Landon Callahan is an unlikely poster boy for the Obama administration’s new federal guidelines on bathrooms in public schools. The Departments of Justice and Education cited Callahan’s struggle with gender dysmorphia in a letter, sent out to school districts on Friday, clarifying that students’ right to use the restroom that best matches their gender identity is protected by Title IX. That’s all well and good, but, “for me, the bathroom thing was sort of a non-issue,” the college freshman tells Rolling Stone.
“Even before I got facial hair and things like that, nobody ever said anything to me, and I don’t recall ever even getting a look or anything,” says Callahan, who works part-time for the Safe Schools Program for LGBT Youths in Massachusetts. “If people were concerned, they didn’t point it out.”
The proverbial shrug Callahan — and plenty of other trans men and women across the U.S. — give “the bathroom issue” is pretty telling compared with the frenzy conservative lawmakers are in over it.
The Obama administration debuted its position the same week North Carolina Gov. Pat McCory sued the government in defense of House Bill 2, a state law that effectively forbids transgender individuals from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
To North Carolina lawmakers, not only was HB 2 worth giving up millions of dollars in federal funding, not to mention lost revenue from private-sector businesses now boycotting the state — it was so urgent they passed it in an emergency session of the state legislature earlier this year.
The law’s futility is obvious, and verging on absurd, to 18-year-old Callahan. “You can’t enforce it at all,” he says. “There’s really no way of knowing who is and isn’t trans. To me, it just seems like a waste of time.”
He knows because he started using the men’s restroom after he transitioned at age 15. Administrators at the school he enrolled in after transitioning had directed him to use a bathroom in the nurse’s office, despite existing guidelines (similar to the ones announced by the Obama administration Friday) already instituted in his home state of Massachusetts.
School administrators, Callahan says, “were going off of what would be easiest for the rest of the school — as far as other kids having concerns or whatever — but after I realized that most people didn’t know I transitioned, and most people really didn’t care, I just started using the men’s room. And I never had any problem with that.”
That experience colored Callahan’s reaction to the announcement of the new guidelines guaranteeing equal access. “[Public schools] are given this guidance, but they don’t really know how they can implement it,” he says.
“If there is not education and training around it,” it’s not worth much, he says. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but there is still a lot of learning that needs to be done.”
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