(Disclaimer: As a non-binary person, I have certain privileges that many trans people don’t. While I cannot speak for the trans community as a whole, these are my thoughts as a non-cisgender individual.)
Nearly every day that I’ve logged into Facebook this past week, I’ve seen someone complaining about how horrifying Target’s clarification of bathroom access is. Nearly all of these critics say they don’t like the idea of trans bathroom rights because it compromises the safety of children.
Well, I’m here to call these people out. The worry isn't about safety; it's a fear of transgender people.
I know this seems more like a gut reaction than a thought-out response, so let’s take a look at a few cues that show the concern isn’t with safety but with inclusivity.
First, it seems that most of the ideas about lack of safety revolve around the concept of a “man dressed as a woman” assaulting children. I’ve seen this thought in what many people say in person or write on social media. And while the thought of assault is scary, trying to argue that trans bathroom accessibility is the threat to safety is inaccurate and rooted in discrimination. Many (but not all) trans people have been using the bathroom matching their gender for years.
Furthermore, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over 80 percent of child assaults and child abuse are done by someone the child knows. If the concern was genuinely towards child safety, why is this uproar about safety only brought up when trans-inclusive policies and clarifications are made? If people were concerned about child safety and not about trans-inclusivity, we would have a focus on all venues of abuse, especially the factors that affect a majority, and these concerns wouldn’t only be brought up when inclusive policies are clarified.
It’s also important that we look at this idea that cisgender men will dress as women in order to gain access to the women’s bathroom and proceed to prey on children. Obviously, child predators are aware that they’re breaking the law. This being said, child assault is, of course, illegal in all senses. Nobody wants to change that, nobody is in the process of changing that, and nobody thinks it’s even close to rational.
But for some reason, people seem to think that trans people using the correct bathrooms is equivalent to legalizing child assault in all of its forms. There’s this irrational idea that trans rights are inherently connected to giving the freedom to assault. It shouldn’t need to be said that this is incorrect, and once again stems from the idea that people who don’t conform to the gender norm are dangerous.
After all, many (if not most) places have gender neutral changing areas. Target certainly does and has had them for years. Yet despite this sudden outrage against inclusive bathrooms, there hasn’t been any discussion of the inclusive changing rooms that have been in existence. And similarly to bathrooms, changing rooms divide into separate, private stalls in which some element of clothing is removed.
While these rooms have different purposes, the set-up is pretty much the same. The difference lies in society’s acceptance of one’s status as inclusive and the other’s as this horrific taboo thing. If safety was an active concern on people’s minds, wouldn’t they have been talking about safety in changing rooms and other public places in addition to bathrooms?
If people were concerned about safety, we would see more laws and punishments against perpetrators of rape, assault, and other violence. We would see more understanding and support for rape victims, assault victims, and the difficulties they face in recovery. We wouldn’t only talk about child safety when trans rights are involved.
But are not the case, and we can see that safety isn’t the concern. The concern is about letting transgender people have basic human rights.
So instead of worrying about what’s in people’s pants or whining about how trans people using the bathroom makes you uncomfortable, just do your business, wash your hands, and get on with your day.
(If interested, a mother’s point of view on the subject can be found here.)