I’m honestly kind of depressed that I have to talk about this subject at all. But, sadly, trans people having a safe place to void their bladder is actually a real political issue. Don’t believe me? Check this out: (1). If this were to actually pass, if I had to use a public bathroom, I’d basically have the choice of risking assault in the men’s room or arrest in the ladies room. Every so often, someone on the Right seems to get a bug in their bum about where trans people use the toilet. As far as I know, we’re the only people in the US whose ability to utilize a public bathroom is the subject of a legislative debate.
Let’s take a look at some of the arguments being thrown around, shall we? Premise 1: Transwomen are really just male perverts trying to get access to women’s restroom. Yes, CLEARLY we spend thousands of dollars on therapy, hormones, surgery, laser/electrolysis, etc and risk complete rejection by our friends and family, face completely legal discrimination in housing and employment, and essentially risk our lives every day simply for the thrill of seeing genetic women in the bathroom. Wait, no we don’t. That’s effing crazy. No one with any kind of brain would take on the troubles of transition for that. And yes, I recognize that a large portion of society thinks that we’re all a bunch of degenerate perverts living out a fetish, and that’s what drives a lot of this fear bullshit. But if you take even half a second to realize what exactly you’re “signing up for” when you decide to transition, those arguments lose a lot of their steam. Premise 2: Women are vulnerable in the bathroom, and transwomen will rape them if they are allowed to use the bathroom. Well, a significant search of the internet shows ZERO cases of a genetic female being raped by a transwoman in a bathroom. In fact, I can find no reports of a genetic female being raped by a transwoman at all. I’m not saying that it hasn’t happened and that it can’t ever happen (rape is highly underreported, after all)…but it appears a very unlikely and rather rare event. However, I did find MANY reports of genetic women being raped by cisgender men in women’s bathroom. So even though there are almost certainly a lot more transwomen using the ladies restroom then there are cisgender men using the ladies room, the evidence seems to indicate that if you’re going to be sexually assaulted in the ladies room, it’s probably going to be by a cis-man. Now, before everyone starts writing me nasty letters, I’m NOT saying that cis-gendered men are all a bunch of rapists. I’m going to repeat that, just for the sake of not being eviscerated in comments: I am NOT saying that all cis-men just run around sexually assaulting people. But the statistics clearly indicate that the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by cis-men.
While we’re on that touchy subject, let’s get into another common statement heard when this subject comes up- “Why can’t [insert pejorative here] just use the bathrooms of their birth gender?” I’ll start with the idea of transwomen using the men’s room. My first inclination is just to yell “because they’re not men!” and be done with it. But that really doesn’t accomplish anything. So how about this…because it’s incredibly dangerous. Trans people deal with a much higher risk of harassment, as well as physical and sexual assault than the general population. Now, you put a transwoman alone in a space away from the eyes of the public, where her presence is going to be very obvious, where men are likely to feel like THEIR “private space” is being intruded upon, where she has to take down her pants and/or undergarments? This is a recipe for disaster, plain and simple. Now, a transwoman using a women’s restroom is not without dangers as this incident shows. (2) Any yes, I complete recognize that the ideal situation is people realize that it’s not ok to beat the shit out of transpeople just because they had to go pee (or, you know FOR ANY REASON). But we’re a long way for the end of transphobic violence, and dammit, I still sometimes have to meet biological demand outside a private residence on occasion.
For transmen, I think the situation is even direr in some ways. I’m fairly sure the same people who are totally panicked about the idea of transwomen in the ladies room would not be much more forgiving of the idea of transmen in there. The logical inconsistency here blows my mind, but I long ago learned that logic goes out the window when dealing with transphobia. So ideally, we’d let transmen use the men’s room. But there’s danger here, too. Transmen are not immune to hate crimes and transphobic rape, and the risks they take on using the guy’s bathroom, too. In a very real way, they’re damned and at significant risk no matter what they do. I think the take away is that a public restroom remains an extremely hazardous situations for ALL trans people to navigate.
Once we get into enforcement, this entire situation just takes on an entirely more ludicrous tone. How exactly do we go about making sure there are no trans people using the “wrong” bathroom. I’m sure a fair number of people would say “well, you can just tell by looking at them!”, but I’m not going to even dignify that with a response. So do we start putting cameras in the bathroom to make sure everyone on the toilet has the appropriate equipment? I don’t see that being terrible popular with…anyone. Plus, how on earth would you deal with people who have already had GCS? (The bill very specifically says BIRTH gender, so even someone who had undergone GCS would affected by this) I mean, really…will we have to hire experts in genital anatomy to identify bathroom “intruders”? Alright, so we skip the toilet cam route. So do we hire guards at the doors to check everyone’s IDs like some sort of Restroom Gestapo? While I appreciate the potential job-creating angle of this, it seems a wee bit impractical (pun totally intended). And it still is foiled by those dastardly folks who’ve had their bottom surgery and gotten their legal gender marker changed. Hmm, so that’s probably too expensive to really work, either. Well, maybe we’ll just leave it to the other bathroom patrons to police the genitals of everyone in the loo that day. Just feel free to bust down any stall and check the equipment of whoever is sitting there. I’m sure THAT won’t create any conflict! Wait, I’ve got it! I’m a woman of science, why didn’t I think of this before? CLEARLY the answer is develop a rapid genetic test for biological sex and performing it on everyone trying to use the restroom! I’m a genius! I’ll make BILLIONS! Muahahaha! Oh wait…there’s still problems like genetic mosaicism, complete androgen insensitively syndrome, sex determining chromosome aberrations, and more. Rats, there goes my fortune. So tell us, oh wise Arizona legislatures, what IS the plan for enforcing this crazy law? What’s that?…oh right, it’s crickets.
So what on earth can we do to make this situation better for everyone? A number of solutions have been proposed for this issue. In more than a few people’s minds, I’m sure the simplest and best solution is for transgender folks to just stay the hell out of public places (I’ve personally been told I shouldn’t be out in public more than once). But let’s give no further credence to that nonesense. Transgender-specific bathrooms often come up as an idea, and while this idea has a good sentiment, it has a few major flaws. Primary among them is that it forces trans people to out themselves if they use them, which is atrociously unfair. We also run the very real risk of the same “separate but ‘equal’” problem that occurred during the racial segregation. A better suggestion is the idea of “gender neutral” bathrooms that anyone can use. This has the advantages of providing a safe bathroom for genderqueer people of all types, as well as for anyone who just prefers a private restroom. I suppose that’s an important point; if gender neutral bathrooms are implemented, it’s imperative that they be private and lockable for safety reasons. It would also be nice I efforts were made to maintain at least some standard of cleanliness, and not just left neglected/ignored. In an ideal world, people are just accepting of trans people and the need for bathroom complications fades away, but I recognize that’s mostly pipe dream. Some institutions have already created gender-neutral restroom facilities, and the idea is continuing to traction in some of the more liberal portions of the country. [(3), (4), (5)] From a practical standpoint, I think the idea is an excellent one, and could very much make life easier and safer for trans people. But part of me will always be a little disappointed that we, as a society, have to make such a big deal about a relatively simple biological need.
In the end, the entire situation is just a glaring example of the overt obsession that people have with the genitals of transgender individuals.