Maryland’s potential referendum on trans civil rightsTrans Progressive, Bottom Highlights Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Commentary: Trans Progressive
Trans people are often tagged as either being predators or enabling predators in public restrooms. It seems to always be the one sure thing that will be trotted out when arguing against civil rights for trans people, especially public accommodation protections.
Within the last month, Maryland has passed legislation that adds employment, housing and public accommodation protections for trans people in that state, and the state’s governor has promised to sign it. It joins 16 other states and the District of Columbia in passing anti-discrimination laws based on gender identity.
No Republican in either the House of Delegates or state Senate voted for the bill, and for the most part labeled the bill the “Bathroom Bill.” One of the reasons is the same as it has been for many, many years where serious effort has been put forward by LGB and especially T people to obtain basic civil rights protections for T people in that state is the fear that providing civil rights for trans people in their state would open the door to predators that will engage in otherwise unlawful behavior toward cisgender women and children. For example, according to the Baltimore Sun, Del. Neil C. Parrott of Washington County has called “the proposal the ‘Bathroom Bill’ to stir up fears of men dressing up as women in order to molest innocent young girls or senior citizens in the local lavatory. We kid you not. He’s been circulating an online petition against the bill featuring the image of a cartoon man (the kind you see on bathroom doors) peering over a stall to eye a cartoon woman.
“Never mind that the bill isn’t about enabling such criminal behavior any more than the sellers of men’s trench coats are trying to accommodate flashers,” editorialized the Baltimore Sun. “Similar laws have been enacted in 17 other states and the District of Columbia without outbreaks of bathroom peeping toms. The law is unlikely to make much difference to potential molesters one way or the other as sexual assault and similar misconduct was illegal then and it’s still illegal now.”
Social conservatives in Maryland are considering mounting a referendum effort to repeal the law much as social conservatives in California mounted an effort to repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB1266).
The arguments against trans people using public facilities that align to their gender identities are the same. They are arguing in part that any “Bathroom Bill” will open the doors of public restrooms and will enable predators, as well as the relatively newer argument that allowing trans people in public bathrooms (and public locker rooms) violates the privacy of cisgender women.
This is all based on the two competing ideas regarding the term gender. The trans argument is that all of us have gender identities, and these sometimes don’t align with the sex assigned at birth based on the shape of genitalia. The other argument falls into two similar camps: either that gender is a false concept; gender equates to sex, and that sex and gender are based on the shape of one’s genitalia at birth, or that only sex is relevant and that gender is used by the patriarchy to keep women subservient to men. These definitions of gender appear to have no overlap: either one understands gender as a gender identity or that gender identity that’s different to the sex assigned at birth functionally doesn’t or shouldn’t exist as a concept.
The major medical organizations that have spoken on the subject have all come down on the trans definition of gender; these include the American Psychiatric Association; the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association.
And, the people of Maryland, in a Goucher College poll that was released in March, indicate that 71 percent of Marylanders support the Maryland civil rights bill, and when broken down to gender 75 percent of women in the state support civil rights for people.
The “Bathroom Bill” argument is tired, yet it will be trotted out by social conservatives every time civil rights based on gender identity are discussed. The counter argument, in my mind, should be in the same vein as the Baltimore Sun’s editorial: show us where in the states where civil rights for trans people have resulted in a rash of illegal behaviors after these laws have been passed. Put up or shut up on your alleged “Bathroom Bill” argument.
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