Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Transgender persons and bathroom use

A student reaction paper

The United States has reached a social justice boiling point on several issues. But one that has recently been heating up is the issue of transgender rights. Several states have passed discriminatory legislation that attacks transgender men and women, directly violating some of their most basic rights. And while the stigma of gay and lesbian identity has slowly been melting away, transgender people are still regarded as "others." This group is not widely accepted, even by some in the LGBT community. But we still need to focus on protecting their rights as individuals. 

HB2, a recent law passed in North Carolina, mandates that public and government buildings must restrict access to restrooms based on birth-assigned sex. In other words, whatever gender your birth certificate says, is the restroom that you must use. Now there are several problems with this law, namely its enforcement. But my biggest issue, and several other cisgender women's biggest issue, is that the law claims to protect the rights, privacy, and safety of cis women. The argument against allowing men who identify as women into the women's restroom is based on the assumption that transgender women pose an inherent danger to cisgender women is completely unfounded. In my own personal research, I couldn't find a single incident of a trans woman attacking, harassing, or sexually assaulting a cis woman. Not a single case. So where is this coming from?

I find it completely asinine that the same legislators passing this law in the name of women's safety are the same legislators passing laws that restrict access to abortion and contraception. The governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory (the same governor who signed into law a piece of legislation that forced abortion providers to meet the same surgical center standards and prevented public health insurance policies from paying for abortions) stated that HB2 was designed to "stop the breach of basic privacy and etiquette."

I want politicians to stop using my safety to justify their unfounded fear of transgender men and women. They don't give a damn about my safety when it comes to almost anything else. They don't give a damn about my safety when it comes to obtaining safe and accessible abortion services. I don't have a problem with a transgender person using the same restroom as me. And how should I know whether they are transgender or not? Who cares? Transgender people have to walk around every day being conscious of who they are, what they are doing, and how they present themselves. I have the privilege of being cisgender and not having to worry about that.If using the women's restroom makes them more comfortable, then so be it. It isn't my concern where they evacuate their bladders and bowels. It's none of my business, and it isn't anyone else's.

I am comfortable with this situation because I'm sure it has happened to everyone at some point in their lives, and you probably didn't even notice it happened. I'm not going to ask to check whether everyone in the restroom that I am using has female genitalia. I suppose that a transgender woman could peek through a stall door, but a cisgender woman could too, and both situations would be equally creepy. I wouldn't be more comfortable if someone who looked like a woman did it. 

 Transgender people experience more harassment than cisgender people do, and why would we exacerbate that by forcing a "man" who identifies as a woman to use the men's restroom? How much more uncomfortable would that be for all involved? Imagine walking into the men's room and seeing a young woman washing her hands at the sink. Or walking into the women's restroom and having a bearded man follow you in. This legislation could present potentially dangerous situations for transgender people. This could also potentially have a worse effect on transgender people of color. People of color experience more bias and prejudice than whites. In states like Florida, where stand your ground laws exist, and citizens can conceal and carry handguns, imagine the outcome of the above situation in the women's room. A white woman walks into the restroom to find a black "man" standing there. It's hard to believe, especially in today's current racial climate, that there wouldn't be a huge stir arising from this situation if she were to fire on him.  

The message that legislators are sending with this legislation is that transgender people are not welcome. And this is already coming back to bite them in the ass. Several large chain retailers in the state have openly stated they will not enforce or support this law, and have showed open support for the LGBT community. There are so many other real threats to women's safety, and often it is perpetrated by the same legislators who support this type of bill.  Don't use my very real concerns about my personal safety to justify your hate, to further oppress an already extremely oppressed group. You don't get to use my life and my experiences and the real threats that exist at your convenience. I will not stand idly by to act as your excuse, as your justification, as your reason. I will not stand by while you pit victims of white male privilege against each other. And while I'm supposed to appreciate the sentiment that these politicians had in mind when passing this bill, I must respectfully decline to be a part of their transphobic legislation and ask that instead of worrying about my "safety" in the restroom, that they worry about my safety everywhere else.

No comments: