(Al Jazeera America) When Eli Erlick was 8 years old, she would sometimes pretend to be sick, just so she could leave school and go home to use the bathroom. She had asked to use the girls’ bathroom at her school in Mendocino County, California, but she wasn’t allowed to.
“I had no idea why I couldn’t do this,” Erlick said. “I didn’t even know the word ‘transgender.’ I just knew that I was a girl,” she said, and so it didn’t feel right to use the boys’ bathroom. This continued until she was 13, when she began her gender transition.
Erlick, now 19, is a second-year student at Pitzer College near Los Angeles and director of Trans Student Education Resources (TSER), a student-led advocacy group. When she was a senior in high school, she worked to help craft California’s School Success and Opportunity Act, a 2013 law — the first of its kind in the nation — that requires the state’s public schools to allow trans students to use the bathrooms and play on the sports teams that correspond with their gender identities.
After that landmark legislation in California, some states are pushing in the other direction, and bathrooms and locker rooms are starting to become key battlegrounds in the nationwide fight for the rights of transgender children.