GENDER: I’m trans so I’ve never used the school toilets

Felix, 13, he/him, trans male, Fife
Felix is a trans pupil  who has spoken to the BBC about LGBT inclusion in schools

In the nine months that Felix has attended high school, Felix has told BBC Scotland he has never used the toilets.

The 13-year-old is trans and his teachers say he is welcome to use male, female or disabled toilets and changing rooms.

But like some other trans pupils, Felix would prefer to use unisex facilities.

He says he feels uncomfortable having to select between options that were not designed with trans people in mind.

Felix says: “I’m worried that if I go in the girls bathroom they will be like ‘Oh, why is there a boy in the girls’ bathroom?’.

“And if I go in the boys’ bathroom they’ll do the opposite thing and be like ‘Oh, why is there a girl in the boys’ bathroom?’ And if I go in the disabled bathroom then I feel like I am taking it from other people who need it more than I do.

“I’ve told my guidance teacher but she said that there’s not much we can really do about it because we can’t change the walls in the school or anything. I feel like I am just going to have to deal with it.”

People who are transgender experience a mismatch between their gender and the sex on their birth certificate.

The toilets are just one aspect of school life where pupils like Felix say there are problems.

In August last year the Scottish government published guidance on supporting transgender pupils in schools with issues ranging from toilets and changing rooms to pronouns, coming out and school uniform.

It states that transgender pupils should not be made to use the toilet or changing room of their sex registered on their birth certificate but it “does not mean that all toilets need to become gender neutral”.

How schools go about this issue, providing they adhere to the law, is up to them.

Single sex services such as bathrooms were also covered by guidance issued recently by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the UK’s human rights body. The guidance was criticised by LGBT+ campaigning charity Stonewall, which claimed it would lead to more confusion.

Some schools in Scotland have introduced unisex toilets but it is an issue that splits public opinion.

A recent survey conducted for the BBC suggested about 25% of those who took part agreed that a transgender person under the age of 16 should be allowed to use the toilet/changing room/communal accommodation on school trips of the gender they identify with, rather than their sex as registered at birth. However, a higher proportion – about four in 10 – disagreed.

Because Felix’s school has no plans to introduce unisex facilities, his mother is concerned he could miss out on education if he had to be sent home.

‘Information could be better’

Scotland was one of the first countries in the world to support teachers to make lessons, across all age settings, more LGBT-inclusive.

According to the BBC survey, adults are also split on issues like primary school age children using resources that include transgender themes – 36% support it and 34% of those surveyed oppose it.

In practice, pupils say they have benefitted from resources like LGBT clubs – however 13-year-old Demetri told the BBC more could be done to improve learning materials.

Demetri is gender fluid, meaning their gender identity is not fixed and can change over time or from day-to-day.

Demetri, 13, they/them, gender fluid, Fife
Demetri is gender fluid, and uses the pronouns ‘they/them’

Demetri, who attends the same school as Felix, said: “The only reason I really know about a lot of this stuff is from social media – but in school I only really know about it because I go to LGBTQ+ club. And I think people who don’t go to that won’t know as much about it.

“There are a few people I know whose parents are really unsupportive and I feel really bad for them because my mum and dad and all of my family that I’ve told are really supportive.

“I just feel it would be really upsetting for someone that you look up to, like a parent, to not accept you for who you are.”

The desire for more inclusion was reflected in a recent report by LGBT Youth Scotland, which included responses from more than 1,000 pupils. Of those who participated, only a small number rated the school experience for LGBT people as “good”.

‘Using my old name makes me feel sick’

Mental health was another theme in the survey, with 80% of the trans participants experiencing anxiety.

Felix, for example, said he can feel upset when listening to boys’ voices in his class because they sound different to his own.

He said: “Sometimes I feel negative, sometimes I just wish like I could be just like a girl again because it would be so much easier.

“But I don’t mind it because even the thought of just going back to being a girl and using my old name just makes me feel really sick.”

Demetri also has issues with mental health but is aware that growing up trans in Scotland has its advantages.

“There are a lot of things that I am not happy with but it’s not as bad as some places in America because there are a lot of places where they actively stop trans people from being who they are,” Demetri said.

“It’s actually a crime in some places. In Scotland it’s more accepting.”

‘Changing the culture’

Nicholas Spyrou, facilitates an equalities group at another school – where children can discuss LGBTQ+ issues and come up with solutions to the problems around them.

The 26-year-old teacher at Hillpark Secondary in Glasgow is originally from Cyprus but says Scotland is much further ahead that other countries in terms of LGBTQ+ inclusivity in education, but could improve how LGBTQ+ lives and experiences are spread throughout the curriculum.

This, he said, would enable pupils to feel more comfortable about approaching teachers for help.

Nicholas Spyrou is a teacher at Hillpark Secondary in Glasgow
Nicholas Spyrou moved to Scotland in 2018 to complete a PhD

“I think it’s changing the culture,” he said. “Do we have trans positive signs up, do we have LGBTQ+ signs up, do we show as teachers that we support each other, do we have decorations and paintings on our walls that show our support?

“We can’t blame a young person for not coming to us, but we can reflect not just as teachers but as an entire school what more we can do to make our place more inclusive.”

2 comments

  1. Poor Felix. Imagine never having been able to go to the school toilet.

    Going all day without going to the toilet must be a Herculean task. It’s a wonder he can concentrate. A wonder that he doesn’t burst. A horror story in fact.

    Maybe however he takes a pee behind the bike shed, or a number two up the lane at lunchtime.

    Quite frankly though it’s wild that we’re actually discussing this. Queer even because sadly all this young man’s toilet predilections seem quite strange.

    Maybe like my dog he goes round and round a few times before he does the business. Should we therefore build bigger toilet cubicles so that those who need to can pirouette before lift off.

    Of course the serious question in all of this, and let us remember Mhairi Black MP wearing a sweater emblazoned ” you can pee near me”, is how they legislate and turn our world upside down to suit the micturation and defecation habits of of Queer folk.

    I mean it’s a burning human rights and our Scottish government are taking it on with absolute commitment. No wonder that there are now many who say the letters SNP stand for the Sh!t N Pee party.

    Vote for Sh!t N Pee. You know it makes sense.

  2. Like most readers of The Democrat, I am not very comfortable with lavatory stories. I am scatologically challenged when it comes to the bit.
    However, I have no intention of editing these comments out since they are not defamatory of anyone and they deal with what has recently become an important political issue.
    Please feel free to add you own comment to this. Editor

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