How Transgender Teens Are Fighting Against Bathroom Laws

Every time I use a public bathroom, I have to make a choice: Do I break the law, or do I disregard my comfort and face the risk of harassment and violence? As a 17-year-old transgender girl who began transitioning at 14, I’ve been wrestling with my gender ever since I was a child. At school, I’ve become accustomed to using the women’s restroom, where I feel safest and most comfortable. I’ve finally begun to accept myself as more than what is stated on my birth certificate. But a new law in my home state of North Carolina rejects all of this.

Except it doesn’t make sense to invalidate my identity and put me in possible danger by forcing me to use the men’s restroom. I was appalled and desperately wanted to fight back. A few weeks after the bill passed, I joined a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, and several other plaintiffs challenging HB2. I did this not only in the hope of reversing it but also to represent other transgender youth in North Carolina who are as hurt as I am, and to raise awareness and acceptance for transgender individuals.

HB2’s supporters argue that they’re protecting girls from men entering women’s restrooms. But they’re actually labeling transgender people as predators. Forcing us to use bathrooms that run counter to our identity is incredibly damaging. We already face a disproportionate amount of violence, discrimination, and bullying, and are vastly more likely than the general public to attempt suicide. Laws like HB2 promote false stereotypes that perpetuate these dangers. When we use the bathroom, we’re there to relieve ourselves, not attack others.

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Justice is on our side, having deemed the law a violation of three civil rights statutes, including Title IX. The Obama administration also recently issued guidelines for schools to allow transgender students to use our correct restroom, and for staff and contractors to respect our name, gender, and pronouns. This national recognition that transgender youth exist was enormous. While we still face opposition, I’m confident that we’ll overcome the hateful legislation that North Carolina has imposed with HB2. We deserve equal treatment — that is “common sense” to me.