"You're invading my privacy!" yelled the woman as she live-streamed video of another woman behind a bathroom stall door to her Facebook page.
Jazmina Saavedra, a Republican candidate for Congress in California's 44th district, paced outside the women's restroom at a Los Angeles Denny's. She shouted into the restroom, telling the occupant to get out.
The problem? The woman using the restroom was, Saavedra believed, transgender.
The video is uncomfortable to watch, with the restaurant's manager siding with Saavedra's open discussion of her willingness to attack the woman with pepper spray.
"I was with my pepper spray ready and I called the manager so he helped me," she said in the video. "How can I be with a man inside of the ladies' room just because he thinks he's a lady? This is unbelievable. Only in California this happens."
When asked for comment, Denny's said management received a complaint that led to manager entering the bathroom. "We are extremely disturbed by the incident that took place at our Los Angeles restaurant this week. At Denny's, we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, inclusive of gender identity and sexual orientation," they added.
This is an unbelievably horrible incident, and unfortunately, incidents like it happen all the time. And it just needs to stop.
I am a transgender woman. Like most women, I use the women's restroom. It's not some luxury or something I do for fun. If it were up to me, I'd never use a public restroom at all — but when you've gotta go, you've gotta go.
I am sick of seeing stories like this. I am sick of seeing the actual invasion of someone's privacy taking a backseat to some hypothetical situation where a trans woman does the exact same thing this lady is doing to her.
I'm sick of it all, and I'm not alone. The National Center for Transgender Equality's 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 59% of trans Americans avoided using a public restroom in the prior year for fear of harassment. About 32% ate and drank less to reduce the odds that they'd have to use a restroom, 12% were verbally harassed in one, and 9% were denied access altogether.
Nobody should have to worry about being harassed simply for existing in public, but that's what transgender people face every day.
Anti-trans policies have been popping up in recent years, and they're making things worse — for everybody.
One of the common arguments against allowing trans people to use the bathroom of their identified gender is that women don't want to share a restroom with a "man" (though trans women are not men). The truth, however, is that if trans people are legally obligated to use the bathroom of the gender they were assigned at birth, it's actually more likely to result in situations where women do have to share restrooms with men.
A trans man named Michael Hughes conducted an experiment a few years back to make a point about how out of place it'd be for him to use the women's restroom. Bearded and muscular, the reaction most women would have to seeing him in the restroom would likely be something along the lines of "Eeeee! A man!"
Since the start of the conservative push to legislate bathroom access, a number of cisgender (non-trans) women have been harassed in women's restrooms for looking too masculine. Jessie Meehan isn't trans, but in 2017, she was harassed by a Walgreens employee for trying to use the women's restroom. Apparently, she looked too masculine for their taste.
Her story, documented in the video below, shows the kind of collateral damage of the push to police restroom use, reinforcing how feminine a woman "should" look or how masculine a man "should" look.
Anti-trans policies reinforce gender stereotypes that hurt us all.
Factoring in that the only way to actually enforce policies designed to restrict trans people from using the restroom is for all people to be subjected to invasive genital checks before entering, the entire argument about "privacy" becomes absurd. In fact, the "privacy" argument has always been absurd, often involving wild hypotheticals or some sort of misguided notion of what actually happens in restrooms.
If you are in a women's restroom and you're seeing someone else's genitals, you might be using the restroom horribly wrong. That's got nothing to do with trans people.
Yes, assaults happen in restrooms. However — and this is important — the culprits tend to be cis men, not trans women, who have never argued that they should be allowed to assault people by pretending to be transgender. Assault and voyeurism in public restrooms will always be against the law, no matter whether there's a policy for or against trans people.
If the argument becomes "Well, criminals don't obey the laws, anyway," then it's time to stop pretending that rules and laws banning trans people from public spaces will have any effect on safety or privacy. After all, the only thing "preventing" people from walking into any restroom they want right now is a little plastic sign with a stick figure in a dress.
I care about restroom privacy, and if you do too, you should rebuke people like Saavedra.
Demanding to know whether or not someone is trans before they use a restroom is an invasion of privacy. Requiring trans people to out themselves as such in a public place to around a group of strangers is an invasion of privacy. Filming someone in the bathroom, posting it to Facebook, and then trying to fundraise off of the event is an invasion of privacy.
Take a stand for privacy and just let people pee in peace.