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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 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.

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