I graduated from Bay Shore High School in 2011. Even though I graduated a year early, my time there felt like a long battle as I tried to get teachers and students to call me by the right name and pronouns. For the most part, my school’s faculty was very confused about my transgender (female to male) identity. They had never experienced a transgender student before, and I was the first trans person to ever come out in my school. After coming out in 9th grade via the Larry King Live show, I was told that I wasn’t allowed to use the girls’ bathroom and I wasn’t allowed to use the boys’ bathroom either. This made things especially hard for me because the school day was so long, and well, everyone has to go to the bathroom.
I was told that I wasn’t allowed to use the girls’ bathroom and I wasn’t allowed to use the boys’ bathroom either.
At first, my school’s social worker would walk me to the 3rd floor staff bathroom so I could change for gym (and not fail class) and use the bathroom. She became a personal hero of mine for this. Thanks to her, I felt the sense of safety that so many transgender students never get to experience in their schools. Transgender students have a difficult time navigating school because of the bathroom issue. Some students may even miss class to run home to use the bathroom. Why? Because transgender students are often harassed verbally or physically for using the bathroom of their choice.
Eventually I got approval from my school’s guidance counselor and amazing principal to use the nurse’s bathroom. My principal was always understanding. He saw my segment on the Larry King Live show and took a liking to me. Unlike most students in other schools, I had support from the man in charge.
I felt the sense of safety that so many transgender students never get to experience in their schools.
The nurse’s bathroom was alright. I had to sign in every time I had to go to the bathroom. This ultimately took a toll on me because it made me feel like I was disabled like all of the other students signing in. While there’s nothing wrong with being disabled, being transgender is not a disability.
Eventually the school nurse told me that I had to sign in using my birth name instead of my chosen name, “Ryan.” When I told my principal what had happened, the assistant principal came down to the nurses bathroom himself and told the nurse that “Ryan can sign in with whatever name he wants. He can sign in as Superman for all I care!” After this incident, my school let me use the 2nd and 3rd floor staff bathrooms.
Compared to others, I consider myself lucky. Most schools won’t go out of their way to make a transgender student feel comfortable. My school went above and beyond to make me feel comfortable. I hope that other schools can learn from my principal and social worker. Transgender students should use the bathroom that matches their identity or a staff bathroom or nurse’s bathroom if they feel more comfortable doing so. It’s important for all schools to be accommodating of their transgender students.