Anti-Trans Bathroom Bills Have Nothing to Do With Privacy and Everything To Do With Fear and Hatred

This piece originally appeared at The Huffington Post
 
If social conservatives in Tennessee get their way, the state will soon become the second in the nation to use the coercive power of the government to force people into bathrooms that violate their very sense of self or risk punishment. Legislation targeting trans students pending in both houses in the state’s legislature would require public school and university students to use a bathroom or locker room that matches the sex recorded on their birth certificate. Limited-government it’s not.
 
Tennessee legislators, though, aren’t original in their bigotry. North Carolina controversially passed an even broader law in March, and at least 30 similar bills have been introduced in a total of 16 states this year alone. Proponents of these discriminatory anti-trans bathroom bills have advanced many arguments for why they are necessary. Most are absurd “urban legends.” Some argue these bills are necessary to stop predatory men from dressing up as women, entering the female restroom, and then attacking unsuspecting women. The more restrained say it will stop men from just trying to sneak a peek. Not surprisingly, these are solutions in search of a problem. There is neither evidence that anyone has used the fictional “transgender defense” for illegal conduct nor reports of any increase in public safety incidents in any of the hundreds of jurisdictions that have extended legal protections to transgender people.
 

But let’s get real, these bills aren’t motivated by privacy concerns — they’re motivated by ignorance, misinformation, and fear.

 
The argument getting the most traction, however, is the idea that compelling trans people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their assigned sex at birth protects the privacy of non-transgender boys and girls and men and women. “Letting boys into girls’ restrooms and changing areas, for example, is an invasion of privacy,” said Matt Sharp, a lawyer with the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, in defense of Tennessee’s bill. One of the stated purposes of Florida’s defeated bill last year was “to secure privacy … for all individuals using single-sex public facilities.” North Carolina legislators this year went so far as to name their anti-trans bathroom bill, the “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.”
 
As a threshold matter, no one is proposing letting boys into girls’ bathrooms. Preying on misinformation about transgender people and calling trans girls boys, advocates for these harmful measures decry the fictitious end of sex-segregated spaces altogether.
 
But even beyond the absurd distortions peddled in state legislatures across the country, these purported privacy justifications for unconstitutional government discrimination aren’t remotely persuasive. It does not infringe anyone else’s rights to share public space with those who are different. People just don’t get naked in the restroom, and we should all just keep our eyes to ourselves, anyway.  Like previous efforts to expel people of color, people with disabilities, and others from communal space, these arguments for privacy just mask a fear of difference. And as courts have repeatedly recognized, those who are uncomfortable with sharing such spaces can seek out private spaces for themselves rather than force transgender people to be forever stigmatized and isolated.
 
The privacy argument for these anti-trans bathroom bills falls completely apart when it comes to enforcement. Who exactly will have the authority to verify who is “male” or who is “female”? Will there be pee police? What will happen to androgynous men and women who don’t conform to the police officer or bureaucrat’s notion of what “real” maleness or femaleness is? For legislators trying to protect privacy, the unintended or ill-considered consequences of these bills seem to undermine their purpose.
 
But let’s get real, these bills aren’t motivated by privacy concerns — they’re motivated by ignorance, misinformation, and fear. Many people, particularly social conservatives, find transgender people, at best, curiosities, and, at worst, less than human, even if the more political hide their disgust with carefully crafted language. The bill’s sponsor in Tennessee, Republican Rep. Susan Lynn, called her measure “very friendly.” Trans students may mistake her kindness for cruelty because forcing transgender people to use the wrong restroom will have terrible consequences for their very real privacy interests as well as their safety.
 
Transgender people, whether people know it or not, are already using the bathrooms they have a right to, and doing so without incident. In fact, hundreds of localities and school districts across the country have created more welcoming environments for all, including transgender people, and mayors and law enforcement leaders and others have said nondiscrimination protections actually make their cities safer. Laws like North Carolina’s and bills like Tennessee’s, if enacted, mean transgender people will have to make the impossible decision of breaking the law or revealing their private medical information. Not to mention the obvious risk of harassment and violence that comes with forcing transgender women into men’s restrooms and transgender men into women’s restrooms.  The fear of violence is already a daily reality for transgender people, and bills like these could very well make it unsafe for trans people to go out in public if they become law.
 
Sometimes legislators have fantasized about committing such acts of violence. In 2012, Tennessee State Representative Richard Floyd, who introduced his very own anti-trans bathroom bill that year, described just what he’d do if he discovered a transgender woman in the same bathroom or dressing room as his wife or one of his daughters. “I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry,” he told The Chattanooga Times Free Press. “Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk.”
 
That state lawmakers feel so emboldened to threaten trans people with physical violence is a testament to the hostile and scary world in which trans people live. These proposed laws and the conversations about them contribute to the climate in which almost 50 percent of transgender people attempt suicide in their lives and transgender women of color are increasingly the target of deadly violence at the hands of partners and strangers.
 
It is quite clear whose privacy and very lives are really at risk if state legislatures continue to succumb to anti-trans fear and hatred and give it state sanction.

 

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Paige

You do realize that most transgender girls (who are by sex man but who act, talk, think, feel and LOOK like a girl most of the time) or the other way around.. the point is that if your argument is based on the people in the bathroom, specifically children, being offended by transgender people using the bathroom that correctly matches their identity (how they dress, how they identify, etc. I almost guarentee you have stood in the public restroom at least a few times with a transgender peron and would've never noticed it. BUT what will cause children to freak out, if that's what you are worried about as your post implies, is forcing a transgender woman to use the same bathroom as men, or having a transgender man use the same bathroom as women and be thought of and confused by the man standing in the bathroom with you! That would cause a lot more chaos and confusion than the practice that has been going on for years, transgender people reguarly use the bathroom of the gender they identify with, it is only now that trans has been a political topic that conservatives like you are becoming fearful, hateful, and consumed with unrealistic fears and prejudices just like when the civil rights movement was happening. Instead of commenting your views on random sites, maybe you could take some time to actually become knowledgeable and try to understand. Imagine if you (idk if you are a man or a woman), were born into the wrong body, imagine if you had the exact the same mind and feelings as you currently do, but your genitalia didn't match your mind and feelings. Really, for a second, imagine if you had your current brain as a man or a woman, but were trapped in a body that didn't match!? Put yourself in others shoes, maybe try to understand and empathize, and realize that these people aren't bad people who are trying to molest your kids or convert your spouse, they are just trying to be their authentic selves, and should'nt we, as Americans, all respect an individuals autonomy to be the person they are meant to be? It's not hurting anyone for people who identify as a certain gender (regardless of if they were actually born with the correct parts), using the restroom of the gender they truly are (and quite possibly have become surgically that gender, why should'nt they be able to use the restroom? Really I hope you look deep and stop being so fearful of people who are slightly different than you, but who are basically just a human with feelings and lives like everyone else, we are really not all that different.

Anonymous

W.r.t. "Who protects the rights of women who don't want to be in a bathroom with transgendered women", there is no such right, any more than the "rights" of white people not to use the same bathroom as black people was protected when segregation was eliminated.

Anonymous

Amen!

Anonymous

A lot of people with long winded bizarre logic trying to justify discrimination. I live in South Florida - lots of LGBT I count as friends. There is no reason or interest in discrimination against them, or anyone that is trans either. A health issue? Seriously? Some of the healthiest people I know. You however, have a physchological problem.

Anonymous

Many opponents of equal rights also claim to be Christians. Former President Jimmy Carter, also a Christian scholar, has stated publicly that Jesus never condemned LGBT people - there is no record in the Bible of him condemning the unpopular. In fact he embraced the outcasts, lepers and unpopular people.

Maybe the Religious Left needs to speak up as well to those that bear false witness!

Anonymous

I am not religious because among other things, if there's a God, then why do bad things happen in world I don't care about the gay/lesbian marriage topic which law allows and admit information war by my side was lost on homosexuality, when topic mainly became about the boring gay marriage topic and only once in a while about homosexuality's risks. Truth about homosexuality's dangers don't change and truth must be told though information war is lost. Homosexual/lesbian conduct is bad for health like tobacco & needs to be treated like tobacco use by adults. If willing & knowing adults want to use tobacco or do gay/lesbian conduct, then that's their life, but it must be treated as harmful like tobacco is. I know what APA, mainstream psychologists & psychiatrists say about gay/lesbian conduct, but they are ideologues. I think that they must make it a crime to do sex changes.

I have thought about this & don't think any1 can rebut conclusion that childhood sex abuse victims of gay/lesbian pedophiles have more risk of turning out gay/lesbian by copying the conduct they learned because think you know that conduct incl. sexual conduct can be learned. Think you know it is possible for people who are victims of same sex molestation (such as victims of gay pedophile priests) to copy this sexual conduct and do gay conduct in adulthood incl. turn out to be gay pedophiles.

Tonia

Sexual predators in the bathroom? If there were a sexual predator in the bathroom I would want to have at least one other person in the bathroom with me besides the predator, trans or not. There are some pretty bad-ass transwomen out there that I know I could count on, but then again there are also bad-ass transmen.

It has been decades since we stopped letting little children go into restrooms by themselves. Most responsible parents go with their small children. I'm from the north, maybe that doesn't happen in the south. They should start.

If the intent is to prevent fear and to preserve a sense of privacy then they have approached this all wrong. They have played to the fears and tried to grow those fears. They really want people to be afraid of trans-persons, or at least trans-women. The same amount of effort could have accomplished their stated objective simply by launching an education campaign. Now that they have created and fed the panic. Now that they have sabotaged their own goal, it could take decades for them to remedy that fear and sense of entitlement they have created. Cis-women are getting roughed up because they don't look stereotypically feminine enough to meet the restroom access criteria.

Its nice that the Governor loves trans-persons, except in the locker rooms and bathrooms. If I use the men's locker room to shower, some adolescents are going to get an eyeful of female body parts. Are they telling me that they aren't concerned with that consequence?

Tonia

Dear unnamed Anonymous opposed to the legal mutilation of sex organs (it would be easier if you just picked a name for reference). It appears you have not been following very efforts in this area. Genital mutilation of inter-sexed infants is a common problem that many are working hard to address. It is frequently caused by cis-gendered parents that decide to mutilate the genitals of their progeny simply because of their their personal need to immediately apply an arbitrary classification of male or female. I say personal gratification, because the child is in fact both male and female until (if) the child determines which body parts go with their gender identity. Sounds like you could have been one of those parents that decided they couldn't handle the truth and would have mutilated your child to give you comfort. Trust me, if you lost you penis, and it transformed into a vagina overnight, you would still clearly be a dick. Tell me, would you honestly give up your male privilege or not seek medical attention if that were to happen. No, like all of us, if you suddenly found your body on the wrong side of your gender identity you would have it fixed or somehow learn to deal with the incongruity. Not likely to happen, but it is exactly the same situation.

Anonymous

I have thought about this & don’t think any1 can rebut conclusion that childhood sex abuse victims of gay/lesbian pedophiles have more risk of turning out gay/lesbian by copying the conduct they learned because think you know that conduct incl. sexual conduct can be learned. Think you know it is possible for people who are victims of same sex molestation (such as victims of gay pedophile priests) to copy this sexual conduct and do gay conduct in adulthood incl. turn out to be gay pedophiles. Think posters who call me ignorant, idiot know that sex abuse esp. repeated childhood sex abuse raises risk of a kid turning out gay/lesbian by copying conduct they learned from being ruined by gay and lesbian pedophiles, but they can’t rebut other than get offended. You can call me ignorant,idiot, etc., but there’s nothing any1 can say to change my mind on this. People who deny truth between sex abuse and later homosexuality/lesbianism are dishonest. I don’t know why people defend a useless dangerous conduct such as homosexual/lesbian conduct & I don’t know the apologism for transexuality which is surgically mutilating people with dangerous hormones to make them fake opposite sex members & they should make that illegal.

Anonymous

every body get real, every body needs to talk to there kids and let them know what they are and the aren't. this shit needs to die and get real. I would not use a restroom built for this shit I would piss my pants be for I us a rest room after it. besides the germs and all that. there are some nasty people out there. and if you know some one that has been abused get them some help so they don't get empty in side and don't know what to do. I am sickened by all this shit I have small grand kids and I pray for them. the world that we have created and now leaving this world to them.
THAT IS ALL I HAVE TO SAY GOD BLESS ALL
AND HOPE THIS DOES NOT GO THREW

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