Transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming (TNG) youth are becoming more visible across the U.S. and the world, and you may have noticed more and more TNG youth, such as Gavin Grimm and Ashton Whitaker, speaking out about their experiences. As you read about these amazing young people, maybe you’ve wondered about the broader day-to-day experiences of TNG youth. Or maybe you’ve read about the higher risk of mental health concerns for TNG youth, but realized that there’s not always a lot of context and information about the other aspects of the lives of these young people.
Suffice it to say that bathrooms have recently leapt into the spotlight. The past several years have brought controversy to restrooms through a number of bills written to regulate who accesses bathrooms labeled for men or women. These bills have seemed to specifically target transgender people, often including legislation that requires that people use the bathroom that would align with the sex that they were assigned at birth. (If you’re not clear on terminology related to gender identity, like transgender or cisgender, check out our previous post with some introductory information.) It’s certainly not a new issue; as transwoman and transgender rights activist, Laverne Cox, stated, “Trans people have been going to the bathroom for a very long time.” To catch you up, we’ll start by going over a brief history of recent legislation and federal guidelines, then discuss some of the arguments raised in this debate.
One of April’s big news stories was Diane Sawyer’s interview with Bruce Jenner, who has come out this year as transgender. Bruce, who noted plans to change name and pronoun in the near future, isn’t the first transgender person in the spotlight. Chaz Bono, born to Cher and Sonny Bono and named Chastity at birth, came out a transgender man in 2009. Laverne Cox is an accomplished actress (most recently on Orange is the New Black) and has been a vocal activist for transgender rights and Lana Wachowski, who directed The Matrix trilogy and Cloud Atlas with her brother, was the first major Hollywood director to come out as transgender in 2012. And while these people have bravely discussed their gender in the spotlight, they are a small fraction of the many people identifying as transgender around the world. We’re learning more and more about the range of gender identities that exist, and this week we’ll focus on an introduction to gender identity.