ANN ARBOR, Mich — The subject of bathroom policies in relation to gender identity is a hot button topic in American culture today. Now, a new poll finds that eight in ten (79%) young people between the ages of 14-24 believe that transgender individuals should use whichever bathroom they are most comfortable with.
This new poll, conducted by the University of Michigan, is especially interesting because it highlights a clear disparity of opinion between adolescents or young adults and older Americans on the subject of transgender bathroom rights. For example, a different poll consisting of 1,017 Americans aged 18 or older found that 51% of respondents believe transgender individuals should use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender they were assigned at birth.
To collect their data, Michigan researchers surveyed 683 participants using a weekly text messaging format.
“Contrary to current policy in many schools, the young people we polled do not support restrictions on bathroom use by transgender people,” says lead author Dr. Halley Crissman in a statement. “The majority of respondents believe bathroom use is a personal and private decision and a matter of equality, freedom and human rights. This suggests that young people’s views on bathroom use by transgender individuals differ from the narratives often represented in public debates.”
Those who voiced their support for transgender bathroom rights said transgender individuals aren’t sexual predators and that forcing them to use one specific bathroom could put them at greater risk.
“The adult dialogue we hear in the media often includes a lot of fear and guesswork about how this issue may impact children in schools,” Dr. Crissman says. “We wanted to tap into the beliefs, experiences and voices of youth surrounding current policies. Youth are the ones most impacted by school policies and they are also upcoming voters.”
While this issue may seem overblown to some, transgender bathroom right is a discussion that impacts thousands of Americans; a rough estimate of 150,000 young people between the ages of 13-24 currently identify themselves as transgender. Additionally, an astounding 70% of American transgender individuals have admitted to avoiding using public bathrooms out of fear for their safety or because they felt uncomfortable.
Creating a more welcoming public environment for transgender youth can go a long way towards promoting happiness and well being. According to Dr. Crissman, transgender individuals who feel supported in their gender choices typically display increased well being and less likelihood of developing depression.
With that in mind, the results of the poll are encouraging; the majority of young people today seem to be much more open minded and accommodating than older generations.
“If there is indeed peer support among youth for allowing transgender individuals to use bathrooms that match their gender identity – as our study suggests – there may be profound positive implications for upcoming generations of transgender youth,” Crissman explains.
The study is published in the Journal of Homosexuality.