I’m hearing all about some law in Houston where trans people could use bathrooms before but now they can’t use bathrooms and I’m not sure I get it. Also, I’m not sure why this is a big deal.
Ah, the wonderful world of rights and protections for transgender people and the people who don’t want to give them rights or protections. Also, the multitudes of people who don’t fully understand the issues facing trans people or why they need protections to move through life.
To recap what’s going on in Houston, there was a measure on the ballot that would have given anti-discrimination protections to a number of classes of people, including trans people. It also would have prohibited discrimination based on sex, race, sexual identity, and religion as well as gender identity. One facet of the law would allow trans people to use the public bathroom that best fits their gender identity without fear of being harassed or ejected.
Well, as usual in cases of trans people asking for rights and protections, someone somewhere was all “TRANS WOMEN HAVE PENISES! NO PENISES IN THE LADIES ROOM! STOP THE PENIS LADIES! THEY’RE NOT REAL LADIES! PENIS PENIS PENIS!” The argument they made is that men will pose as women to infiltrate bathrooms and locker rooms to assault cis women. These people mounted a successful campaign to oppose the measure and it failed on election day.
Now, I live in Maryland where we have so-called bathroom protections for trans people and, to the best of my knowledge, there has not been a rash of rapists in dresses making their way into the Old Line State’s many restrooms. I do know that my friends who count themselves as trans or genderqueer find it easier to relieve themselves in public now, though, and that’s a good thing. No one likes to have to hold it until they get home.
Far from being the kind of monsters and predators some groups would have you believe, trans people are simply human beings who have to alter their bodies to align them with their internal gender identity. This takes numerous forms and varies from person to person. In addition to these adjustments, trans people want to do things like go to school, get jobs, have places to live, eat out, go shopping, and occasionally go to the bathroom in the public restroom that aligns best with their gender identity. They want to do all of these things without being physically or emotionally abused along the way. They don’t want to get fired or kicked out of a store for being trans. They don’t want to be harassed by airport security. And they don’t want to sneak into the ladies locker room and do unspeakable things. Because trans people are people, not criminals.
If you want to look at cases where trans and cis people have been involved in altercations over bathrooms, what you would find is that it’s trans people who face danger in public restrooms. Hell, trans people face danger just walking down the street or living in their own skin. Trans people are murdered and commit suicide at tragic rates. We lose wonderful people every day to ignorance and fear. It’s heartbreaking.
That’s why it’s a big deal when these sort of referenda fail and an even bigger deal when they fail over myths of trans people being sex offenders. When we don’t protect trans people, they face very real discrimination and violence. As a feminist, I feel the obligation to stand with all people who are subject to discrimination and especially gender- or gender-identity based discrimination.