Just over two years ago, I started my sophomore year of high school. The summer before, I had come out to my family and friends as a transgender boy. I also came out to the school administration, telling them who I was and asking them to respect my gender identity. They assured me that teachers and administrators would call me Gavin, and use male pronouns when referring to me, and if anyone gave me any kind of trouble, it would be resolved right away. By the time I started school, I had legally changed my name and I was poised to start testosterone.
However, I was still anxious. I come from a fairly conservative community, and I wasn’t sure that I’d be accepted for who I am. Because of this anxiety, I did not ask permission to use the boys’ restroom. I was not yet accustomed to advocating for myself, and I worried that I would be asking for too much, too soon. Instead, I used the restroom in the nurse’s office.
The office was far away from my classrooms that year. It took far too much time out of my day to use the restroom, especially when, in any class, I was just down the hall from a perfectly good boys’ room. So I approached the administration again. This time, I asked to use the bathrooms that correspond to my gender identity. My principal told me the following day that I was free to use the boys’ restrooms, and I did. For a period of roughly seven weeks, I went in and went out with no altercations of any kind. No physical or verbal confrontation. No restroom misconduct by or against me. This seven-week period showed me what it was like to be embraced by your school, and it gave me confidence that I would be able to live out a normal school year, unencumbered by restroom politics.
This was, unfortunately, a false sense of security. After that seven-week period, the school board held a meeting — a public conversation about my genitals and restroom usage — without notifying me first. My mother and I found out by chance less than 24 hours before the meeting was to happen. An old friend of my mother’s had noticed a post going around Facebook, a rallying cry by adults in my community urging people to show up to the meeting in order to “keep that girl out of the boy’s room.”
I went to the meeting, in November 2014, and spoke at it. Family and a few friends stood by me, but nothing could have prepared that insecure 15 year old for what was to come. People speaking out against me made a point of referring to me with female honorifics and pronouns. They warned me that I was going to be raped or otherwise abused. They suggested that boys would sneak into the girls’ room and harm their children. At a second meeting, a month later, the rhetoric was even more inflammatory. Word had spread throughout the community and people turned up in droves. After each frenzied remark, clapping and hollering reverberated throughout the room. I sat while people called me a freak. I sat while my community got together to banish a child from public life for the crime of harming no one. I sat while my school board voted to banish me to retrofitted broom closets or the nurse’s restroom.
And then it was over. At least it felt like it, back then. I was back to being exiled. I heard sneers and whispers about me in the hallways. My school board had invalidated me in perhaps the most humiliating way possible.