The straight poop about trans women and washrooms

The straight poop about trans women and washrooms

Trigger warning: Effectively dismantling the trans bathroom predator myth means walking straight through the conflation between trans women and sexual predators, and into territory that makes people afraid that they might say things that could be perceived as insensitive comments about sexual assault that weren’t intended. 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the growing panic in mostly southern American states (though not limited to that region – even Canada has fallen sway at times) over the prospect that trans women might use public restrooms.  The LGBT movement, if you buy into the rhetoric, has unleashed its weapons of “lass destruction.”

At the end of the potty panic train wreck, it becomes incontrovertible that what motivates the fearmongers is pure, deliberate anti-LGBT discrimination, and nothing more.

The state of North Carolina even called a whirlwind emergency session to pass a bill which (along with several anti-LGBT and anti-worker goodies slipped in) bans trans people from using the washroom corresponding to the gender that they identify with.  The reasoning, apparently, is that although trans women have already been using public facilities for decades, extending human rights protections to them will unleash a horrific wave of sexual assaults, molestation and peeping tom-ery targeting women and girls in gendered spaces. 

Several other states have followed suit (sometimes trying to outdo each other with special “religious freedom” exemptions to human rights laws, and other twists).  The panic escalated when Target announced a company-wide policy to accommodate trans people, and far right groups responded with a massive campaign of boycotts and protests. The fearmongering had also been occurring on a smaller scale with public schools, prompting the U.S. Department of Education to respond by affirming the rights of trans youth to be accommodated, and reminding states that if they refuse to comply, they’re actually in breach of contract, and could have federal funding withheld.

With Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government’s introduction of a federal bill to include trans people in human rights legislation, it’s worth remembering that bathroom panic helped kill the bill’s previous incarnation in the senate, also surfaced during several previous attempts to pass federal protections, and has been used to try to shoot down school policies that are designed to accommodate trans students.

If any other identifiable group were conflated with rapists and pedophiles, there would be immense outrage — not treatment as though there were “two sides” of the issue, of which the fearmongers deserve equal or greater amplification. This exceptionalism is especially stunning when one considers that no other group in North America since segregation has been targeted with legislation that specifically bans them from public restrooms — not even the one group which actually does have a statistically demonstrable history of predation: convicted sex offenders.

Chew on that for a minute.

Statistically, the potty panic trope is not borne out. In jurisdictions which have human rights protections for trans people, law enforcement officials report that no such pattern of predation has materialized. Of course, if people keep fearmongering long and loudly enough, there’s always the possibility that they could inspire somebody. 

Maybe that’s the intent.

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