A Basic Human Right: Access To Public Restrooms That Match An Individual’s Gender Identity
The American Counseling Association (ACA) stands in solidarity with all individuals and their basic human right to access public restrooms and changing facilities that match their gender identity.
Although public awareness of transgender people has increased in recent years, they have been present, marginalized, and oppressed throughout history—and that marginalization and oppression continues to exist in the 21st century. Gender is the product of a complicated interaction of chromosomes, anatomy, hormones, and culture that begins before birth. Most people’s gender identity is consistent with the gender they were labeled at birth. Individuals who identify as transgender have a persistent and consistent experience of their gender being different from their sex assigned at birth. The stress brought on by stigma and the pressure to be gender-conforming with an individual’s assigned sex is known to cause minority stress and significantly affect health and wellbeing, even in the face of the resiliency and the strengths of transgender individuals. Counselors know and understand the critical importance of living consistently with one’s gender identity, which may or may not include physical or social gender transition.
ACA and its members believe that forcing individuals to use a public restroom that does not match their gender identity is a form of discrimination, harassment, and marginalization that can affect a person’s developmental processes, self-esteem, and self-concept.
ACA members are committed to nondiscrimination and the prevention of harassment in all forms, including protections for transgender, gender non-conforming/gender expansive, and LGBTQ+ individuals. We stand together in strong opposition to any efforts to discriminate against individuals who are living their authentic lives. The ACA commitment to nondiscrimination and the prevention of harassment includes access to restrooms and changing facilities that are safe and affirming for transgender and gender expansive youth and adults.
The American Counseling Association, through its members, strives to enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity. ACA members help advocate for equity and fair treatment for all people and groups in order to end oppression and injustice affecting clients, students, families, communities, schools, workplaces, governments, and other social and institutional systems.
ACA and its members agree that all individuals have the right to be accepted for their unique and authentic selves. ACA members consider it a privilege to work with—and on behalf of—people of all orientations and identities, emphasizing multicultural competence and a respect for diverse views. We encourage our clients to be genuine and to work to find their own authentic self, even if that authentic self appears to be somewhat different from dominant social norms.
Our goal is to ensure that everyone has a safe, unthreatened space to continuously build a vibrant, thriving self, which in turn can build a vibrant, thriving family, as well as a constantly evolving and improving community.
We respect and honor the unique human spirit that everyone—regardless of cultural attributes or sexual orientation—brings to our communities. At ACA, it is our goal to help make certain that everyone has an opportunity to grow and to achieve their full potential.
Competencies for Counselors
The American Counseling Association has endorsed two sets of competencies that address this issue: Advocacy Competencies and Competencies for Counseling Transgender Clients.
The Advocacy Competencies, developed by Lewis, Arnold, House & Toporek, were endorsed by the ACA Governing Council in March 2003. These competencies provide 43 strategies spanning the areas of:
- Client/Student Empowerment
- Client/Student Advocacy
- Community Collaboration
- Systems Advocacy
- Public Information
- Social/Political Advocacy
Read the complete text of the Advocacy Competencies here. (PDF file)
The Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling (ALGBTIC) Competencies for Counseling Transgender Clients were approved by the ACA Governing Council in November 2009. These competencies cover 103 areas under the headings of:
- Human Growth & Development
- Social and Cultural Foundations
- Helping Relationships
- Group Work
- Professional Orientation
- Career & Lifestyle Development
Read the complete text of the ALGBTIC Competencies for Counseling Transgender Clients here. (PDF file)
Links to other related ACA resources:
Counseling Today articles