8 percent of trans Americans get UTIs or kidney infections because they’re scared of public restrooms

Transgender people face dangerous discrimination every day, and it’s affecting their health. According to the U.S. Transgender Survey, 8 percent of trans Americans get UTIs and kidney infections because they’re scared to use the bathroom in public. The study, conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, found that 60 percent of transgender Americans have avoided using a public bathroom in the past year out of fear that they’ll be harassed or assaulted.

That number is high, but given the current prejudices against trans Americans and the ongoing legal battles over so-called “bathroom bills,” it’s almost surprising it’s not even higher. It probably is, actually, since the survey only included just over 27,000 trans people, which is about 2 percent of the estimated trans population in the country. So, who knows how many other human beings are wandering around a mall right now, scared to use the bathroom.

This is a real health issue. On top of getting UTIs and kidney infections, 32 percent of the respondents said they limit what they eat and drink while out so that they don’t have to use the bathroom. It’s not something most Americans have to think about. Sure, when I’m on a road trip, I try to lay off the coffee so I won’t have to use the bathroom. But it’s because I’m nervous I won’t find one in public, not that someone will hurt me if I walk into one. That sort of stress builds up and can lead to other health problems, as well.

Trans Americans fend off abuse in bathrooms all the time. One percent of the respondents reported being physically assaulted in a public bathroom in 2015, and 12 percent reported verbal abuse. Remember, this is a survey of just TWO PERCENT of the estimated trans population. Those numbers are likely higher.

Kidney infections and UTIs are treatable, but when you consider that 25 percent of the survey respondents reported experiencing a problem with health care in the past year (such as being denied coverage of care related to their gender transition or being denied coverage for routine care because of their gender), it’s clear that getting treatment isn’t always easy. When they have gone in to see a health care provider, 33 percent of respondents said they’ve had a negative experience, including being harassed, being refused treatment, or just having to teach the doctor about transgender people in general in order to get the care they need.

If it’s not actual harassment, it’s fear of harassment. The survey revealed than 25 percent of transgender people just don’t go to the doctor when they need to because they’re worried about how it will go, and 33 percent said they don’t go to the doctor because they can’t afford it.

Discrimination and stigma hurt trans Americans in so many ways. No one should be scared to use a bathroom or go to a doctor.