Remember those old and worn out saws we’ve heard for years? Gay men present a problem to society because they are more likely to be sexual predators. Or, how about this nugget: Gay Straight Alliances (GSA’s) will result in higher HIV rates among students and the only object of these “clubs,” anyway, is to recruit unsuspecting students to become gay or lesbian. How ludicrous!
For transgender individuals, the most popular expression of bigotry is that if governments legislatively enact gender identity and expression protections, genetically born women and children of all genders will be at the mercy of women with penises and women who look like men. Public bathrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms will no longer be safe.
In these public facilities, trans-women and trans-men alike are just too much for society’s sensibilities. Oh, the horror! How icky! Remember well… the same has been and still is heard about two men or two women kissing. Homophobes and transphobes have long used that visceral reaction as a crutch for their bigotry.
Historically, the bathroom has been used as a tool for discrimination in the good old USA. Before we even had modern plumbing, African-Americans were forced to use separate bathrooms. This hateful practice persisted until just 35-40 years ago. Persons with disabilities have equally been victims of bathroom discrimination for generations. Now, it’s the transgender community’s turn.
What makes the bathroom issue so insidious? A number of factors contribute to this hateful and fallacious argument. Most importantly, it’s a way to marginalize and humiliate individuals who some deem to be “different.” The irony here is that legislators — who always maintain that they will not legislate protections for transpersons because it creates a special class of citizen — have already bought into that very same argument by their attempts to set the transgender community, or any other minority, off as different.
We can’t forget the Biblical implications, which have become the fuel that stokes the fires of hate. Naturally, religious texts are faith-based. Those who espouse the faith behind them have often donned a Teflon shield, using it to deflect reason.
Practically speaking, the bathroom issue is the root of virtually all transgender issues, which appear to devolve to the same vitriolic and unsubstantiated diatribe.
“Our public bathrooms will no longer be safe,” they’ll say. “Do you want those psychopaths in the same bathroom as you? Your wife? Your daughter?”
How does this marginalization affect the transgender community? Changing legal documents — like driver’s licenses, passports and birth certificates — to reflect a person’s self-perceived identity is not easily available in some jurisdictions. Oftentimes, it is the fear of opening that “Pandora’s Box” of governments tacitly acknowledging that it’s okay to be transgender and use an appropriate bathroom.
By changing the documentation, government officials will be accused of giving a wink and a nod to individuals who are socially “deviant,” or so the argument goes. Denial of the right to use an appropriate bathroom results in students dropping out of schools, capable workers being denied employment and medical difficulties resulting from forced retention.
Again and again, we see that the bathroom issue effectively disenfranchises individuals who may very well become homeless, commit suicide or die from other causes. These are survival, life and death issues, as a result of dehumanization — as a result of the bathroom issue.
Fortunately, there are those who see this concern for the sham it is. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project in New York City created the DVD “Toilet Training,” which introduces us to a few trans individuals who have been victims of restroom discrimination. The Transgender Law Center in San Francisco published Peeing in Peace, a resource that illuminates many of the legal ramifications as well as posing some great ideas toward resolution.
The Safe To Pee Campaign has helped identify gender-neutral bathrooms on university campuses all over the country. The country at large — as well as society and specifically younger people — seems not to be so uptight about diversity as their parents were. Sensibilities evolve.
It is likely that statistical evidence, which will negate the arguments of the bathroom issue, may soon be, or is now, available. Thirteen states and Washington D.C., as well as hundreds of city and county jurisdictions, have passed gender identity and expression inclusive legislation. Many colleges and universities have adopted gender-blind housing policies and gender-neutral bathrooms.
More than a few Fortune 500 companies now have policies which are trans friendly and many others maintain diversity as a rule. The incidence of restroom, locker room or dressing room predation by transgender persons is essentially non-existent.
Personally, I cannot recall any episodes, and, considering how the media gloms onto allegedly salacious stories like this, it’s a foregone conclusion that it would have made the news. Lack of incidents will stand as proof that the premises used to perpetuate the bathroom issue lack any basis in reality.
I’ve been looking into this “bathroom issue” phenomenon for about two years. I was aghast at how pervasive the “icky” factor really was! In next month’s column, we’ll take a look at a few real life examples of how the bathroom issue has become manifest in the past year and how it still effects many transgender individuals today.
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