When The Boys’ Room Isn’t Safe For A Boy

My son is six and a half years old.  He’s been potty trained with nary an accident since exactly his third birthday.

Last week, in his first grade classroom, he peed his pants.  He sat in his urine until the dismissal bell rang.  His pants were soaked and cold when he got out of school.  He was uncomfortable and he smelled.  He didn’t want anybody to know.  It was his secret.

He started crying in the car.

“I’m so ashamed of myself,” he said over and over again.  Tears rolled down his face, even though he willed them not to.  He couldn’t hold them back.

Come to find out, my son — with his long auburn hair, pink and purple fitted clothes, feminine backpack and wrist full of rainbow-colored loom bracelets – is terrified to use the boys’ bathroom at school.

photo 1On his first visit to the boys’ bathroom, he headed straight for the safety of the stall.  Boys started peeking through the cracks in the stall to see if he was going pee or poop.  Pooping at school is an embarrassment.  He avoided the bathroom for as long as he could.  The next time he had to go, he, again, walked straight to the stall.  He locked the door behind him.  He lifted the toilet seat lid and unzipped his pants.  He could hear them talking.  He could hear them looking.  He turned around.  Boys were peeking through cracks again.  This time they were trying to see his genitals.  They wanted to know if my son has a penis or a vagina.

My son refuses to go into the boys’ bathroom again.  He has stopped drinking his juice boxes at lunch.  He refuses to drink anything at breakfast.  He’ll do anything to not have to use the boys’ bathroom at school.  He’ll do anything to avoid having strangers look at his private parts while taking bets as to what they’ll see when they get to see something.

I’m sure you can understand why my son is not comfortable using the boys’ restroom at school.  He wouldn’t be comfortable using the girls’ restroom either.  Because he identifies as male, the girls’ bathroom doesn’t feel like the place for him.

He wants to use the boys’ bathroom, it’s just that he wants to feel safe once he crosses the threshold into a domain that is loud, messy and run by the boys who dominate the playground.  It’s a world where adults are not allowed and one where being different or weak makes you a target.

We have a “female campus,” which means that our principal and vice principal are female.  I’m told that it’s against the law for them to enter the boys’ restroom.  It’s the only place on campus where the kids have free reign.  They know that adults can’t enter.  It’s like Lord of the Flies in there.  An island of urine, screams, voyeurism and soaking wet paper towels thrown onto the ceiling and hanging down like dirty icicles.  It’s aggressive; my son is not.

My son has been given the option to use the nurse’s bathroom in the school’s front office.  To a first grader at one of the largest elementary school campuses in Orange County, the nurse’s office feels like it’s miles away.  When he does use that restroom, the other kids ask him why.  He feels weird no matter where he pees.

So, instead, he holds his bladder from 7:40 am. To 2:30 p.m., except for on days like the other day, when he could hold it no longer.

photo 2After getting emotional and feeling blue about raising a boy who only likes pink, I contacted the school.  I wiped my own tears and set out to fight his battles, clear his path and ensure that my son would be safe and comfortable at school.  I feel like I’m the only mother who has to fight for her son’s rights to toilet in privacy, without others trying to get a good look at what’s between his legs.

“Of course you should talk to the school,” my brother said.  “But, you need to teach him to stand up for himself if he doesn’t like what’s happening to him.”

I had been operating in crisis mode.  I had been so focused on handling the problem for him, that I was forgetting to teach him how to handle it on his own.

We role-played.

“Stop looking at my privates.”

“You’re being rude.”

“If you don’t stop, I’m going to tell.”

“How would you like it if someone was watching you go to the bathroom?”

“Don’t be gross.”

“What you’re doing is not okay.”

“STOP IT!”

It doesn’t feel like enough.  It’s not enough.  But at least now, my son knows what to say to try to defend and protect himself.

I talked to my mom about it.  Weeks ago she left her bible study in tears.  A fellow church-going Christian claimed to have insider information and knew that my son was using the girls’ bathroom at school.  There would be hell to pay when “everybody else” found out about it.

My son isn’t using the boys’ bathroom, he’s not using the girls’ bathroom, he’s hardly using a bathroom at all.  I worry every day.  Going to the bathroom should be the easiest part of the school day.  But, for my son it’s not.

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253 Responses to When The Boys’ Room Isn’t Safe For A Boy

  1. Pingback: A Thousand Heartbreaks | Mamalode

  2. We often hear the post-transition side of the story. What we don’t hear is the physical and emotional abuse that transgender kids, transgender girls especially, experience BEFORE they transition. Imagine going to school every day KNOWING that you were going to be violently assaulted at LEAST THREE TIMES A DAY! And you are only 6 or 7 years old.

    My school had taken the doors off the stalls, so the boys could see me when I sat, they would pull me off the commode to make fun of my tiny penis and my lack of “balls”. The worst was the “swirly” where they dunked your head into a bowl full of excrement and urine. If you swallowed any or inhaled any, it could mean weeks of hospitalization.

    The playground is also very dangerous for a transgender girl who is forced to play with boys. This makes recess, gym, and lunch hours of terror for a trans-girl still living as a boy.

    Little wonder that so many trans-girls experience PTSD and become suicidal. We have no idea how many transgender children actually DO commit suicide, but one site that runs a suicide hotline suggested that of those who plan and implement a suicide attempt, 35% will eventually succeed in killing themselves. 45% of transgender kids have ATTEMPTED to kill themselves before their 25th birthday.

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  8. If he can see them peeking , I’m sure as a kid always practices his aim!!!! Just saying

  9. Chase Vandercruyssen says:

    I was the same way when I was his age,and I told my mom, being a good mom she is she contacted the bord of education for the school and said ” my son is not kerning because of the way people look at him and the way he is more focused on staying away from praying eyes then learning in school” u need to do something about this when he is young. I tell u with a strong heart,”it is only going to get worse for him in the future.
    Best wishes chase
    P.s make sure he know that u will still love him bo matter the choice, that’s where my mom messed up .

  10. Truth says:

    So your ‘son’ is actually your ‘daughter’?

  11. What your son has gone through is DISGUSTING! It is the responsibility of all of us parents to bring up uncomfortable topics just like this and teach our children to be kind. WE ALL need to take responsibility for our kids acting like little demons and bullying kids like yours. (And mine too incidentally, I have a transgender son, and 4 cis gender sons) We need to talk to our kids about their actions and how they can be egged on by friends and how when they feel they are getting carried away and hurting a peer they HAVE to have the courage to stop themselves AND THEIR FRIENDS! I am so sorry for your boy’s experiences. I hope it gets better soon. Otherwise, pull him from that school.

  12. Jonathan Gifford says:

    Back in the 60’s when I was I 1st grade, we had a single person bath room, we just had to ask to go to the bathroom, when I was in the 4th grade, different building they have the stalls and urinals, there is where I ran into the same situation the boys would look through the cracks and under the stall, so I would pee in the urinal and would wait until I got home to poo, it was like this all through school till graduation.

    I can understand what your son is going through, it doesn’t get any better. The kids are ruthless with the bullying and this is where it starts.
    I hope you can get somewhere with the school.

    I was never asaulted in the boys restroom or locker room through the 12th grade.

    • Jason Mitchell says:

      As this post points out, the issue is not new. What is new is the social publicity of changing gender identification roles. It’s great that we finally recognize that gender is a product of physical and chemical combinations. Stunning it took so long: we start gender neutral and morph into some gender role along the full spectrum of male/female. Maybe we need to teach Anatomy and Physiology and Psychology differently in the USA? Maybe we need to be sure sex education is a part of our kids learning experiences in both public and private schools. (boy, this little issue is really big, huh?) But, if we are truly honest with ourselves (and most people are not), I think it can safely be said that we all experienced something like this poor kid. I did – and it was the worst at the troth urinals at old Fenway!! Hold your Red Sox, adults also peer at other people’s junk!! Humans are naturally curious – some healthy, some not. So I’m a stall guy – and I will sit every time. It’s my time and I’ll have it my way. And so should this little one. The peepers and perverts are the ones with the problem – not this boy, or anyone standing in his shoes regardless of their position in the male/female spectrum. Parents need to arm their children with a healthy dose of self esteem and help them realize that the opinions of others reflect only upon those others – and not the person about whom the opinion is held. A tough lesson to teach – and to learn. Bullying, as well as acceptance, start with a child’s parents. Children learn what they live with – it’s been proven. If we can find a way to stop parents from teaching their children bad things, we’d end a host of societal problems. But, that is a dream state, not reality. So we have to do the best we can with our own children and help them realize that some people behave badly and that this is not a reflection on our child. I knew my daughter was a lesbian years before she told me – but I had to wait for her to be ready. Having a daughter who prefers blue not pink, men’s clothes not women’s, and dates girls not boys, I recognize the challenges faced by parents with the exceptional child(ren) brave enough to be who they are – yet sensitive enough to be hurt for so being. We have to work to keep these special humans strong.

  13. Judy Warren says:

    Oh my. I am ” nana” to a transgender 9 year-old girl. You need to stand up and fight for your child. Don’t expect your 6 year old to defend herself..that’s your job. Your mother needs to find another church…one that follows the golden rule…one that Jesus would recommend. I sympathize with you but I think when you push back for your child I think you’l find a lot of understanding people out there. And your child will learn from you, she’ll learn integrity, bravery, and the Christian values of love and acceptance. Good luck to you both.

  14. Kat says:

    Reblogged this on Dandelion Fuzz and commented:
    NO child should have to endure this treatment at school. Kids that don’t fit neatly into a labeled gender box are vulnerable in ways that other kids are not and they have the right to a safe bathroom experience.

  15. Isaac says:

    I’m physically a girl, but mentally i’m a male. its like i know that i’m supposed to be a guy, but somewhere i screwed up and got stuck like this. that’s not the point though. even though i identify myself as male, it is still prohibited that i use the male restroom. My school has no leniency when it comes to things like that. they don’t have any special rooms in the gym for us to change in. they don’t have anything for us, not that i’m asking a ton of the people. I just want to be recognised as a male individual. Apparently wanting to be a male and take on every role a male goes through and even wanting to be called daddy by your future kids isn’t male enough.

  16. Jackson says:

    I’m actually bisexual and told my parents last month

    • Jason Burrell says:

      Good for you I told my mom when I was 16 now I am 50 and she doesn’t understand the gay lifestyle anymore than when I told I like men 36 years ago but you have my hug for telling your parents that you are diverse

  17. cody says:

    I told my principal that I’m gay on the second day of school and that I wouldn’t dress for PE unless I could have a separate place to get dressed and he told me that they had a special locker area for gay and other kids and he asked me if it was ok if there was 2 other males in there and I didn’t care. So I told him it was fine. And one day I was walking through the locker room to get there and one of the kids said “go hide in your fag room” and i continued to walk by and blow it off but the next day the same kid called me and one of the other kids that went in there “fucking fags” so me and that kid just kept ignoring it then after about two week me and him stopped going to PE and we got away with it for a while and one day our PE teacher looked around the campus and found us at first he just told us to come in class we both went to class and he brought us to his office and asked us why we didn’t go after a few times of asking us we finally gave in once he found out who it was the kid was suspended for 2 week and he had to write two separate apology letters to us. It was a pretty sucky experience

    • john says:

      I’m gay so i know how it’s like to not be able…you know what i mean..the word fag i hated it i hated being treated like a stranger. One they a boy walk pass me saw me go for the bathroom he ran in i too with me(i waz not in there to use the rest rooms i needed to wash my arms)he said( yo! Fag are you gay KILL YOURSELF! BUT IF U WANT SUCK MY DICK ITS THE LAST THING U TAST!) When he said that i cry a little then got angry very angry i punched him in the jaw hard then tackled him to the wall he. Waz still able to get up and cut my arm and tore my shirt i kick him then broke the mirror grab the glass and before i got to do some real damage the janitor walk in he stop us next thing u know i get a apology note from the guy i hurt and he got transferred from that school i waz in:)

    • I’m so sorry that happened to you and your classmate. I truly hope things are better now. If they’re not however please know that IT DOES GET BETTER. You won’t be in that school forever and once you enter the adult world you will be in control of so many more aspects of your life. ((((HUGS))))

  18. I hate that this is happening to you & CJ. Now for a little of my story. I was born with a milder form of Cerebral Palsy, and the doctors never expected me to live, and if I *did* live, they expected me to be a vegetable. Because of being a CP kid, I was raised to be more loving than most people. I was ridiculed more than most anyone even likes to think about. I’ve had numerous non-bathroom incidents (thank God), that are still nonetheless disconcerting, and in the one place you woudn’t expect: at church.

    One day, I had poured out my heart to a young woman – who’s about my age…. 25 or so, and I’m 29 – and then the next Sunday her dad takes me upstairs and asks just what I’d been telling his kid. Then asked me if I’d had people ever tell me I make them uncomfortable, Well, this same mierda happened at *another* church… with, again, most of the girls not telling *me* I make them uncomfortable. Needless to say, I’ve had to become more or less stone-hearted. Sadly I’ve found that most of the world just can’t stand being hugged. Even so many times when I try & smile at people, I get looks like I have four heads or something.

    Now, for the bathroom incident. Nothing dangerous for me, but it was one of my….. Miz moments (if you or anyone you know watches WWE pro wrestling, they’ll get the reference in a minute). I was at a now defunct movie theater, had to pee, and this little boy goes in right as I do. The urinals had no barriers, and although I’m not shy, occasionally my bladder can say otherwise. All of a sudden I hear this little boy next to me ask ‘hey… what’s that?’…. and since I usually have pretty bad year round allergies, I wasn’t paying attention to much around me. But I still froze. I’m thinking ‘really? really? reaalllly? your mom’s right outside…. I’m not going to explain this to you now’. Well, he washes hands, goes out, and I hear him say to his mom, and the ENTIRE LOBBY, including workers ‘hey mom…. there’s a man in the bathroom with skin all over the end of his thing!!!!’.

    Add this to the church incidents and I’ve sort of changed my appearance sub consciously. Most of the people here in BK as I type this just might think I’m the biggest burro they’d ever hope to meet.

    Doesn’t help that whenever I go to bathroom & there happens to be other little boys in there, whether I smile at them or not – usually not – the look on their faces just makes me think that *they* think I’m trying to peek. And even when they don’t give me a funny look before the door closes, as I’m headed to the urinal, whatever kid happens to be in there too, they will literally *turn their head* and *follow* me to wherever I happen to be going.

    The one other odd thing, but a rather bright spot, is that yes, I’ve occasionally had dads and their little girls come in… no biggie. Seems sometimes I’m more at ease in those situations than with the little boys. Could be because I was raised by my mom. But anyhow, so MANY of the girls and THEIR DADS, EVEN, are SO MUCH MORE FRIENDLY than even most little boys.

    Go figure.

    What do I think would help this? Family style bathrooms everywhere. I’ve got a friend that, probably for reasons similar to my own, with bullying, etc., she’s nervous about public bathrooms herself. And I’m not a big swimmer – in fact, all I can do is tread water – but family oriented changing rooms would also help.

    One last thing, then I’m done. I have a penchant for watching foreign movies. After getting my degree in Spanish, I kind of jokingly, and lovingly, say that it was because we watched ‘La lengua de la mariposa’ and other Spanish movies that I’ve taken to watching foreign movies. And yes, I know most people here in the states have hang ups about nudity, and yes I also know that foreign movies really try to treat this like any other part of life, and do a good job.

    My story involving foreign films…. I have no internet at home, and so when I’m out & about I’ll go to somewhere w/ public wifi, dim the laptop screen, and head to youtube. Well, it can be sorta hard to see *anything* when a screen is dim, so once, my face was maybe an inch from the screen, and some burro says ‘you’re gonna go blind if you keep doing that!!’ and someone else said ‘eh, that’s allright…. I’m about half blind anyway and it never hurts to look!!’.

    So yep…. all these posters who’ve talked about living in an intolerant society. Dios mio…. yep… y’all hit that nail on the head.

    But I’d bet I’ll not look up foreign movies on public wifi for a looong time to come.

    I hope it gets better for you.

    and yes, I highly recommend “La lengua de la mariposa”; in English, “Butterfly’s tongue”. One of the most beautiful & touching movies I’ve ever seen.

  19. Brad Weld says:

    I’m sure the other boys are just curious of your sons behavior. Not that it makes it better for your son. I remember being that age and having boys peek and talk in the rest rooms and even older in the locker room. I think it’s just curiosity at that age. Why doesn’t your son pee at the urinal? My best friend who is a married straight male has shy bladder and uses a stall but still stands when he pees. He was teased a bit in school about but never took it too seriously. In fact we joke about it now. For me bathrooms are gross and I rather not touch anything I don’t need to so urinal works fine for me.

  20. murdock says:

    I had the exact same problem when I was a kid! I had worse things than your son had happen in the boys room that started with just the peeking. The first two weeks were peeking then one day a boy climbed under and did very innapropriate things that don’t need to be repeated. I went to the nurses office bc I hurt from things and he gave me the option to wear diapers during the day and that way when I got the chance to walk all the way down, the diapers would keep other kids about finding out I had an accident! It gets better trust me!

  21. Andrea says:

    My heart aches for you and your child after reading this. We all want so much to protect our children from the world around us, but it can be a cruel place. What a blessing he has in you though, a mother who loves him just as he is, and isn’t trying to make him something he’s not.

  22. Pingback: Protecting our children… | Because I'm Fabulous

  23. Becky Romero says:

    This is sad. Your boy is being bullied. My younger brother was shy at that age too and didn’t like boys seeing him stand at the urinal.

    #1 If the principal or vice principal would simply monitor the boys’ bathroom once in a while that would probably stop much of the bullying.

    #2 Have a talk with your son’s teachers. The could excuse him while class is on or send him to the office to “run an errand”, allowing him use the bathroom during that time.

    But, seriously. He needs to nip this in the bud know or he’ll be teased for years. Therefore:

    #3 He could also be a little more proactive by raising his hand in class, say right after a bathroom break, “Ms. Smith, can I use the bathroom please? I need to pee really, really bad or I’m going to wet my pants.” There will be some giggling of course but that will help the teacher to inevitably ask him why he didn’t go during the break if he needed to pee so bad. That’s when he should answer quite boldly, “Because Johnny and Danny are always trying to look at my penis. I think they want to touch it because maybe they like boys.” He should add, to be politcally correct, “Not that there’s anything wrong if they like boys. But I’d wish they’d just simply look at each other’s penises instead of always trying to look at mine.” After the laughter in class dies down from everyone but Johnny and Danny, your son probably won’t be spied on again after that.

  24. I went through the same thing when I was in school, only it was with using the girls’ bathroom and the girls tended to just look at me strangely and talk to each other about me and ask me if I was in the right place. I tended to ask to go during class and I’d only go in when no one else was in the bathroom.
    It gets even harder in high school when you have to use the locker room. So hopefully you can work it out now so it’ll be easier for your son.

  25. 7starangel says:

    Reblogged this on Endless Wishing on Wells and Stars and commented:
    When are we going to teach kids how to leave others alone during their private time? This kid is gonna suffer some serious physical and metal issues if privacy in using the bathroom cannot be ensued.

  26. Just about an hour ago, I wrote a blog post at http://www.newlywednotdead.com to serve as a sort of plea to the world on behalf of my future child. I don’t know if my child will be gay, straight, feminine, masculine, goofy, awkward, pretty, plain, or polka-dotted, but I am so so sad that I will be bringing them into a world where we have to classify everyone in a way that leaves so many feeling left out and uncomfortable. I hope your son finds a way to feel comfortable in his school–it’s simply his right to have a safe place to go to the bathroom!

  27. RAISING CHILDREN SMART GOING TRUE…AMIEN…

  28. The real issue here is that respect for others is something that every parent needs to teach their child! I hope that things are much better for your son. My 13 yr old son has recently come out to us as gay and we had no idea. He was miserable in Elementary school starting in the 5th Grade but Middle School has been much better. He came out and has a group of friends that accept him for who is and not who he is attracted to! Hang in there.

  29. Sorry to hear that he must be going through a bad patch

  30. Dana McClelland says:

    I was utterly shocked when I read your story. I have a physical handicap so I know what’s it like to be teased and bullied, but I can’t even emagine what you son is going through. Being teased about his privates. All I can say is for you and your son to hang in there. those that doesn’t break us, only make us stronger!!!!! GOOD LUCK

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  32. I’ve lived through this with my now 24 yr old very feminine son, Schuyler. I just wrote a long post and lost it when I set down my phone. It’s getting late! I’ll rewrite it tomorrow. Or if I am lucky maybe it will reappear!!

  33. garyfjones says:

    Hope things go better for your son. I’ve often questioned the wisdom of building large schools, especially for younger children.

  34. Hi

    I had tears in my eyes while reading your post. Girls can be mean and cruel too! It brought back memories on how I was made fun of over my English, I was called fat and ugly and girls used to gossip about me which still hurts to this day. So I connect with CJ on many grounds. But I had a strong mother like you. She not only taught me to be strong and defend myself, but at the same time, she also taught me to help others who were made fun of and stand up for them so that others get encouraged and stand up (although that’s another thing that I got beaten up in one incident, but, that incident changed the life of the girl being defended as the whole class stood up against those bullying girls). She continuously stood up for me and like you taught me how to speak up when statements were made. She discouraged me going down silently.

    As for those bullies, well it definitely reflects on the parents and their upbringing and it will come back to haunt them some time. And for those women who gossip in the church, well don’t give them any of your energy at all! They don’t deserve it and you don’t need to stoop to their low levels.

    Please be strong. CJ will become strong as he will see a strong mother supporting him. All that bullying from girls, my mom protected me and helped me transform that negative energy into a positive one. Today, I am a well educated individual with a great job because of a strong, confident mother who shielded me and taught me lessons at every step of the way.

    Like all readers, I strongly suggest that you continue to teach him to defend himself and not be scared. The more you teach him, the more he will learn and one fine day will stand up to those bullies. Do tell CJ that he has a strong supporter from a far away country and who will pray for him from the bottom of the heart that he becomes strong and be protected.

    Loads of Love to CJ and you

  35. nati72 says:

    I’m sorry to hear that your son as well as you go through this. This subject should not even be an issue. I don’t understand how some people raise their children to be so rude to begin with. This is not an advice I should give you but in my anger right now I say it anyway. Your son should turn around an just pee in their faces. That should keep them from peeking. Sorry just got carried away here.

  36. lennoxj says:

    This was really hard to read. I can’t believe kids at that age act in such a way…

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