'My Trans Daughter Isn't Allowed to Use Girls' Bathrooms at School Anymore'

"Unfortunately, according to new Iowa law starting immediately," said the email from an official representative of the Iowa Department of Education concerning my transgender daughter, "your child will no longer be able to use the girls bathrooms or locker room at our school."

"Counselors and administrators have brainstormed ideas and come up with the following options," the email continued. "Your child can use: A) the nurse's restroom B) the individual staff restrooms in the counseling office lounge C) any of the boys restrooms.

"As we navigate ahead under these new restrictions, we will continue to look for creative and inclusive options for your child and all students...I am sorry that this will present your child with another hurdle here at school."

trans daughter belle
Mason aged 4 dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Alex Kolker

Let's leave politics, religion, genetics, and psychology out of this and consider a simple question: What happens to a 12-year-old boy who chooses to dress like a girl when he walks unprotected into a locker room filled with unsupervised teenaged boys?

Understand that my daughter has been on hormone blockers since she was 10; not to change her gender, but just to hold off on the decision until she is old enough to make it.

This means that she still has the body of a 10-year-old, and half the boys that the State of Iowa wants to put her in a locker room with are just now experiencing their first taste of testosterone.

This is more than just putting a target on my child's back. This is more than just a recipe for disaster. This is sadistic and cruel.

Again, not to argue genetics or psychology, but just to state a simple fact: My daughter has told us she was a girl since long before she even knew what being a girl actually means.

At age 4, she chose Belle from Beauty and the Beast as her Halloween costume (and she totally rocked it, too!). She pretended she had long, flowing hair for her entire life until she was finally able to grow some of her own. She loves getting her nails done and shopping at the mall with her friends and buying ridiculously expensive clothing at Lululemon. Like a lot of girls her age.

And this past year she wanted to play on the school volleyball team along with her friends, but the State of Iowa forbid it because it's an all-girl team.

I want to make it clear that my school district has no problem with allowing my daughter to use the girl's bathroom. Every school official I've spoken to agrees that this is a stupid, harmful law.

But the Republican majority in the Iowa State Legislature—who present themselves as the champions of individual freedoms and smaller government—will not let our superintendent, our school board, or the voters of our community make this decision for ourselves.

The next thing you need to know about my daughter is she is indecisive by nature. She has changed her mind about almost every decision she has ever made: About wanting to take German and advanced math courses at school, about wanting to dance ballet, about wanting to learn how to code computers, about whether she wanted to go jet-skiing during our trip to Florida. She has even changed her mind—multiple times—about what girl's name she wants to choose for herself.

But she has never once, not in the entire 12 years of her life, questioned whether or not she is a girl. Not once. To her, it's a basic fact, like the question of whether or not she has toes.

For the last two years, attending middle school as a transgender girl, she has had to endure daily jokes and ridicule.

At one point, the school gave her special permission to leave class five minutes early to avoid having to pass specific classmates out in the hallway. She has gotten into fights because of being teased, and when she defended herself, she was the only one who got suspended.

Mason Kolker
Mason poses for a recent photo. He face is covered to protect her identity. Alex, Mason's father, says she has been on hormone blockers since the age of 10. Alex Kolker

The school has a zero-tolerance anti-bullying policy, but my daughter won't go complain to the teachers for the same reason that no 12-year-old would: It would just make things worse.

There are many instances of teasing, usually involving people making fun of her clothes, her hair, and her make up. But there was one incident in particular last fall.

A child took it upon himself to repeatedly inform her and several other LGBTQ students in their class that they were unnatural and that God would punish them. When Mason punched him, the other kid's parents made a complaint about Mason's unprovoked assault.

Mason was suspended for a week. With his word against ours about the pattern of teasing, the school couldn't punish the other kid in any way.

There was also one heart-breaking incident in which Mason became friends with a new kid at school. At some point, someone must have provided this kid with Mason's private information, because suddenly they wouldn't have anything to do with her anymore.

Although this wasn't teasing per se, it was mean-spirited on the part of those other students, who had no business being involved in the first place. It was devastating for Mason, who has a hard enough time making friends as it is.

Now tell me what tweener would expose herself to this sort of treatment over something that was just some childish whim.

Mason has become used to ridicule by her classmates and the inability of school officials to do anything about it (although it is clear they are genuinely concerned for her).

I told Mason about the new bathroom rule and that her mother and I would support her if she decided to continue to use the girls' facilities anyway.

For those of you who say that all this "I'm a girl" stuff is just a play for attention, trust me: This sort of attention is something no child would set him-or-herself up for. And no, this isn't something that my wife and I or anyone else has "indoctrinated" her into. My daughter wouldn't stand for it: I can't even get her to brush her teeth, let alone wear pants.

And for all of those who are worried she wants to go in the girls' locker room so she can see girls changing clothes: If that's the issue, then why isn't there a state law banning lesbians as well?

Which leaves me with one final question: Why are the Governor of Iowa and the Republican state legislators so concerned about where my child wants to pee?

Alex Kolker is a nonprofit professional and father of two living in Iowa.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

Do you have a unique experience or personal story to share? Email the My Turn team at myturn@newsweek.com to tell us your story.


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