Concerned moms of the internet want to know:
Just last week my boss’s boss (who knows I’m trans) told me in conversation that if “someone with a penis” was sharing a locker room with his teen daughter he would personally march over to the school to rectify the situation. No amount of delicate explaining about the realities of trans kids and teens made a dent in his perception that all teens with penises were pervy teen boys.
I posted about bathrooms before. But locker rooms and bathrooms are different spaces. Bathrooms generally preserve a modicum of privacy, while shared nudity is more commonplace in locker rooms. So yes, you are more likely to see other people’s body parts in all their glory in the locker room.
For teens, this is a nightmare. Adolescence is the apex of body self-consciousness, whatever your gender identity. But for someone who feels disconnected from (and often ashamed of) their body due to gender dysphoria, the self-consicousness is generally magnified several fold. That’s why it’s implausible that an FTM-identified teenager is waving breasts and pubic regions around in the boys’ locker room or a MTF-identified teenager is showing her penis in the girls’. Let’s get real about what it’s like for those trans teens in ANY locker room.
My own girls’ locker room memories are horrible. I was a 13-year-old boy who didn’t know I was a boy. I survived the locker room by waiting until the last second to change, hiding in a remote stall, and trying as hard as I could not to catch a glimpse of the girls changing around me. This wasn’t just because of my body image issues. It was because if I was caught looking at anything other than the ground, my two locker room tormenters would come and remind me that I was out of place. Hiding in a corner didn’t always work–these girls sought me out. I remember them blatantly staring as I struggled rushing to put on and clasp my bra.
Sometimes it was stares, sometimes accusations. I didn’t know I was a boy, I didn’t know I was attracted to girls, but they thought they had me pegged. They’d corner me and my friend who was brave enough to wear rainbow pride rings and tell us we were disgusting dykes and lesbians.
Or they’d walk by singing to the tune of the Barney theme song:
I love you, you love me,
People think that we are just friends,
But we’re really lesbians
At the time, I thought I was strong willed and able to fight back with my superior intellectual skills. I pointed out that they were the perverts for even caring so much about other people’s sexuality. I played it off like I would be proud to be a lesbian if I were one (but I wasn’t, I claimed). I didn’t want to admit it, but the teasing made me feel singled out and alone. I didn’t tell anyone it was happening because I didn’t want to seem weak and because I refused to admit it hurt.
Even locker rooms where there was no bullying presented problems. At summer camp, the shower stalls were open, exposing me to everyone’s bodies and exposing my body to everyone else. Being seen naked was one of my biggest fears, and I took to showering late at night or in a bathing suit, where I was less likely to be seen. I got a talking-to one year from a counselor for not showering enough. Keep in mind that while I had the body of a middle school girl, I had the brain of a middle school boy. Yet, when showering with counselors with fully developed female bodies, I was not lost in a haze of lust–I was merely perplexed at their self confidence. And they teased me relentlessly for my modesty. The goaded me (resulting in a tinge of unidentified discomfort) that we were all girls and there was nothing to be ashamed of. I remember it as friendly teasing; not coming from the same place of cruelty as my middle-school tormenters. But it still made it clear to me that I was in the wrong place.
I guess what I’m saying is that the middle school locker room is a traumatic memory for me, as I’m sure it is for many trans people. I don’t feel sorry for your poor son who might catch a glimpse of something he’s seen in magnified detail on the internet 1000 times before. Your son’s trans friend is not in the locker room with your son because he’s proud of his chest or his lack of penis. He’s in the locker room because he is trying (like most of us did in high school) to find a place where he belongs. And more likely than not, someone is taunting him with cruel rhymes to convince him he will never belong no matter where he is.