15-year-old transgender woman Jazz Jennings has been an outspoken advocate for trans rights. Assigned male at birth, Jennings identified as female reportedly as soon as she could speak. In a recent op-ed in Cosmopolitan, Jennings shed light on the debate surrounding bathroom laws from a perspective often lost amidst the hullabaloo.
"Bathrooms have always been a big issue in my life," Jennings wrote. She recalled how her parents won the fight for her to attend elementary school as a girl, though she was not allowed to use the girls' bathroom under any circumstances — only the unisex bathroom in class that had no lock, or the one in the nurse's office that was used often for throwing up.
"I was holding it in a lot when I had to go. If my friend made me laugh too hard, I'd pee my pants. I started to come home with wet clothes, and sometimes the accident would be bad enough that the school had to call my mom to bring me a whole new outfit. It was hard for me," she wrote. "That was the first form of discrimination that I fully understood. I was only in second grade."
Jennings wrote that as young as she was at the time, she understood that society looked at transgender people differently.
"I always considered myself just like everyone else, but I was being told that I wasn't. It's legit discrimination and it's unfair to me and other transgender individuals who face the same thing. I don't understand why they don't understand: it's just a bathroom," she wrote. "This isn't a bathroom issue. It's about equal rights."
She is allowed to use the girls' bathrooms at school now, with support from the school board and administration. "I'm proud to use the girls' bathroom. It's symbolic that I can use the bathroom that I should be using," Jennings wrote.
But the issue exacerbated by the bathroom law has made her, and other transgender people, wary:
Nowadays, since it's become such a big deal, every time I go to the bathroom I'm like, "I wonder if someone is thinking about me in this bathroom." It's screwed up my mentality. Psychologically, it's hurting our community, and that's not okay. I was talking to my transgender friend about this recently, and she says she's afraid to use the bathroom. She heard some girls saying how if they saw a "tr*nny freak" in the bathroom they were going to tell administration. She should just be able to use the bathroom, and get her business done.