience for him, but Target truly made him feel like a normal person, which was, naturally, as good a reason as any for people to take out their torches and pitchforks.
No matter what gender you identify as (if you do identify with one at all), we have to stop treating taking a piss like it’s a political act.
Stay tuned to Milk for more updates on this civil rights battle.
Images via Facebook and Mint Press News.