The debate over transgender people’s rights to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with is irrational. A friend from the U.K. asked me, “I don’t understand what’s going on in the U.S.; has there been a rash of sexual assaults by transgender people in restrooms?” Nope.
The argument I hear most often against allowing transgender people their rights involves some risk to women and children being assaulted in bathrooms. It’s total b.s..
Any time you hear the phrase “think of the children” used to justify just any political argument, your ears should prick up. You should instantly feel it’s an appeal to emotion which is a logical fallacy. It’s a well-worn rhetorical tactic used to inflate the sense of the risk of actual activities.
Let’s prove that this fear is overblown and illogical.
Let’s analyze the actual risk
What’s the likelihood of assault by a transgender person in a bathroom?
Risk analysis involves looking at two factors: (1) the likelihood of a given threat, and (2) the consequences of an event. For example, the results of a satellite crashing into your house would be devastating, but the likelihood is so small we don’t bother worrying about it. Papercuts are common, but the consequences are so minor, that we don’t dedicate a national task-force to preventing them.
Sexual assault is devastating, and effective prevention methods are a good thing. And we want to spend time and resources defending against the most likely scenarios.
The likelihood of a transgender person assaulting someone in a bathroom is incredibly small. In fact, it’s infinitesimal – close to zero. Let’s look at some numbers:
The number of people identifying as transgender in the US is somewhere between 0.3% and 0.6 %. So this is already an incredibly small number of individuals.
When we look at the likelihood of a stranger assaulting someone in a bathroom, that number shrinks further. Two-thirds of sexual assault victims knew their attackers. Sixty percent of rapes and sexual assaults report that the perpetrator was an intimate partner. Sexual assault is far more likely to come from a family member—probably a husband or boyfriend.
It’s hard to know the number of sexual predators in the US, but there are around 400,000 people on sexual offender registries. It’s estimated that between 1% and 5% of the U.S. population has molested a child. So, a safe estimate is probably 2 – 5% of the population represents a threat. Assuming that transgender people are predators at the same rate as the general population, between .006% -to .03% or sexual predators in the US may be transgender.
When you factor in that around 20% of sexual assault perpetrators are strangers, we might expect the percentage of sexual predators who are transgender and who attack strangers in bathrooms to drop to .0012% to .006%. Further, six out of ten sexual assaults happen in a victim’s home or the home of a friend. The number of sexual assaults that happen in public bathrooms is tiny. Let’s say that even those come out to 1% – which is probably generous, and you can see how much smaller this number is getting.
The likelihood of transgender people sexually assaulting women or children in a bathroom is so infinitesimally small that it does not bear real thought. Preventing transgender people from using the bathroom they choose on this basis is entirely irrational.
What about predators who will take advantage of laws protecting transgender bathroom rights?
The other side of this argument is that on sexual predator men will benefit from this law to enter women’s bathrooms and changing areas to commit sexual assaults. The only way to factor the risk here is to look at how often this is happening.
In April 2016, ABC News reported that there were over 200 municipalities and 18 states which had legal protections for transgender people’s use of public facilities. None of these jurisdictions reported an increase of sexual assault.
It is a non-issue. It’s an irrational fear of some future problem that just isn’t happening.
Why it’s a good thing to let transgender people use the bathroom they choose
Transgender people are a small and vulnerable population. LGBT people have historically suffered from violence and discrimination. Gay men were falsely painted as pedophiles for decades.
Culturally, we’re uncomfortable with nonconformity to stereotypical gender roles.
In a survey conducted by the UCLA School of Law, 70% of transgender people report experiencing service denial, verbal harassment, and physical assault while accessing the bathroom.
In the current US political climate, the murder rate of transgender people is far outpacing last year. I can’t help but directly relate this to the fearmongering and demonization of transgender people coming from religious and political leaders.
Transgender people want one thing here: to go to the bathroom without fear. The best way for this to happen, barring ungendered bathrooms everywhere, is to allow and protect the right to use the bathroom of the gender with which people identify.
Do you care about protecting women and children?
The calls to safeguard the children from the dastardly fiends in the bathroom are pretty hollow. Honestly, it’s about the justification of hatred, not any real move to protect anyone.
Pay attention to who is telling you to be afraid of “others.” Those people are trying to control you.
If you care about protecting women and children, there are much better places to focus.
Between the years 2001 and 2012, more than 11,750 women were murdered by their current or former male intimate partners in the United States. Studies estimate that 325,000 children per year are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation.
If you want to protect women and children, do something to stop domestic violence and child abuse. Donate to anti-sex-trafficking charities. Volunteer at a family shelter. Care about real issues that affect people in real life.
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