According to Research the Right to Choose Your Toilet Matters — #ProtectTransKids

©Mirjami Oja 2017

Last week we got to read from the news that the current US president Donald Trump’s government has revoked a directive issued by the Obama administration that allowed transgender students to use the toilets and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.

Many think that this is turning back the clock on progress for trans and LGBTQ equality in America — and, by showing an example, potentially also elsewhere in the world.

In the light of these recent events, I decided to look into some statistics to see where we stand today, here in Europe, when it comes to trans rights. And to possibly explain why something like the right to choose a toilet is so important.

Many trans people face problems in their daily life. They may have problems using social or leisure facilities because of discriminatory treatment, and even the simplest things, like boarding a plane or picking up a parcel become difficult, when the legal gender on their identity document does not match their gender identity. Many countries in Europe impose conditions before enabling a change in these documents, one of them being the requirement to be sterile. Other requirements may include a diagnosis of mental disorder, medical treatment and invasive surgery, single civil status (which means that those who are married are forced to divorce), and many countries excluding minors. These type of requirements violate the privacy, dignity and physical integrity of trans people, as well as their right to found a family, and to be free from degrading and cruel treatment.

Trans Rights Europe Map, 2016, published on TGEU’s web page reflects the requirement for sterilisation in laws and administrative practices in gender recognition legislation in Europe. It shows that as of last year, there were still 23 countries in Europe alone that require sterilisation in gender identity recognition.

In 2012, The Scottish Transgender Alliance, in partnership with TransBareAll, the Trans Resource and Empowerment Centre, Traverse Research and Sheffield Hallam University, conducted research into trans mental health and well being of trans people, called the Trans Mental Health Study. 889 trans people were interviewed for this research that revealed that 48% of the participants had at least once in their lives, and 33% had attempted suicide more than once. The evidence also suggested that in addition to suicidal behaviour trans people are also experiencing high levels of depression, anxiety, and self-harm. This is related to their experiences of transphobic discrimination and lack of appropriate health service provision.

“This research represents the largest survey of its kind in Europe, providing ground-breaking data on trans people’s mental health needs and experiences, explored in the context of daily life, social/support mechanisms and when accessing healthcare and mental health services. Central here was an exploration of how the process of transitioning (social and/or medical) impacts mental health and wellbeing. The research was unique in its exploration of both the positive and negative impact that being trans has on mental health and wellbeing.”

Trans Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Study 2012 revealed that 92% of study participants had heard that trans people are not normal, 81% had experienced silent harassment for being trans, 73% had been made fun of or called names, 38% had also experienced physical intimidation and threats and 19% had actually been hit or beaten up for being trans, 42% feared that they will die young because they’re trans, 38% had experienced sexual harassment, 14% had been sexually assaulted and 6% raped.

“- — most of these experiences or feelings were relatively recent, with few occurring over 10 years ago. For example, nearly 19% of the participants had experienced sexual harassment for being trans within the last year, and 17% experienced silent harassment within the last week.”

The study also finds that more than half of the participants had experienced problems with work due to being trans, the most common issue being harassment or discrimination (19% experiencing this). 18% also believed that they had been unfairly turned down for a job for being trans, whereas 16% had not applied for one due to fears of harassment and discrimination and 7% had left a job due to harassment or discrimination even though they had no other job to go to.

The Scottish Transgender Alliance is funded by the Scottish Government to work in partnership with a wide range of public bodies, academics, community sector organisations and individuals to progress trans equality, human rights and inclusion.

Looking at these facts and statistics, it is obvious that there’s a lot of social and political change to undergo before we can claim that we live in an equal society, where anyone can be who they are without fear of discrimination or harassment. Having a transgender brother, it is sad to see how far that goal still seems to be.

So what does this whole toilet and locker room issue matter?

As actor and LGBT activist Laverne Cox put it on CBS This Morning (discussing the Bathroom Bills in the US): “They’re about whether trans people have the right to exist in public space”

She also appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball on Thursday, after the Trump administration sent a letter to US schools outlining the change on Wednesday, explaining:

“I think it’s important, when we have conversations with and about transgender people, that we do not reduce us to body parts. We are more than the sum of our parts.

It’s so deeply objectifying and dehumanising to talk about trans people and reduce us to body parts. That is really disturbing.

We need to look at the evidence — we need to look at the hundreds of localities all over the country that have public accommodations protections, and that’s really what we’re talking about, for trans people.

Everything that he’s [Travis Weber] claiming happens, actually doesn’t happen.

Instead, trans people feel as if they have a right to exist in society.

My transition was about me existing in public space and thriving in society.

Because I was able to do that, I’ve been able to thrive.

That’s all we want.”

And that is what it is really all about: these individuals having the right to exist and having the same rights as everyone else.

With thanks to Ilaria Galletti