The changes of bathrooms: from escaping controversy to causing it

Virginia Aabram, Head News Editor

Until last March, the bathroom was a place to get away from controversy. But with North Carolina’s bill requiring people to use the restroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate, it has become yet another battle-ground of the culture wars.  Questions of how to compassionately and respectfully accommodate gender dysphoric people, especially students, have been quietly being dealt at more local levels for years now, but the North Carolina bill thrust the issue into the national spotlight.

The issue of transgenderism begins with the simple matter of truth.  What is truth? In very simple terms, it is the conforming of one’s mind to reality.  When one’s vision of the world or of oneself does not line up with with reality, that is a case for mental illness.  For example, sufferers of anorexia perceive themselves to be overweight based on a skewed vision of  what they think their bodies look like.  In most cases, however, they are not overweight, and the disease is a manifestation of an underlying desire for control.  According to experts, the case for gender dysphoria is very similar. The one affected perceives that they were “born in the wrong body,” despite there being little medical evidence to back up this feeling.

In a 2014 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (re-published in May 2016), former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Paul McHugh wrote that “Policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention.”

He goes on to compare the remarkable similarity between gender dysphoria and other bodily dysphoria illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia.  Furthermore, he sites several studies that have conclusively shown that encouraging cross-gender identification and/or gender reassignment surgeries have little to no impact on the mental health of most recipients.  A study conducted by Johns Hopkins throughout the 1960’s found that around 80% of children who identified as the opposite gender no longer did so after going through puberty.  A comprehensive study completed in 2011 by the Karolinka Institute in Sweden found that individuals who underwent sex-reassignment surgery started to experience a rapid deterioration in mental health about ten years after the operation.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that encouraging gender dysphoria at a young age is harmful to children, the US Department of Justice released a statement last May encouraging schools to allow their students to choose which locker room they would like to use based on gender identity rather than biological sex.

So where does this leave high schools? Should the federal government force schools to allow trans students to use the bathroom or locker room of their choice, as the Obama Administration has threatened?  These cases are better handled on a case-by-case basis at the school and district levels rather than through so called “encouragement” from the federal government that will likely result in withholding funds from states the refuse to comply.   Bullying states into accepting a social idea with remarkably little scientific basis does not open up dialogue for what is truly best for all students.

Schools have the foremost responsibility to ensure the safety, modesty and well-being of all of their students. If any student experiences undue amounts of stress relating to incidents in a locker room or restroom, the school could balance the needs of both trans and others by offering designated private facilities.  These facilities could be could be made available to anyone who asks, thereby not singling out a single group of students.  But under no circumstances should schools risk the safety and privacy of their students by permitting the use of locker rooms or restrooms by the opposite sex.

Male and female public restrooms do not exist to separate those who “identify” and males and those who “identify” as females, but rather to separate those with male anatomy from those with female anatomy.  Much more often than not, men and women are sexually attracted to one another, which makes undressing with the opposite sex present uncomfortable. It is no myth that trans people experience significant struggles, and that schools should seek to shelter them from harassment.

In a culture that works so hard to promote self-love and acceptance of one’s body “as it is”, encouraging those with gender dysphoria to act on their desires is a ridiculous paradox. They need help and support to accept reality.