Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series, you can find Part 1 of the series here.
Let’s talk about “privacy”
One of the cornerstones of anti-trans legislation is the subject of privacy. Some cisgender people think that a transgender person using the same restroom as them is an invasion of privacy. Let’s break this down.
When you use a public restroom you may see other people in the doorway, at the sink or hand dryer, but most of the time you’re not seeing anyone actually relieve themselves (I hope!). Most public restrooms have stall doors or urinal dividers, right? Transphobic people imply that they don’t want transgender people to see them in private situations, but what they’re really saying is they don’t want to see transgender people in public places.
Also on the subject of privacy, I think it’s fair to note that one’s gender identity is both a public and private thing. There are certain transgender people (like myself) who make it a point to be out, loud, and proud about their transgender identity. There are other transgender people who prefer to lead with other aspects of their character and try not to draw attention to their trans-ness. In fact, I bet you pass by transgender people more than you know, without realizing they’re any different than you.
If we force transgender people to use a restroom or locker room that goes against their gender identity, we are in fact forcing them to “out” themselves. A transgender man entering a ladies room sticks out like a sore thumb, as does someone like me entering a men’s room (I’ve done it, it’s not cute). My transgender identity is my business, I’m not imposing it upon anyone, even if some people find my existence threatening — more on that later. However, if a law is passed that forces me to reveal my transgender identity every time I need to use the restroom, isn’t that law actually an invasion of my privacy? So you see, the goal of these “bathroom bills” isn’t just to force us out of the restrooms that match our gender identity, it’s to shame and intimidate us away from using any public facilities at all.
Let’s talk about “safety”
Another popular argument for legislation that discriminates against transgender people is the issue of safety. It is a favorite pastime of transphobic lawmakers to conflate gender transgression with sexual violence and perversion. Everyone seems to be up in arms about the mythical person who claims to be transgender so they can diddle little kids in the public restroom, but where is that person? Certainly if such a criminal were caught and arrested it would grab national headlines and serve as proof for why we need to keep bathrooms free of trans people. We’ve no evidence of these crimes, but so far this year in the United States alone eight transgender women of color have been murdered, most of them in public spaces.
Gender transgression terrifies the old guard. Consider some other transgressions that, in their own time and now, have been equated with sexual violence and perversion: Women learning how to read, for example, African Americans being freed from slavery, teenagers dancing to rock ’n’ roll music, gay and lesbian people getting married. What we now look back on as signs of social progress were met at the outset with widespread moral panic. It’s a natural response of the patriarchy, the white men in charge who like to keep the status in the status-quo.
Just for fun, let’s look at who is making these assumptions about transgender people today. President Donald Trump has been accused of sexual violence by multiple women, including his first wife, and Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has been charged for domestic violence and battery. It seems to me that these sexually violent people are merely projecting their own perverse behavior onto others.
Let me tell you whose safety I am concerned for: The transgender high school student who stands before two restroom doors, knowing that whichever they choose may result in violence or ridicule; The transmasculine collegiate athlete who uses the men’s locker room and must face the fear of group sexual assault that is still so unfathomably common in our country.
If you are really concerned about safety, it is your duty to protect transgender people, not the bullies and batterers who prey on them.
What can I do to help?
Stand up for trans youth. Tell your trans friends that they’re awesome and important. If you don’t have a trans friend, make some! Correct people who use offensive language or make false claims about privacy or safety. Be a bathroom or locker room buddy. Get your teachers and administrators involved. If your school has a GSA, consider ways the group can be more Trans-inclusive. Petition your school board to adopt a non-discrimination policy that includes transgender people. Urge your school to get gender neutral or trans-affirming signs for the restrooms.
Follow or donate to these organizations:
- @ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)
- @TransEquality (National Center for Transgender Equality)
- @TLDEF (Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund)
- @TransLawCenter (The Transgender Law Center)
- @GLSEN (Championing LGBTQ issues in K-12 education)
Need help? Please call the Transgender Lifeline
- US: (877) 565–8860
- Canada: (877) 330–6366
You can also donate to support the lifeline HERE!