It's Not About Bathrooms
Queer Individuals are at Greater Risk for Suicide
It's not about bathrooms. It’s not about being politically correct. It’s about feeling welcome and feeling safe. To me, a gender neutral bathroom says: “Hey, El! We see you. You EXIST to us. We accept you for who you say that you are.” And I know that sounds like the most simple thing, to be recognized for existing. But, quite honestly, it doesn’t always happen. It rarely happens.
I have been blessed to grow up in the Upper Valley, a place where I am recognized for who I am more often than not. This community accepts and celebrates me as I continue to grow and discover myself. I am so grateful for this privilege. Even still, there is this lingering thought in the back of my mind that says, “You’re okay here, but watch yourself. Don’t get too confident. Sometimes it might be safer to hide who you really are in order to protect yourself.”
So I try to be confident and love myself. I try to celebrate my queerness, but I have to hold back a little. I know there are people who don’t believe that how I feel is real. They believe I am mentally ill and can be “cured” by conversion therapy. Then there are people who believe I exist, but who don’t accept me–they say I am going to hell. Then there are people who believe I exist, that maybe I’m not making it all up, but I don’t deserve the same rights as my fellow United States citizens. So it’s kinda like “Hey! I see you over there. I know you’re upset, but I don’t really care about you enough to do anything.”
Because they feel out of place and undervalued by society, queer individuals are greater than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-queer counterparts.
When minority groups are recognized, the number of suicide attempts goes down.
“The more that people feel that they are accepted and that people are not going to ostracize them or stigmatize them or put them in a separate category and make them feel different and uncared for, the better off we’re going to be in terms of keeping people alive,” says Dan Reidenberg, director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education in Minnesota.
A recent study from Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University showed that in 32 states that enacted same-sex marriage laws before the federal ruling, suicide attempts dropped 7% among all teens and 14% among lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens when the laws were passed. There was no change in the rate of suicide attempts in states without those laws.
This is relevant to mental health. This is relevant to the well-being of our youth. This matters. This makes me feel safe. This sets an example and a standard for other communities.
So if you do accept me and people like me, please show it. Change your business’s policies. Ask me what my preferred gender pronouns are (currently she/her/hers, thanks!). Change your bathrooms from men and women to gender neutral. Change your forms and surveys to include an “other” blank when asking about gender identity. Let your children express themselves and wear whatever clothes they feel most comfortable in, and give them the opportunity to question traditional gender norms.
Don’t wait for transgender acceptance measures to become the norm. Create a new norm.