Trans teens denied bathroom rights more likely to be sexually assaulted

A woman holding a sign which says "protect trans kids"

Transgender and non-binary students are more likely to be sexually assaulted at schools which force them to use incorrect bathrooms and changing rooms, a new study has found.

Researchers looked at 3,673 responses from trans and non-binary students collected by the LGBTQ Teen Study, which quizzed young people aged 13 to 17 across all 50 US states in 2017.

Almost 26 percent of respondents said they had been victim to sexual assault in the previous 12 months, the report found.

That number rose to 36 percent among those who were denied access to the correct facilities. Notably, transgender girls were 149 percent more likely to be attacked when made to use the wrong bathroom.

In comparison, 15 percent of cis girls and 4 percent of cis boys reported being sexually assaulted in the Youth Risk Behaviour Surveillance Survey.

Trans bathroom study isn’t conclusive

“We can’t tell from this study whether restrictive restroom and locker room policies cause sexual assault,” Gabriel Murchison, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and lead author of the report, told Reuters on Monday (May 6).

“However, at the least, they seem to be a marker for an environment where trans and non-binary youth are at risk.”

“They seem to be a marker for an environment where trans and non-binary youth are at risk.”

—Gabriel Murchison

The findings go against the erroneous but often-held notion that transgender people pose a threat to cisgendered women when allowed to use the correct bathroom.

“Sometimes it is the school personnel who hold this attitude,” Diane Ehrensaft and Stephen Rosenthal wrote in an editorial to accompany the report.

“Sometimes it is anxious and angry parents who do not want their children exposed to or ‘damaged by’ the gender-minority youth at their school.”

School bathrooms divide US politics

School bathrooms have become a political battlefield in recent years.

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In May 2016, then-President Barack Obama issued guidance making schools obliged to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.

Donald Trump rescinded these protections during the early weeks of his presidency in February 2017.

Since then, Trump has also enacted a ban on transgender people serving in the military, and now appears poised to roll back Obama-era healthcare protections.

More recently, on April 30, Tennessee representatives voted to advance a bill which could stop trans students from using the correct bathroom.

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