Only 13 US states give trans students the right to use the correct toilet
Across the United States, the issue of education rights for trans students is becoming a big issue. Particularly, the rights of trans students to use the toilets and changing rooms that match their gender.
There are extremes of opinion from state to state. Whereas in Maine, a trans girl was awarded damages after she sued for the right to use the girls toilets, in Kentucky a lawmaker is proposing to offer a bounty to anyone who finds a trans student in the “wrong” toilet. California passed a law in 2013 ensuring the bathroom rights of trans students, and a school board in Virginia voted against a similar provision in December last year. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in favour of a young trans girl, and in the same state a school board member said that trans people should be castrated before being allowed into toilets.
The US Department of Education has made it clear that education equality laws apply to trans students too. This means schools must provide facilities equally to trans students – including the right to use the appropriate bathroom.
However, while the law can be interpreted to protect trans young people, it does not specifically mention them. As seen in Virginia, schools and local authorities can insist trans students use separate, neutral facilities and argue that this fulfills their obligation to provide for trans people.
Only thirteen sates, and the District of Columbia, has specific protections for trans students. Harper Jean Tobin of the National Center for Transgender Equality told Vocativ “Most of these have specific statutory language, interpretive guidance, and/or case law spelling out that the law requires equal access to facilities for transgender students. These explicit protections and interpretations have certainly helped raise awareness of the rights of students.”
This week, President Obama mentioned transgender people in the State of the Union address for the first time in US history. But in 37 states, trans students still can’t be guaranteed the right to use the toilet at school.