Every now and then a state (usually a conservative one) comes up with some iteration of a bathroom panic bill, a version of ‘papers, please’ at the restroom door that is designed to prevent people from being exposed to the HORRORS of having members of the ‘opposite sex’ in the bathroom. This of course results in a slew of statements from public officials, pig-ignorant op-eds and thinkpieces, and a collective discussion among the trans community about why people are so terrible. Because these bills are discriminatory and transphobic, targeted specifically at members of the trans community who have the audacity to want to use public facilities like everyone else.
More specifically, they are transmisogynistic, as is transparently revealed in the kind of rhetoric people use when they discuss such bills favourably. It’s all about how uncomfortable it is to have ‘men’ in the women’s restroom, about how (cis) women are clearly in danger of being sexually assaulted (‘or worse,’ people say, darkly), about how it’s just not okay for men to be in women’s private space. Oddly, no one seems to express concerns about ‘women’ in mens’ rooms, reflecting yet again how deeply engrained transmisogyny is in society. From Michigan Womyn’s Festival to your local library bathrooms, people insist that trans women are men, but trans men are…okay I guess? (Disturbingly, and in an different angle of transphobia, some people treat trans guys like honourary ladies, inviting them into women-only spaces and acting sort of like they’re women, as though a history of being socialised as a woman means that they’re women, which they are not.)
There are a whole lot of things to unpack about these issues — setting aside the fact that all bathrooms should be all gender, and that all bathrooms should be fully accessible, to boot, and that nursing mothers shouldn’t have to breastfeed or pump in bathrooms — but I am getting so exhausted with bathroom panic that I want to scream. These people keep trotting out the same horrific and dehumanising arguments and I am just so done with them, and so furious that they keep appearing again. Even if people genuinely believe all of this, states should be pushing back harder because this is a civil rights violation: You cannot pass legislation targeting a given group of people, because it violates the law. Of course, these same states have absolutely no protections for transgender people, refusing to classify people like trans women as a protected class, so there’s actually no way for the trans community to fight such laws on the basis of discrimination. If they don’t exist, they aren’t being discriminated against, right?
I am furious at the endlessly repetitive rhetoric that comes up with every single one of these bathroom bills. Trans women are ‘troubled’ or ‘deluded’ men. Or they’re just men. They’re a crime waiting to happen. Cis men proudly proclaim that women’s rooms should be closed to them. (One of the few times ever that cis men can agree that maybe they don’t belong in a space designated for women, oh, the bitter twist.) Apparently there is an epidemic of men claiming to be women who swoop into bathrooms in search of people to assault.
Like, look, people. Trans people aren’t magical unicorns. Peeing is a necessity. Trans women are in actual danger of assault if they enter men’s rooms, aside from the fact that they do not belong there, because they are women. If we’re going to talk about keeping people safe in bathrooms, we should address the fact that trans women in general are at a very high risk of physical and sexual assault, and that we should be taking any and all measures to protect them. This includes keeping them in safe environments when they need to urinate. In many regions, trans women are forced to choose between endangering themselves in a mens’ room or not peeing and getting serious infections as a result — because there’s no single stall restroom, or because they’re excluded from women’s rooms by bigoted transphobes who do not understand how gender works.
People go into bathrooms to pee. That’s really their primary agenda, except when they need to poop. Or sometimes deal with makeup, I guess, or adjust clothes. Very few people head to bathrooms with a rumble in mind, and those interested in sexual activity in restrooms usually aren’t there to assault people, but to engage in consensual hanky panky of whatever flavour they prefer. Trans women hit up the loo because they want to pee — even though they know that entering a women’s room is potentially more dangerous for them than it is for any of the cis female occupants, as all it takes is a single person accusing a trans woman of assault for her to be targeted both legally and physically.
I want to see bills like these set on fire and used to fuel the homes of people who cannot afford heating bills. Then I want to see the people who write them, and all their supporters, shipped off to a pleasant desert island where the sun never stops and the rain never falls. And, of course, where there are no bathrooms, since perhaps the best way to solve this whole nonstop risk of bathroom assault is to just ban bathrooms, am I right?
Image: Library Bathroom Challenge, Pete, Flickr