With all the debate in the media lately, people are sick of hearing about this issue. But not everyone is lucky enough to be able to just dismiss it and not have to worry about how it may affect them. But before I get to the details, let’s review a bit.
First, if a person is transgender, it means that they identify as a gender that does not match the one they were assigned at birth. Second, being trans* is not the same as waking up one day and deciding that you want to be a man/woman instead. Third, the existence and worth of trans* people is not dependent in any way on the acceptance/belief/approval of anybody. They are people, they exist, and they have just as much worth as any cisgender person. Disbelief and disapproval do not negate existence, value, or personhood.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, bathroom bills. These are legislation such as North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which among other things, states that everyone must use the restroom that matches the gender they were assigned at birth. North Carolina is not alone in this. A number of other states have attempted to pass such legislation with varying success. The main reason, at least the explicitly stated reason, for these bills is that they are a safety measure. They supposedly prevent sexual assault/rape, the theory being that either trans* people, or people pretending to be trans* will assault people in public restrooms.
Except they don’t. There is no statistical evidence to support this claim. In fact, in areas where trans* people are allowed to use their preferred restroom, there has been no increase in sexual violence crimes. There has also never been a reported instance of a trans* person assaulting someone in a public restroom. Why? Because transgender is not a synonym for rapist. Trans* people aren’t in the bathroom to hurt people. They just need to pee.
So trans* people are not rapists. But could predators pretend to be trans* in order to gain access to the women’s bathroom? Well, certainly they could, but why would they? They don’t need to. An actual predator, anyone who is intent on causing harm, is not going to be deterred by a gendered bathroom sign. (Also keep in mind that 80 percent of the time, rape victims know their attacker.)
There is nothing preventing actual rapists from entering whatever bathroom they want. Because, as we know, rape is already a crime. If that doesn’t deter someone, then a bill which says they can’t enter that bathroom certainly won’t. And a rapist's decision to attack someone has nothing to do with transgender people. Nothing at all.
So instead of using trans* people as scapegoats, let’s address the real problem—rape. And what causes rape? Not being transgender. Rape happens because the patriarchal values in our society sexualize and objectify women while telling men that they are entitled to power, to status, and to women. (Also note that not only women are raped. Men and boys can also be raped. Rape can happen to anyone. It is not gender specific.) So if we want little girls in bathrooms to be safe, we should be targeting rape culture, not trans* people.
And for anyone who is still convinced that your genitals at birth determine where you should pee, let’s talk about some other possible solutions.
Unisex or family bathrooms. These are great because they are accessible to trans* people, and, bonus, they make life easier for parents who have a child of the opposite gender. (Think a dad with a five year old daughter—he doesn’t want to take her in the men’s bathroom, but he can’t go into the women’s, and he doesn’t want to send her in there alone.)
Gender neutral bathrooms. The idea here is that anyone could use these bathrooms. Each stall would have a toilet, urinal, and sink. The doors and walls between stalls would come the whole way to the floor, so there’s complete privacy, and the space outside could have cameras for added safety. Privacy, safety, no discrimination.
Allow trans* people to use their preferred bathroom. It does not threaten the well-being of cisgender people using that same bathroom and has the added bonus of showing compassion and respect for our fellow human beings’ safety. A Washington D.C.-based study showed that 70 percent of trans* people have experienced some sort of harassment from simply using a bathroom and 9 percent have experienced physical violence. If anyone should be worried about restroom violence, they should.
Letting trans* people use their preferred restroom is safer for them and just less disruptive for everyone, as demonstrated by a number of trans* people in response to this type of legislation.
The evidence is overwhelming. There is no legitimate reason trans* people shouldn't be allowed to use their preferred restroom. Stop anti-trans* legislation and #LetThemPee.