Bathroom Safety Key to Transgender Students’ Mental Health

Kid with purple bracelet washing handsFeeling safe in school bathrooms is vital to the well-being of transgender students, according to a study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Researchers found addressing safety issues can reduce disparities in educational quality and well-being between transgender and cisgender students.

How Bathroom Issues Affect Transgender Students’ Mental Health

The study used a cross-sectional survey of 1,046 students at five Michigan high schools. Among cisgender participants, 41.2% were boys and 49.6% were girls; 9.2% of participants were transgender. A fifth (21.6%) were LGBQ+. Most respondents (65.8%) were white, 12.4% were black, and 14.1% were multiracial.

Researchers assessed factors such as students’ gender, whether they felt safe using the restroom at their school, and their level of self-esteem. The study also looked at how accepting the school was of LGBTQ+ students. Researchers found significant differences in the climate of acceptance at each school.

Bathroom safety strongly correlated with overall school safety. If transgender students did not feel safe using the bathroom at their school, they were more likely to report not feeling safe in school overall. Bathroom safety also played a prominent role in transgender students’ grades and self-esteem. This suggests bathroom rules, including the allowance for students to use the restroom that best corresponds with their gender, figure prominently in the well-being of transgender students.

The Politics of Transgender Students’ Bathroom Safety

North Carolina recently sparked national outrage by enacting legislation requiring transgender people to use bathrooms consistent with the sex listed on their birth certificate. The state recently reversed the ban, due in part to business and travel boycotts.

Schools across the country have grappled with bathroom access for transgender students. Some have opted to force students to use the bathroom consistent with the sex they were assigned at birth. In February, the Trump administration rescinded educational protections for transgender students. The rule change will force students to use bathrooms that may not align with their gender, opening those students up to potential discrimination and harm.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has called protecting all students a “moral obligation.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated he supports rolling back protections for transgender students that were enacted under the Obama administration.


  1. Berman, M., & Phillips, A. (2017, March 30). North Carolina governor signs bill repealing and replacing transgender bathroom law amid criticism. Retrieved from
  2. Gender-affirming restrooms recommended for schools. (2017, March 30). Retrieved from
  3. Peters, J. W., Becker, J., & Davis, J. H. (2017, February 22). Trump rescinds rules on bathrooms for transgender students. Retrieved from
  4. Wernick, L. J., Kulick, A., & Chin, M. (2017). Gender identity disparities in bathroom safety and wellbeing among high school students. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. doi:10.1007/s10964-017-0652-1

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Isa

    April 27th, 2017 at 10:41 AM

    So now we get to the point where we don’t even wish to protect students in schools?
    How are the supposed to learn anything of use or value if first and foremost they do not feel safe?

  • Billie

    April 28th, 2017 at 7:02 AM

    In my opinion we should be able to go the bathroom in peace in a setting that makes us feel the most comfortable. It shouldn’t be about how it makes others feel who don’t understand. We are all entitled to privacy and respect.

  • Delia G

    April 29th, 2017 at 10:31 AM

    I believe that this can be a big piece of the puzzle for sure in terms of letting them know that they are going to be safe, but to me it also seems that knowing that your parents and your friends care about you? That somehow seems eevevn more important to me.

    Don’t you want to know that no matter what you do in life that there will be someone there who has your back? Don’t you know that transgender people want that very same thing? That this is what allows them to feel safe and confident in who they are?

    Yes keep everyone safe in the hygiene choices that they make, but really just make it so that life really isn’t all that hard on you just because you may look different than the guy next door.

  • LINQ

    April 26th, 2023 at 9:52 AM

    People should be safe wherever they go…If my peeing is making them uncomfortable thats their problem not mine.

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