Trans people are not a threat, but they are threatened. There are no recorded incidents of trans people attacking cisgender people in bathrooms. In fact, trans people experience hate violence at rates disproportionate to their cisgender counterparts, and sometimes these anti-trans attacks occur in bathrooms. It’s counterintuitive for someone who presents as female to use a restroom designated for males (and vice versa), and all the proof of the resulting absurdity you need is captured in the picture above, which transgender woman Kelly Lauren posted on Facebook in November in response to the public’s voting down of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance: “Houston, do you REALLY want me in the same restroom as your husband or boyfriend?”
Denying trans people access to the bathrooms that align with their gender identity makes no sense as a practice to protect anyone, but it makes perfect sense as a way of dog whistling bigotry. Last night, North Carolina emitted the dog whistle heard around the world (or, at least, the country) when its legislature passed a bill overturning every local LGBT anti-discrimination measure in the state and requiring that individuals use the restroom of the biological sex on their birth certificate. The bill was rushed through the House and Senate and subsequently signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, whose counterfeit reasoning was that the bill was “passed by a bipartisan majority to stop this breach of basic privacy and etiquette.”
If you’ve ever been in a public bathroom, you understand that it can get pretty raw and rude. In terms of bodily functions, a public bathroom is like the Wild West after a multi-state chili cook-off. Your best bet is to mind your own business while doing your business. Or don’t, make a friend, and engage in discreet public sex with a serendipitously consensual partner. That happens somewhat frequently among men and is, I suspect, the actual demonstrable worst-case scenario for conservatives as to the deviance that can occur in a bathroom (as opposed to the fantasy scenario about predatory trans people). And you know what? If you can leave a public bathroom with a smile on your face, you’ve gotten more out of it than most people and to that I say: good for you and I hope you wiped up.
(As a contrast, check out the way police treated Dean Spade when he tried to use the men’s room at Grand Central Station in 2002—he says he was pushed up against a wall, he and his friends were arrested, and then held for 23 hours. That for having to piss.)
Much of what we can not say with legitimacy surfaces in the toilet. The toilet, like the unconscious, is a dumping ground for unacceptable impulses, sexual practices, identifications and desires. The vicissitudes of love and hate, desire and aggression are not only written on bathroom walls but enacted in real time. People die and have sex in toilets. Illicit messages are etched onto partition walls that span from the lascivious to the hate-ridden. Folks cry and vomit, bond and gossip, inject needles and illegal substances, learn about gay sex and birth control (thanks to condom dispensers and birth control advertisements on the back of cubicle doors); we do all kinds of things deemed imprudent, illegal or vulgar in polite society.
Not only McCrory, et. al., are lacking in logic and deferring to decades-old, Anita Bryant-style nonsense over protecting children (who are the future, and the future is queer), the decision is unconstitutional says Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern:
As interpreted by the Department of Education, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 forbids discrimination against trans students in any school that receives federal funding. These schools are prohibited from excluding trans students from the bathroom consistent with their gender identity. The new North Carolina law, dubbed H2, rebukes this federal mandate by forbidding public schools from allowing trans students to use the correct bathroom. That jeopardizes the more than $4.5 billion in federal education funding that North Carolina expected to receive in 2016. Without that money, many schools in the state—from kindergarten through college—will be unable to function. McCrory should prepare to explain to North Carolina parents why their children’s access to education is less important that degrading and demeaning trans students on account of their identity.
HB 2 is also unconstitutional—not maybe unconstitutional, or unconstitutional-before-the-right-judge, but in total contravention of established Supreme Court precedent.
As for the resolution of this, Stern writes:
One hundred and twenty years ago, Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote that our Constitution “neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.” On Wednesday, North Carolina created a new class, a lesser class, among its citizens. It is now up to the courts to remind the state of Harlan’s other admonition: “In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.”
In the meantime, legally sanctioned LGBT discrimination is a growing threat across the country in a clear backlash to the SCOTUS’s passing of marriage equality in all states in 2015. (Last year, Michelangelo Signorile warned us that the fight for equality was not over, and boy, was he right.) On Wednesday, for example, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed into law allowing student religious organizations to bar potential members who don’t “adhere to the association’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” A proposed religious-freedom bill in Georgia that passed through the state legislature and awaits a signature from Governor Nathan Deal has caused the NFL (of all organizations) to step up and threaten to block the Super Bowl from being hosted in Atlanta should the bill pass.
What is at risk in these states and so many more around the country isn’t religious freedom; it is the freedom to use religion to discriminate and marginalize at will. That is to say that injustice is in jeopardy, and that scares people whose dogma includes inequality, as they cling onto the culture-approved superiority of their warped interpretation of Christianity.
Say I consider my religion to be sucking cock. (It’s a free country, right? And after all, it’s like a little prayer when I’m down on my knees and I wanna take you there.) Don’t these religious freedom acts, then, ultimately put my religion in peril, too? How do we reconcile that? None of this is about protection of children or freedom of religion; it’s about imposition and people are just trying to use the fucking bathroom in peace.