“She used to avoid going and come home bursting.”
Girls are skipping school to avoid using unisex restrooms, for fear of being sexually harassed and “period shamed.”
That’s according to accounts of Welsh parents that were recently collected by Lleisiau Merched Cymru-Women’s Voices Wales. The local women’s group asked families to report their experiences with Wales’ growing use of unisex restrooms, which is motivated by a desire to combat bullying of transgender and other gender non-conforming students.
According to Women’s Voices Wales, even when girls don’t stay home from school altogether, they are sometimes trying to go all day without using the restroom.
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“[My daughter] won’t use the toilets and tries to last all day. I sometimes have to go and collect her,” one mother told the group. “There are problems when she has a period. Boys are always speculating on whether girls are having their periods according to how long they take in the toilet.”
When she took the issue to the schools principal, the mother said, she was told only that her daughter should inform the nurse when she’s having such issues.
Another mother said that her daughter doesn’t drink liquids at school to avoid having to go to the restroom, while yet another reported that her elementary-school-aged daughter would “avoid going and come home bursting.”
Parents who answered the survey by Women’s Voices Wale – which is critical of the transgender rights movement – expressed frustration that gender-neutral toilets now seem to be the default whenever a new facility or building is constructed.
“Unisex toilets in new buildings seem to be presented as a done deal and as ‘anti bullying’ and ‘inclusion,'” said one parent. “This puts anyone objecting in a difficult position and puts an unrealistic burden on kids.”
Though the law in Wales requires schools to also provide sex-separated options for students over age 8, parents have complained that the alternatives can be hard to reach or inaccessible.
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And the issue is not limited to girls. A parent of one middle-school boy said that he finds the unisex toilets uncomfortable and “tries to never use them.”
According to Wales Online, Women’s Voices Wales spokesperson Helen Raynor has sent a letter to the Welsh Government and the Children’s Commissioner for Wales protesting the proliferation of unisex toilets in schools, and saying that parents, students, and school staff are not being adequately consulted.
The group included its own findings in the letter along with a 2017 study by Warwick University that found that more than a third of girls in mixed-sex schools have suffered sexual harassment.
“No pupil should feel they are unable to use the toilet during the day,” Raynor wrote. “No child should avoid school because they are anxious about using the toilet, or stop drinking water so they don’t wee. Girls cannot ‘hold periods in’. Nor should toilets use risk ‘period shaming’ from boys, or sexual harassment.”
In response, Children’s Commissioner Sally Holland told Wales Online: “All children and young people should be safe from sexual violence and harassment.”
“The rights children have to safety, protection from harm and privacy belong to children and young people of all genders, including those that identify as transgender,” she said. “I would expect all schools to comply with the relevant legislation on toilets, and clearly authorities should be made aware of their legal duties when building new premises. Young people should be given a chance to voice their opinions about school toilets and they should be listened to.”
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The United States has been embroiled in a similar fight over restrooms. The Trump administration in 2017 rescinded Obama-era Title IX guidelines that required schools to let students use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. On a state level, some governments have legally guaranteed transgender people access to public accommodations, while others have passed “bathroom bills” reaffirming tradition sex-based separation.
Newly empowered Democrats in Washington have also promised advance legislation to protect transgender rights more broadly. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will advance the Equality Act, a bill that would codify protections against LGBT discrimination, including special guarantees for trans people to be regarded in federal spaces according to their self-identified gender rather than their biological sex.
However, not everyone has gotten on board. A number of “trans-exclusionary radical feminists,” as they are derogatorily called on the left, earlier this month sought to block the Equality Act by aligning with conservatives and in one case ambushing a transgender woman who was advocating for the bill on Capitol Hill.
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