The implementation of bathroom restricting laws sends a message to transgender people that what they feel and believe about their own identity is invalid. According to Time, it propagates abuse by validating the beliefs of those who deny that humans can identify with a different gender than suggested by their biological sex. Ultimately, the ability to freely use the bathroom should be a basic, federal human right because it is an essential part of every person’s life that, when restricted, can lead to constant stress and disarray.

Failing to federally support the right of transgender individuals to use the bathrooms that they prefer indirectly supports continued discrimination and prejudice against transgender people. It sends a message that trans people are violating what is lawfully normal and acceptable with their behavior. Instead, the government should be sending a message of country-wide acceptance with open bathroom policies. Bathrooms can be seen as the last major area of modern society where gender separation takes place. They are a public way of explicitly defining someone’s gender. Taking down this barrier is one of the final steps towards treating transgender and cisgender people equally.

Public bathrooms are often sources of discomfort for transgender students. (Photo: Peter Dazeley)

This is especially impactful for young students and kids, who may just beginning to consider changing their gender identity. Granted free choice of bathrooms, people are able to first explore this change in a comfortable environment that may give them more confidence in their beliefs regarding their personal identities. Criminalizing these actions can make them feel like what they are doing is wrong and discourage further exploration of their identities.

In a report done by the Movement Advancement Project, 70% of transgender students surveyed said they avoided bathrooms because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. This is perpetuated by the message that transgender bathroom restrictions send to these students. The message goes beyond the bathroom, infiltrating into school life in general as transgender-exclusionary laws can be seen to fuel harassment, abuse and bullying.

According to USA Today, students uncomfortable with using bathrooms may go to such extremes as lowering their food and liquid intake to reduce the likelihood of needing to use the restroom. This can lead to physical problems like urinary tract infections. With the creation of an inclusive and open environment across the nation, trans students are more likely to feel accepted for who they are and live a more physically and mentally healthy lifestyle.