As a former student of an all girls' high school, I was surprised to learn this week that the ablutions have changed rather drastically in the decade or so since I left the school gates.

Somewhere between the broken soap dispenser, the constantly dripping tap and the hand drier that hasn't worked in about 20 years, it appears that you'll now find conservative lobby group Family First lurking in the background to ensure each girl who pops in for a wee between classes has the type of genitalia up her skirt that Family First deems appropriate.

This week, New Zealand's favourite pearl-clutchers took it upon themselves to join an American campaign fighting against advances in the human rights of transgender people.

Dubbed "Ask Me First', the campaign currently features a small number of Kiwi stories from one high school student, a handful of parents and a soccer coach, lamenting the idea that a "boy" was allowed to use the girls' bathrooms, or play sport in a girls' team.


The "boys" in question are, of course, not boys at all. They are transgender girls - people who were identified as boys at birth, but who knew, often from a young age, that they were in fact girls.

Transgender people have been prominent in New Zealand for decades, with Georgina Beyer becoming the world's first transgender mayor in 1995, and the world's first transgender MP in 1999.

Globally, transgender people have become more visible in recent years, with Caitlin Jenner, Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono and Chelsea Manning shining a light on transgender rights.

Like the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender you identify as.

Accordingly, the toilet has become the new conservative battleground.

It sounds ridiculous, and it is.

Trans people are human beings, with human needs and rights.

They, like many other groups who dare to exist outside of society's restrictive categories, are also repeatedly persecuted, victimised and are highly likely to experience mental distress.

Waikato University researcher Jaimie Veale gave Fairfax a snapshot of transgender teens' mental health in November 2016, revealing that nearly half of trans teens reported they had self-harmed in the year prior, during which time one in five reported they had attempted suicide.

Perhaps the most ludicrous thing about the bathroom argument is that when you stop to think about it, gender segregated public bathrooms are a strange concept anyway.

The bathrooms in our homes are used by people of all genders, as are those in planes, and many offices, bars and restaurants.

I greatly resent Family First attempting to use experiences of sexual violence in order to advance its anti-trans agenda.

In female restrooms, all of the toilets are enclosed in lockable cubicles. And urinals may be the most superfluous contraptions ever invented.

Family First has attempted to argue that "survivors of sexual trauma" may feel triggered or unsafe by seeing a transgender girl or woman using the same bathroom as them - presumably, that is, if they are able to identify the woman in question as transgender.

As a "survivor of sexual trauma" myself, I can report that I greatly resent Family First attempting to use experiences of sexual violence in order to advance its anti-trans agenda.

I've never felt unsafe around a trans person in any setting.

I would, however, imagine that a transwoman could feel extremely unsafe being forced to use a male-only bathroom.

I'd also imagine that being the only girl at an all girls' school made to use a gender-neutral bathroom would be fairly ostracising.

Perhaps the part of Family First's crusade that breaks my heart the most, however, is that the organisation decided to use teenagers in its campaign.

As someone who often works with teenagers I can't fathom what led them to film a video of a teen girl ('Laura') speaking about one of her classmates for the purpose of circulating it to the national media.

I can't begin to understand the rationale behind pushing such a video far and wide presumably with little or no consideration of the impact it would likely have on Laura's classmate, not to mention other trans teens and their families.

I am a staunch advocate for amplifying young women's voices, but I also believe teens deserve the right to formulate their own views and opinions without the pressure of voicing them in a conservative lobby group's controversial campaign that they may or may not agree with in the future.

When I look back to my teen years - which, at 27, are in the reasonably near past - I know that there are views I held then that I completely disagree with now.

Laura may well wholeheartedly agree with the views she has expressed in Family First's campaign in 10 years time.

She also may be incredibly embarrassed by them.

Should that be the case, Family First will have a lot to answer for.

Amid the heightened emotions, however, it is important to inject a dose of reality.

If we are to take Family First's concerns on board, we must ask what teen boy would go through the difficult process of coming out to their family and friends, enrolling at a girls' school, dressing and living as a girl just to be able to access a girls' bathroom?

What school would allow said mythical manipulative and strategic teen to enrol without a comprehensive entry process?

People don't simply "become" transgender to gain easy access to apparently hallowed girls' toilets.

They transition to become their authentic, true selves.

If all this wasn't baffling enough, Family First is using "feminism" to back up their claims.

If you feel like you've stepped into a parallel universe, where up is down and blue is red, I am right there beside you.

You can imagine my shock when Family First sent me links featuring "radical feminists" on Wednesday.

Feminism is indeed a broad church, but when the arsonists who've been threatening to burn the chapel down suddenly profess to be parishioners, it's somewhat discombobulating.

In my opinion, however, there is one thing that is abundantly clear. Family First owes trans people an apology.

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
Samaritans 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.