Transgender people have received a lot of attention lately due to bathroom bills in North Carolina, which legally ban trans people from using restrooms that do not match the sex on their birth certificate. Legislators in North Carolina, and the eight other states that have bathroom bills, maintain that the purpose of such laws is public safety. In this case, "public safety" does not actually include trans people, who face extreme levels of harassment and violence when forced to use bathrooms that correspond with their sex at birth. Instead, the laws portray trans folks as a threat to society, indistinguishable from pedophiles and perverts. Despite no evidence of men donning dresses in order to harass or assault women in female restrooms in places with nondiscrimination laws, Sen.Ted Cruz declared that allowing trans people to use a bathroom that aligns with their gender identity "opens the door to predators." He continued, "Men should not be going to the bathroom with little girls.”
Although President Obama stated he believes that the laws that have been passed in North Carolina and other states "are wrong and should be overturned," and many other people and organizations have denounced the discriminatory bills, much of the damage has already been done -- and not only to trans folks. Because of the bills, countless cisgender women, being mistaken for being trans, have been harassed and chased out of restrooms for simply not looking female enough. Trans people who do decide to follow the laws face harassment, whether they pass as cisgender or not.
In all of this, it is clear that bathroom bills are not about bathrooms -- they are about closed-mindedness and fear. Anti-trans bathroom bills reinforce a gender binary that says women should present one way and men should present another. The laws leave no room for any blurring of those lines, and see those who challenge the binary to be a threat. The reality, though, is that trans people are not a threat to safety or health. The actual threat to the supposed American values of equality and progress is the fact that many people, like Senator Cruz, still refuse to see trans women as women, and trans men as men. This invalidation of identity, and discrimination on account of it is part of the reason that nearly half of trans people have attempted suicide. The life expectancy of a trans woman of color is 35, and 11 trans people have been reported to be murdered in the U.S. in 2016 alone. With numbers as staggering as these, it should seem obvious that trans people are much more in need of protection from violence than women and children in bathrooms.