In 2016, the Obama administration initiated a directive for public schools to allow transgender students to use whichever bathroom corresponds to the gender with which they identify. Last week, President Trump reversed this directive.
The controversial decision has direct health effects—both mental and physical—on transgender students. The American Academy of Pediatrics, a professional membership organization of nearly 70,000 pediatricians, spoke out against the rescinded guidelines.
The organization’s statement statement read: “Policies excluding transgender youth from facilities consistent with their gender identity have detrimental effects on their physical and mental health, safety and well-being.”
This decision has put transgender students in a vulnerable position in their classrooms. Trans students feel uncomfortable and self-conscious already, as they are going through a substantial transitional process. Being blatantly oppressed for a matter as simple as going to the bathroom makes this discomfort much more severe. In fact, studies have shown that transgender students are more likely to be anxious and depressed—often a result of the harassment they face from their peers.
Dolan-Sandrino, who was an eighth grader in 2014—when there were no policies surrounding the subject—told NBC, “I definitely subconsciously started eating and drinking less so that I wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom. I would ask to go to the bathroom, and I would be denied in front of the entire class, whereas a cis[gender] girl or a cis[gender] boy would ask to go to the bathroom and they would get the pass.”
Division head of adolescent medicine at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Dr. Robert Garofalo, confirmed that when these students refrain from going to the bathroom for hours, it puts them at an increased risk for developing a urinary tract infection, as well as constipation. Garofalo also noted that, in extreme cases, it can also lead to encopresis, which is an involuntary defecation often associated with emotional disturbance.
Bart Everson, CC-BY
Elizabeth Chambers is a health intern with Paste and a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.