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When Did Using a Bathroom Get so Complicated?

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Dr. Meg Meeker

Educators are deciding which students can use which bathrooms at different stages of the child’s development. You heard me. No longer a straightforward and simple concept, bathroom use is up for grabs. And so too, are the psyches of many innocent children.

Now young children who may or may not be questioning their gender identity are asked which gender they prefer- today, that is. Because next week, the child may change his/her mind.  This is not a criticism of the child, but a comment on the struggle of gender dysphoria.

Then, according to the gender with which the child identifies that day, he/she should have the option of choosing which gender bathroom to use. This means that an 8-year-old girl who identifies herself as an 8-year-old boy should have the opportunity to use a urinal. Or go into the stall of the boy’s bathroom and sit on the toilet.

Likewise, a genetic 11-year-old boy who self-identifies as a girl should have the option of using the girl’s bathroom along with the other 11-year-old girls. Until he changes his perception, which may well happen after he goes through puberty because many children change their position about gender identification after puberty.

Sound confusing? It is- especially for young children whether they have gender identity issues or not. All children will be confused by the bathroom controversy and here’s why.

We know that statistically, probably around 1% of the population experiences gender identity issues. This means that 99% of boys and girls in the U.S do not suffer gender dysphoria.

These children, because of cognitive limitations of childhood, see much of the world in concrete, black and white terms. What they see determines what reality is. A cat is a cat and a teacher is a grown up.

Now they are issued a decision: is the boy in your class a girl or a boy? And by the way, what are you– a boy or girl? If they hear a boy say that he is a girl, they not only become confused, they seriously question their intellectual ability to make an accurate decision.

They see a boy or girl declaring that what they see is wrong.  And being kids, rather than rationalize that something confusing and complicated is occurring, they determine that they cannot see things correctly. Then they wonder: if what they see is inaccurate, then what do they see that is right? Children thus learn to question their abilities to accurately assess life around them.

Then, these same children use the bathroom and the boy who says that he is a girl, accidentally lets the girls see his penis. They are embarrassed. They don’t know if he is wrong or they are wrong. And- they feel so uncomfortable that they do what most uncomfortable kids do- they chide the boy.

Let’s consider this dilemma from the gender-dysphoric child’s perspective.

A 9-year-old in great turmoil tells the class that she is a boy and the teacher tells her to use the boy’s bathroom to make her feel more comfortable. The teacher, after all, is simply attempting to convey acceptance of the child.  She goes to the stall to pee and someone hears her. The other boys, being 9 and confused begin to laugh because he can’t use a urinal. Then how does the boy/girl feel? Pained and humiliated that’s how.

The lifelong work of Dr. Paul McHugh, former head of Psychiatry at John’s Hopkins, teaches that transgender issues in adults are very complicated. He does not advocate gender reassignment because, he says, those who have had reassignment have 20 times the risk of suicide from the general population. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Dr. McHugh, his work cannot be ignored.

The bottom line is that there is a lot we don’t know about gender identity issues and to impose rules on all children which support beliefs that gender reassignment (even if verbally) is helpful, is misguided.

As a pediatrician and advocate for all children, giving biologically male children the right to share bathrooms with girls and vice versa is not only wrong; it is harmful to children with and without gender identity issues.

Our children are not social experiments. They are young people with hearts, minds and souls. Every child deserves protection from trauma and humiliation.

And every child can learn to be accepting and kind to those who are different but to force “acceptance” on children when it means: causing them to see very private genitalia of the opposite sex, questioning their own ability to believe what they see and causing more suffering to already troubled children is fair to no one- except, perhaps, the adults who want to see their own agenda promoted. Shame on them.

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