Author: Ashley Benedict
Have you ever had to make the difficult choice of which public restroom to use? Probably not, because society has conveniently given us gender coded signs to show us where we should “go”. Men head towards the sign with the pants, and women head towards the sign with the dress. It’s all very… binary, and it can leave those who fall outside of society’s gender expectations feeling not only ostracized, but beyond stressed.
Under Title IX, the right of transgender students in public schools to use whichever bathroom coincides with their gender identities is protected. Except, not anymore. Public schools have now been “advised” to no longer adhere to this crucial right. And who are the ones being used as the scapegoat? Cisgender women.
Last May, Obama instructed public schools to allow their transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice, or potentially lose federal funding. This was seen as a massive win for transgender students and the long-standing fight to use public bathrooms without facing discrimination. Less than a year later, those protections have been rescinded, and trans-youth are now subject to whatever decisions their schools make. This recent attack on today’s LGBT children is frightening, and frankly, unethical.
- Under Title IX, sex-based discrimination is prohibited in public schools and other education programs that receive federal funding.
- Does this reach to transgender and gender nonconforming youth? It used to. The U.S. Department of Education under the Obama administration issued guidelines clarifying that protections against sex-based discrimination also protects individuals from discrimination based on gender identity
- Though this is a federal policy (that has now been rescinded), many states have extended these rights through the passing of their own laws, such as California in 2013, which allows transgender students to participate in sports teams aligning with their gender identity, regardless of what their gender is in the school’s records
- The rescission of these protections doesn’t necessarily mean that transgender students are required to use the bathrooms that correlate with their assigned gender, but as it is right now, these fundamental rights have been taken away, which makes it far easier for these vulnerable students to face discrimination
- Some states have introduced bills that are intended to prohibit transgender students from using the “wrong” bathrooms
- The courts are likely to have the final say over whether Title IX protections extend to transgender students
- So, why were these protections taken away?
- Former Brietbart editor, Mila Yiannopoulos said (to Bill Maher): “[I] make no apologies for protecting women and children from men who are confused about their sexual identity.”
- Others who oppose trans rights to bathroom-choice say that allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that coincides with their gender identity means that men can “enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls,” and that businesses who allow transgender individuals to use the correct bathrooms are “a danger to wives and daughters.“
The crux of this issue is kind of ironic, because proponents of anti-trans legislation are using men’s potential to be predators as an excuse to discriminate against an entire group that aren’t cis men. If they really wanted to protect our “wives, daughters, and sisters” then they would address the core of the issue in America, which is not whether or not trans people will attack women and young girls; it’s about the pervasive rape culture that our society is deeply entrenched in. So much so, that their main argument boils down to this: men are a danger to women. But, only if they dress like women and enter their bathrooms?
Let’s break down the many issues with these statements:
- These beliefs perpetuate the idea that transgender individuals are predators, when in fact, there are no recorded cases of transgender people committing any acts of violence towards women (or anyone else) in public bathrooms
- There have been men who have dressed as women in the past and taken advantage of gender neutral bathrooms. However, it is important to note the difference between cis men dressing up as women and being transgender. I repeat: men dressing up as women is not the same as being transgender.
- In reality, transgender people are more vulnerable to violence and harassment than anyone else.
- In 2016, at least 27 transgender people were murdered – a majority of those being transgender women of color (talk about intersectionality of issues). 41% of transgender people will attempt suicide at least once in their lives, as opposed to 4.6% of the general public.
- 1 in 2 trans people will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime
- It ignores the real issue of violence towards women and children, e.g., rape culture. Many of those who oppose these rights of transgender people have actually committed acts of sexual violence against women and/or children themselves. In reality, women are attacked more frequently by cisgender men in bathrooms.
- They claim they want to protect women, but we never asked for their “protection.” This continual belief that women need to be protected is sexist in nature, because it continues to perpetuate the idea that women are damsels in distress. Plus, if they are protecting us from the wrong group of people, what good will that do?
So when anti-trans proponents claim that allowing trans women to use the women’s bathroom puts cis women in potential harm, they are not only denying addressing the trans individual by her correct pronouns by referring to her as a man (therefore showing mad disrespect), but this claim reaches the real heart of the issue that many refuse to address: toxic masculinity and rape culture.
Predators have been sexually assaulting women in bathrooms for as long as there have been bathrooms. Men don’t need to dress up in skirts and wear makeup to intrude in places designed for women. At a young age, we were taught that going to the bathroom in groups was better than going alone, because it makes it harder for boys and men to take advantage of us. Why is it that we were taught to go in groups, instead of boys being taught not to be sexual predators? Why is it that we’re taught “don’t get raped” instead of teaching boys “don’t rape”?
Once again, women’s bodies are being used without our permission. The argument claiming that trans people will attack us if they use the correct bathroom is a straw man, at the very least, as there are no statistics to support this argument. There are, however, a number of troubling statistics that support the argument for rape culture and the victim blaming mindset within our society. Our bodies are being used as an excuse to help further the transphobic agenda, and I for one won’t stand for it.
The issue here isn’t whether or not transgender people should be allowed to use the correct bathrooms, it’s how we dismantle this mindset that has pervaded our society. Men are predators, they tell us. But when a man acts out on his “predator instincts,” he often doesn’t face the consequences. So, tell us again how this law protects our “wives and daughters.” Women are much more likely to be attacked by partners, family members, friends, and people they know than they are to be attacked by a stranger entering the bathroom – let alone a trans person entering the bathroom.The truth of the matter is that the trans population only makes up about 1% of our general population, so the likelihood of a trans person committing an act of violence in a women’s bathroom is quite slim. Meanwhile, 1 out of 3 men in college report they would rape a woman if they could get away with it. The sadly reality, though, is that they often do.
This isn’t the first bathroom battle to occur. Black Americans, women, and people with disabilities have fought these same battles in the past. This rescission of rights is not only an act of hate, but an act of segregation.
Transgender youth are at the most vulnerable stages in their lives, and it’s immoral to rip away what little protections they have. Here are some things you can do, should you feel compelled to take up arms against this injustice:
- Get to know the law and keep tracks of any changes that occur
- Advocate for change
- Contact your state legislators
- Get local. Contact school councils and your local board of supervisors for city council and call into question their intentions to protect trans students.
- Push back against myths and discrimination
- Be an active bystander. Challenge people when they say things that perpetuate myths and stereotypes that further harm the trans community. If you see someone acting discriminatory towards a trans person, try to intervene (safely).
- Check your privilege and use it.
- This relates to the above point. Acknowledge that, if you’re a cisgender individual, you have more privilege than your trans and non-binary peers. Use your privilege to boost their voices and help further the cause.
How do you plan to protect your trans brothers and sisters? What do you think about the battle for bathroom rights? Let us know by submitting your thoughts, comments, and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org