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Civil rights, bathrooms and the ‘Bathroom Bill’ meme

Commentary: Trans Progressive

Gay San Diego

Civil rights movements – ones formed to address the oppression of minority populations – have often had significant pushback by societal oppressors that have included bathroom and/or significant shower components.

Jim Crow states passed statutes severely regulating social interactions between the races and included “separate but equal” public bathrooms. An argument against the Equal Rights Amendment was that separate public restrooms for men and women would be outlawed. An argument against the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was that making bathrooms accessible to the physically disabled would cost too much. An argument against repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was gays and lesbians would engage in leering at other males and females in latrines, showers, barracks and ships’ berthing spaces.

And in the relatively new “Bathroom Bill” meme argument against trans people and their civil rights is the obvious implication that “men in dresses/transvestites” are bathroom predators to be feared. It’s argued that men posing as trans women will engage in predatory behavior toward women and children in women’s public restrooms.

The anti-transgender “bathroom bill” meme is yet another in a series of red herring anti-civil rights arguments.

What hasn’t occurred is a logical argument. 1.) Is bathroom predation of women and children by “men in dresses/transvestites” really a common occurrence? 2.) If it is a common occurrence, is it a more common occurrence in states, counties and municipalities where public accommodation antidiscrimination laws based on gender identity have been put into law?

The answer, with regard to those who oppose ordinary equality for trans people, is that a public study hasn’t been published on this as yet. Social conservative organizations, such as Focus On The Family (FOTF) and their activist arm CitizenLink, have the financial resources to fund such a study, but haven’t. It’s very likely that social conservative organizations haven’t done any empirical research because fearmongering alone with the “Bathroom Bill” meme has successfully won the day in many jurisdictions.

If one were to base one’s conclusions on how common it is that “men dressed as women/transvestites” are invading public women’s restrooms and engaging in leering or bathroom predation – the occurrences of these are very, very far from common. And, these don’t appear to be more common in states, counties and municipalities where public accommodation antidiscrimination laws based on gender identity have been put into law.

The burden of proof should be on the social conservatives to prove that bathroom predation of women and children by “men in dresses/transvestites” is really a common occurrence, but it isn’t.

This discussion of bathrooms and antidiscrimination laws based on gender identity is wrongheaded; the “Bathroom Bill” meme is in my mind yet another red herring argument against civil rights. We don’t, or at least we shouldn’t, base equality under the law on others’ fears – if we did, we’d still have Jim Crow laws in the American South and gays, lesbians and bisexuals unable to serve openly in the U.S. military services.

We do best in our society when we conquer our fears and base our decisions regarding civil equality on facts relating to real harm instead of imagined harm, on logic and the basic humanity of all people. When we don’t do that, we surrender to our lesser angels and end up on the wrong side of civil rights history.



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Posted by LGBT Weekly on Jan 26, 2012. Filed under Trans Progressive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

3 Comments for “Civil rights, bathrooms and the ‘Bathroom Bill’ meme”

  1. I would be more worried about a m to f getting the snot beat out in a mens bathroom than a m to f leering at me in a womans bathroom. Nothing is going to save us from a pervert til we break rape culture.

  2. You’re too well spoken to be a troll, so I’ll bite on this one: as a woman, I’m actually offended that you would set up a barrier using the “real” woman argument. To pigeonhole the female part of the species into a stereotype, or to even imply that there is only one type of woman, is a heinous thing to do. I have met men who better fit the female stereotypes than I do. A transgender person is someone who honestly, truly believes that they have been born into the wrong body. What their plumbing looks like has no bearing on how male or female they are.

    When it comes to making laws, the only universal truth is this: if someone wants to invade a woman’s restroom, no law will stop them. There are laws prohibiting perverts from going into female restrooms and yet I know better than to use the scary playground bathroom after dark.

    Final point: Exactly how would you plan to police this? Have an officer posted at every bathroom to verify what someone has under their clothes? In what way, shape or form is that ‘protecting’ women?

  3. Please DO show our email and url (SandyO@PassERA, http://www.2PassERA.org) because we want ALL to know that we 300 000 are fighting – lobbying HARD 18/7 for the past 12 years to have the final 3 states ratify the Equal Rights Amendment so it can pass into the US Constitution.

    The ERA does not regulate same-sex, abortion, women in the military or bathrooms. RE: the latter, I think it’s the 10th Amendment that belies that lie. ALL these fake fears by legislators who oppose ERA so adamantly their teeth chatter, are REALLY JUST SMOKESCREENS for the REAL reason for not passing it in those UNratified southeastern and renegade Mormon states.

    Real Reason? Republican legislators stupidly revealed to their constituency that they will not hold a hearing for a vote on ERA in those states BECAUSE ERA WILL hurt BUSINESS !!

    Big Business is doing just fine, thank you–read the stock market !
    It’s us 99% ers who aren’t doing so well, with our homelessness, lost cars, lost jobs, underwater mortgages. (thanks, Republican thieves)

    So, it’s Big Business we are fighting in 7 UNrat states, not any of those “4 Dreadeds”. Are you surprised?

    So, thanks if you’ll open up my fast url, http://www.2PassERA.org, and read for yourself the buttons, “Lies”; “ERA for Men”, ERA for Women”; ERA for Legislators (they rely on those facts there); ERA for the Wary, and MORE!

    Wish us Good Luck. We do this for America For Free so that NOBODY has to be treated as second-class citizens anymore.
    We’re tired of being shoved to the back of the bus or being thrown UNDER the bus…WE WANT TO OWN THE BUS. Give women Honorable Mention in the US Constitution alongside our men! We deserve to be included in the Nation’s contract with its People. Everyone knows what happens when one is NOT listed in a contract (males are, 39 times). Not that we have anything against males–we fight for their gender equality too. See our site!

    And laugh with joy that Someone is Getting us all gender-equality, male and female alike.
    That would be Equal Rights Alliance, us. I am 77 y/o and NOBODY should ever again be treated as our generations have. We do this for YOU, for your children, theirs, theirs, and theirs.

    It’s always the Right Time to do the Right Thing, and the Right Time for ERA is RIGHT NOW!

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