(Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

(Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

The bathroom bill causes ‘fear and apprehension’

High school years are a time when the average student wants to blend in, but this year transgender teens found themselves under an unsolicited political spotlight. The controversial “bathroom bill” still hangs in limbo in the Texas legislature as students prepare to return to school. If passed, transgender students across Texas will have to use the bathroom of the gender they were assigned at birth, not the one with which they identify. Ezra, a rising senior at Woodrow Wilson High School, is someone who has bounced around the school’s bathrooms as administrators struggle to find a solution for something they once said wasn’t a problem. All that shuffling brought unwanted attention to such an intimate act. Ezra’s story has been echoed by other transgender teens, but the comments and experiences here are theirs alone. Ezra’s identity has been withheld for their protection.

Can you give us a little background into who you are?
I’m an International Baccalaureate student at Woodrow. My favorite classes are biology and film. I consider myself to be an artist — I like to write and draw. I play a lot of video games with friends. A lot of things teens do.

What are your plans after high school?
I’m really interested in forensics. Since I was a kid I’ve been watching “CSI.” Looking into it, it’s not the same as the stuff on TV but I still find it interesting. I’m hoping to make my way through medical school and then go into forensics.

When did you understand and start to feel that you were different?
Around 11 or 12 years old, I realized I was gay. And 12 or 13 years old when I started to understand what transgender was. I was never taught about being gay or transgender so I didn’t know anything about that, but I always felt different. When a teacher was like, “Girls stand on one side of the room and, boys, you stand on the other side,” I felt like I didn’t belong on either side.

Where did you come about your information about being transgender?
I started Googling things and reading things about gender conformity. After talking to friends, who were probably going through something similar, I started to understand I was transgender.

Can you describe the transition?
It was really gradual from going to a cis [cisgender, or matching your birth-assigned gender] girl into a non-binary person. I was never really feminine as a kid, but I wore feminine clothing that corresponded to the gender I was supposed to be. It started with being a “tomboy” and then it went to cutting my hair short and then wearing two or three sports bras to try and flatten my chest.

How has the school responded to the transition?
Either freshman or sophomore year I went to talk to counselors about asking teachers whether I could use my preferred name instead of using my birth name and using the bathroom I want to. They seemed uncomfortable with it, like they had never dealt with it before. They said I was allowed to use the faculty bathroom, which is off-limits to students, but they never bothered to tell anyone about it because I got in trouble a lot of times for going in there. Towards the end of my sophomore year, I stopped using that bathroom and started using the girls’ bathroom because of the pushback and my safety, but the faculty bathroom was where I was most comfortable being because it was like a unisex bathroom.

Who’s the pushback coming from?
It was mostly ROTC guys, because they were on the first floor where the bathroom is, and almost any teacher that came in there, especially the male ones.

What did that pushback look like?
Mostly, if I was seen in the restroom, faculty members would stop me or tell me to leave. A lot of times they’d threaten me with a referral or take me to an administrator or principal’s office.

What are your thoughts on the bathroom bill?
Mostly fear and apprehension. I had started to recently use the men’s restrooms when it isn’t crowded or it’s after school so there aren’t many people to try and become more comfortable with the prospect of using a restroom closer to my gender, but I’ve stopped doing that and gone back to only using women’s restrooms. The bill speaks to ignorance and hatred of trans people and I hope it is repealed soon.

How have your friends responded?
They were pretty alright with it. A lot of them have turned out to be trans or non-binary themselves, so I guess we made that discovery together in a lot of aspects. We’ve been able to support each other during the transition process.

What about your family?
My mom’s been pretty alright with it. She has trouble with the pronouns — I prefer they/them. I understand that’s difficult for some people to understand. My dad took it pretty negatively at the beginning. I stopped talking about it and I guess he’s become a little okay with it.

Have there been any moments of hesitation in your transition?
Yes. There have been a lot of times I feel like it would have been easier or better or safer to remain as people seeing me as a girl. The discomfort of being misgendered or using the wrong name is easier to deal with than having to explain about my identity, my preferred pronouns and my preferred name.

It depends on how important the person is to me. If it’s a work colleague, I’ll let it go. If it’s a close friend that I intend to talk to a lot, I usually take the time to explain it because it’s worth the trouble.

Most of the time I present myself as more masculine if I’m out with people or if I’m comfortable with people. But if it’s with people I don’t know, I present myself as more feminine.

What do you want people to know about the transgender community?
We’re people just like anyone else. Just because we identify differently doesn’t mean we’re freaks or unnatural, it’s something that’s been present throughout history. I want people to understand transgender identity better just so that it’s easier for people to come out and be more comfortable with themselves. I’d like to prevent the difficult transition for other trans people, I’d like to make it easier.

Interview edited for brevity and clarity.

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