Trump’s LGBT War Begins: The Bigotry of America’s Trans Bathroom Bills
It’s a nasty world out there. Terrorism, civil wars abroad, rampant inequality at home: you’d think any US President would have their hands full tackling these multitudinous issues. Somehow, though, in amongst all the briefings and hearings (not to mention his three weekend breaks in Florida), Donald Trump has found time to tackle another issue. “It must be something really big and important!” you might say. Well, you’d be wrong. The huge scary threat that Trump has confronted is…drum roll, please…which bathrooms trans people should use.
Yes, in his first 100 days Trump has deemed it necessary to revoke Obama’s executive order allowing students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity. This will effectively force young trans people to use the bathroom matching their biological gender, even they identify and present as something else. Think that’s excessive? Conservatives have claimed restrictive ‘Bathroom Bills’ are necessary to protect young girls from assault.
The current US administration isn’t one that’s particularly bogged down by superfluities like facts, but it’s still worth pointing out that there is no evidence of anybody ever being harmed by trans people in bathrooms: there have been zero attacks, zero reported cases of harassment, zero arrests. More Republican Congressmen have been investigated for sexual misconduct in public toilets than by trans people.
Where this notion of dangerous trans people comes from is a mystery. Some have claimed that men will exploit regulations in order to enter women’s bathrooms and commit assaults. Others don’t even carry their skewed logic this far: the sheer presence of a trans person in the bathroom is threatening. Sexual assault is a serious issue, but the idea of men pretending to be trans to commit attacks is ludicrous. Enough attacks are happening in dorm rooms and fraternity houses across America without young men needing to pull on stockings.
For conservatives, gender is strictly dictated by biology, and anyone who deviates from that is invalid
The pitiful three month sentence served by college rapist Brock Turner - who defenders claimed had suffered enough after his “twenty minutes of action” ruined his chances of becoming an Olympic swimmer - proves that rape culture still exists. That, however, is something conservatives rarely ever address.
Their pearl-clutching over bathrooms also overlooks the fact that trans people are infinitely more likely to be the attacked than the attacker in any given environment. The mortality rate for American trans people is disproportionately high, with trans women especially likely to face physical violence and half of all trans people experiencing sexual abuse. The fear mimics the old myths about gay men being paedophiles. It’s the assumption that being different somehow makes you abhorrent; that if you violate what they see as ‘nature’s law’, you’ll inevitably violate moral laws too.
It speaks volumes about the mentality of Bathroom Bill proponents that they assume that anyone in possession of a penis couldn’t possibly be in a space where women pull down their underwear without assaulting them. It also demonstrates their inability to grasp trans identities. For conservatives, gender is strictly dictated by biology, and anyone who deviates from that is invalid.
That is bigotry, pure and simple. It’s also a level of hypocrisy that, even by the standards of the American right, is staggering. We’ve seen it when anti-abortionists call themselves pro-life, yet fall silent on gun control. We saw it when Republicans lambasted Hillary Clinton over the four lives lost in Benghazi, yet fired no such scrutiny at Trump over those killed in the recent botched Yemen raid. They are happy to proclaim their devotion to moral ideals when it allows them to degrade somebody.
Their pieties are paper-thin, though. These people don’t genuinely care about women’s safety. If they did, they wouldn’t defund Planned Parenthood and introduce arcane abortion legislation. They wouldn’t dismiss the gender pay gap as some left-wing fantasy. They wouldn’t elect a President who brags about sexually assaulting women.
don’t exploit people’s misunderstandings and fear to paint an already put-upon community as predators
All this, too, from a party that styles itself as the defender of freedom. When confronted on gun control, Republicans preach that the government has no right to restrict individual liberties. When it comes to issues that make them uncomfortable, they throw this small-state mentality out of the window. Apparently, owning an assault rifle is your own business, but how and where you urinate is a matter for the state.
Just as segregation was never really about water fountains or buses, these bills aren’t really about bathrooms. As prominent trans actress Laverne Cox said, they’re about whether trans people have the right to exist in public spaces. “When trans people can’t access public bathrooms we can’t go to school effectively, go to work effectively, access health-care facilities”, she said. “[It’s about] erasing trans people”.
Trans Virginia student Gavin Grimm will soon take his school to the Supreme Court. If it’s declared that their Bathroom Bill is unlawful, that could start a nationwide precedent, making Trump’s recent shenanigans void.
In the meantime, though, here’s a handy mantra for any nervy conservatives: a trans person using the bathroom is just another person using the bathroom. They want no more than to relieve themselves then carry on with their day. If you find it weird or inappropriate, that’s your own problem, but don’t exploit people’s misunderstandings and fear to paint an already put-upon community as predators.
And if Trump and co. are still feeling uneasy, maybe they should look down the hallway and spot the safe, gender neutral bathrooms in their own homes.
About the author
Harry Mason likes to call himself a freelance writer, even if his tax forms say he's technically a waiter. He graduated last year from the University of East Anglia, and writes predominantly about social politics and film. He looks forward to the day when he's able to grow a beard; until then, you'll just have to blame his so-called 'bleeding heart lefty views' on youthful naivety.
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