Upon our return the next day, I found a sign posted at the desk which read in all capital letters: CHILDREN OVER 6 YEARS OLD MUST USE THE LOCKER-ROOM OF THEIR OWN SEX.
I ripped that sign off the desk and drove straight over to our community association office and said, “If you don’t inform every lifeguard at every pool in Reston, that this is discrimination against the disabled and a violation of federal law, I will have a discrimination lawsuit against the association faster than you can say not happening.”
I don’t know how it was handled specifically, but I do know for the rest of the summer, not a single lifeguard at any other pool attempted to block my access to watch my son in the ladies’ locker room. If he still requires my supervision at age 35 or 65, that’s where I am taking him. I refuse to put my son in jeopardy for someone else’s comfort.
It’s with these experiences though, that I am watching this debate unfold about who gets to use what bathroom. Laws that strictly segregate bathrooms will put my little boy, and he will remain a little boy mentally his whole life, in serious danger if enforced. I see them as the same as that sign at our pool desk, as a direct violation of the Individuals With Disabilities Act of 1990, signed into law by none other than a Republican president.
Anyone, who is caring for a seriously impaired person, who is his/her opposite gender, will also experience hardship from the passage and enforcement of segregated bathroom laws. I often think, when some nasty stranger feels compelled to judge, snark at me, or yell at my son, isn’t our life complicated enough? Perhaps we should instead get some understanding and help instead of dismissal and condemnation.
I’d say the same for what the vast majority of transgender people have endured their entire lives – the dismissal and cruel attacks. What ever happened to live and let live? Must so many people who are different dread something as fundamental as going to pee in a public restroom? Is it more a sign of the degradation of society, that we make exceptions to the rules of segregated restrooms for some people who are different or differently abled, or is the true degradation that the bigotry of some against “other” is so pervasive that we’re reduced now to making laws about where people urinate?
It is crucial to understand that passing strict gender segregation laws not only demeans and endangers our transgender brothers and sisters, but also puts severely disabled people with caretakers of the opposite gender in extreme danger in many cases.
It’s for the safety of people with disabilities and transgender men and women, who are much more likely to face danger when they walk into a restroom which doesn’t seem to visually correspond with their gender, that these laws must not pass. I see this as a life or death issue, not a punchline, not a “distraction issue.” I hope someone doesn’t have to get harmed, assaulted, or killed before the rest of society wakes up to what can happen if these laws are passed and enforced.
It’s not just federal law that public facilities must accommodate my son’s needs, it is also the moral thing to do.