Photo by Wunmi Onibudo
After realizing I was transgender, I began to see what cisgender people (people who identify with their sex assigned at birth) were taking for granted: clothes, driver’s licenses, state IDs, healthcare, a validated identity, and sometimes even their homes and loved ones, in addition to the often talked about restrooms. A lot of these things are so integrated into the way society works, but it’s a society centered on cisgender living – a society not made for me.
I’m a non-binary trans person. This means that I don’t identify as either male or female, and I’m transitioning to a body that feels more comfortable to me. Lately, many public places like schools have been making their binary restrooms (male and female restrooms) “trans-accessible,” allowing binary trans people (transgender people who do identify as male or female) to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. What they’re often not doing, though, is including a gender-neutral alternative.
In my school, there are only two or three other non-binary students, and I’m the only one who plans on transitioning to some degree. At school, I get a lot of dirty looks in the restroom. Even other LGBTQ people tell me that my identity is made up or that my identity is a mental disorder. People tell me that my identity as a trans person isn’t valid because I was assigned female at birth and still sometimes wear dresses and makeup (even though these same people vehemently claim that clothes and makeup are genderless). People have even told me to kill myself.
Gender-neutral restrooms are so important to affirming non-binary and gender non-conforming identities. Having a gender-neutral restroom not only gives me access to a restroom that I feel comfortable in, but it also gives this to intersex people and to other people who might need a gender-neutral alternative.
Despite their importance, my school has yet to incorporate gender-neutral restrooms. Creating change is difficult, especially when you're part of only a handful of non-binary student activists. Moreover, students are often limited by schoolwork, transportation, the strength or presence of their GSAs, and other limitations such as mental health or physical ability. But our needs are no less real, and we need allies to help us do this necessary work.
This Trans Awareness Week, only days after an election that put the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students at risk, I call upon schools and other public places to remember non-binary people like me. Making restrooms trans-accessible means not only allowing binary trans students to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, but also providing an alternative for those who identify outside the gender binary.
Resources like nonbinary.org, GLSEN’s guide on being an ally to transgender and gender non-conforming students, and GLSEN’s model district policy on transgender and gender non-conforming students are great places to start when thinking about how you can help make schools safer and more affirming, including with truly inclusive restrooms.
Keress Weidner is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council and lives in Ohio, the home state of Leelah Alcorn, who would've been nineteen on November 15. Her death sparked nationwide mourning in the trans community and led to the criminalization of conversion therapy in Cincinnati.