As you may know, a few days ago Donald Trump revoked a law issued by Obama allowing US transgender public school students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities. Here are my thoughts on laws preventing transgender people being allowed to use bathrooms they feel safest in:
One of the main arguments for bans like these (used by people who aren’t claiming transgender people are ‘mentally ill’ or ‘don’t exist’) is that cis males will take advantage of this situation. Many advocates of the ban say cis men looking to sexually assault women will dress up as females and pretend to be transgender in order to enter girl bathrooms. They fear this will give sexual predators the chance to sexually assault, rape, or carry out other inappropriate behaviours towards women. In a world where one in five US women will be raped during their lifetimes (2015), of course these concerns are legitimate fears for females to have. Trust me, I am in no way trying to undermine that. However, we can clearly see that transgender women using female bathrooms aren’t the problem here. The concern revolves around cis men looking to sexually assault women.
Some might argue that men who assault may be the problem, but that transgender women being allowed into these spaces will still allow these men to put women in danger. The thing is though, this argument completely prioritises the safety of cis people over that of transgender people. Transgender people are put at risk when denied access to public bathrooms. As I previously said, sexual assault is a legitimate concern for cis women, however transgender people are the most likely group to experience sexual violence, with 64% having been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Those who say transgender people are the ones posing a threat to people’s safety are labelling the most vulnerable group as a dangerous one.
Police, school officials & sexual assault and domestic violence organisations say non-discrimination laws allowing transgender people to use bathrooms matching their gender identities haven’t seen ‘a rise in sexual violence or other public safety issues.’ One police department spokesman stated ‘I doubt [non-discriminatory laws are] gonna encourage the behavior. If the behavior’s there, [sexual predators are] gonna behave as they’re gonna behave no matter what the laws are.’
The National Press Secretary for The Human Rights Campaign, Sarah Mcbride, notes that if sexual assaulters were waiting on ‘loopholes’ like this to appear, they could be entering female bathrooms already. Laws preventing transgender people using the bathrooms based on their gender identities state that everyone must use the bathrooms matching their ‘biological sex’ instead. This is defined by the sex on people’s birth certificates. Mcbride points out that transgender men are likely to have birth certificates which state they are ‘female,’ and that a lot of the time they are indistinguishable from cisgender males. So in places where it’s the law to use bathrooms matching the sex on your birth certificate, men looking to sexually assault could ‘skip the trouble of dressing up and go into the women’s room, pretending to be a transgender man.’
Time Magazine also points out that sexual assault remains sexual assault regardless of your gender identity. Many advocates of the ban work on the assumption that if a male sexual assaulter enters a female space by posing as a transgender woman, their actions will have no consequences. However, if a woman claims she was sexually assaulted, the gender identity of the assaulter doesn’t change the fact that this is a crime. Human Rights Campaign attorney Cathryn Oakley points out: ‘If you are a man who dresses as a woman and goes into a bathroom and commits a crime, whether you have a non-discrimination protection on the basis of gender identity or not, that behavior is illegal and criminal and you could be arrested and go to jail.’
The last and rather ironic point I am going to make is that Donald Trump, the person who revoked Obama’s guidelines based on ‘the safety of women ’ has infamously bragged about getting away with sexually assaulting women because of his fame. This is the man who has set an example to millions by trivialising sexual assault and sexualising women. As president of the United States, his words have real consequences when it comes to the attitudes of people towards these topics. Does this man really care about preventing the sexual assault of women? Or is this just, as many have claimed, an excuse for prejudice and hatred?
The Trump administration rescinding protections for transgender students means these children and teenagers are in more danger now than they were under Obama’s rules. In order to fight this prejudice, we need to educate people about these things. Whatever your gender identity, do your best to teach people, write blog posts, write articles, post on social media, go to peaceful protests, support organisations, etc. Basically, do whatever you can to spread the message that transgender people deserve better than this. I’m a cis female, so obviously I can’t understand how terrible these restrictions must be. But, if anyone reading this is transgender, then what I do know is that you’re strong as hell and that there are tons of people out there that completely support you. And I’m sorry Donald Trump is such an asshat.