Transphobia and public restrooms
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|Spectra and binaries|
“”It is our position that the intrusion of a biological male into a restroom for teenage girls is inherently intimidating and harassing.
|—Pacific Justice Institute, after being caught lying about a trans girl supposedly harassing fellow students in her school's restroom. Emphasis added.|
A common argument against extending rights to transgender people involves the use of public restrooms. Commonly, the argument focuses on the fear that if trans people are allowed to go where they please, young children and/or adult women will be in danger when they use public restrooms. Whether the danger is actually from trans people, or merely from your run-of-the-mill rapist who takes up the label "transgender" when it suits him, is typically not explained; it is possible that transphobes do not think anyone is really trans, so the distinction is meaningless.
Evidence for increased danger of violence in women's restrooms is not offered, and is likely to be nonexistent, given that the people most interested in locating and publicizing it are silent on the subject (and in fact usually respond angrily when asked for evidence).
This argument is typically seen as an odorous pile of bovine fecal material by LGBT rights groups because as the Trans advocate website Tranifesto writes that "the use of public restrooms is far more of a safety issue for trans people than it is for non-trans people in the next stall." Transgender people are far more likely than cisgender people to be victims of violent crime.
In the specific case of people arguing "protect the children," the association of trans people with pedophilia is likewise unfounded. Furthermore, the idea that someone might claim to be trans just to get into the restroom of the opposite sex is beyond ludicrous. The stigma against trans people is extreme; nobody would willingly take that stigma on just to exploit a legal loophole. In short: your children are no more in danger when trans people are allowed to use the restroom than when they aren't.
It's also worth noting that many trans people would prefer another solution altogether: additional, unisex toilets, which would allow trans people to freely relieve themselves and panicked people the safety of knowing that there's no
penis Y chromosome anywhere within a fifty-foot radius. This proposal usually goes nowhere, ostensibly for financial reasons (though the more conspiratorially-minded activist may wonder whether the need to perpetuate a culture of fear might also be a factor). However, some Canadian universities have de-gendered their existing single-toilet washrooms with little controversy, which requires no infrastructure changes beyond a door lock and has the side benefit that two cisgender users of the same sex can relieve themselves in a pair of such washrooms at the same time.
Who's saying this?
More people than you'd think. Aside from the usual anti-LGBT suspects, there are some otherwise liberal voices who let their ignorance color their views on trans people. Roseanne Barr, of all people, argued over Twitter that "women do not want your penises forced in their faces or in our private bathrooms." Presumably Barr would have genital inspection teams posted outside of public restrooms to ensure cisgender women aren't threatened by trans women's toxic penises.
Transsexual author Kate Bornstein recounts her experience in her book Gender Outlaw:
“”When I first went through my gender change, I was working for an IBM subsidiary in Philadelphia. The biggest quandary there was "which bathroom is it going to use?" To their credit, most of the people in my office didn't really care; it was the building manager who was tearing his hair out over this one... Finally, a solution was reached: even though I worked on the 11th floor of a large office building, I would use a bathroom on the seventh floor. The seventh floor had been under construction, but for lack of funds they simply stopped construction; no one worked on that floor. Piles of plaster and wiring littered the floor, and pools of water lay everywhere. But there was a working bathroom in the very back of that floor, and that's where they sent me. No one ever cleaned it, no one kept it stocked. It was poorly lit and it was scary... Most gender outlaws have some similar bathroom horror story. It's all part of what Marjorie Garber calls "urinary segregation."