A new bill passed in Tennessee and signed into law by Governor Bill Lee on Monday may be less blatantly anti-transgender than bathroom bills attempting to ban transgender people from using the restroom that most closely aligns with their gender, but that doesn't mean it actually makes sense.
House Bill 1182 requires businesses that welcome transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice to post a sign warning people of their policy. The details of the sign are very specific: It must be at least eight inches high and six inches wide. The top one-third of the sign must read "NOTICE" in yellow text over a red background. And in the other two-thirds it must read, in boldface, block letters, the following statement: "THIS FACILITY MAINTAINS A POLICY OF ALLOWING THE USE OF RESTROOMS BY EITHER BIOLOGICAL SEX, REGARDLESS OF THE DESIGNATION ON THE RESTROOM."
"We want a look that evokes both the moral panic of the present and the legacy of institutionalized prejudice many… https://t.co/P7Ap8vKqCX— Gillian Branstetter (@Gillian Branstetter) 1621382533.0
Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement that Tennessee's bill rolls back the clock on equality and is harmful to transgender Tennesseans.
"Denying transgender people the ability to access a bathroom consistent with their gender identity is degrading and dehumanizing — and can have real health and safety consequences," wrote David.
Here's the thing: Transgender people have been using the bathroom that aligns with their gender without most of us even noticing. This is simply a solution in search of a problem.
Bathroom bills are purportedly designed to protect people from predators (presumably male predators who could pretend to be trans to use the women's room) but there are two big problems with that:
1) States that have laws protecting trans people's rights to using the bathroom of their choice have not seen any kind of increase in bathroom predator issues. A 2014 report from Media Matters found that experts from 12 states with anti-discrimination laws protecting transgender people's right to use gender-aligned bathrooms—some of those laws more than a decade old at the time—found no issues stemming from transgender people peeing where they want. These experts include law enforcement officials, government employees, and advocates for victims of sexual assault, and they overwhelmingly concurred that there is no basis for the fear behind anti-trans bathroom bills.
2) If predatory behavior in a bathroom is truly the concern, making transgender people use the restroom that aligns with their genitals at birth would actually make it easier, not harder, for male predators to sneak into women's bathrooms. The logic some people seem to be missing in their push to make people use the bathroom of their assigned sex at birth is that most transgender people's appearance more closely aligns with their gender identity, not their sex at birth. Most trans men present as men. Most trans women present as women. Forcing a trans man to use the women's bathroom and vice versa means making people who are visually the opposite sex into male and female bathrooms.
To illustrate this point, here are some transgender individuals who some people think should have to use the restroom opposite of the gender they appear.
This is fitness coach Cody Harmon, who is a trans man. Anyone who thinks he should be forced to use a women's bathroom is not thinking this through.
Aryan Pasha is a bodybuilder and also a trans man. Should he have to use the women's bathroom because his biological sex at birth was female?
And on the flip side, do you want to tell this woman she has to use the men's room?
How about her? If you walked into the men's room and saw her there, wouldn't you assume she was in the "wrong" bathroom?
People who want trans folks to use the bathroom of their assigned/biological sex at birth are the same people who would throw a fit if they saw trans people actually use those bathrooms. Because what they're wanting is for trans men to use women's bathrooms and vice versa, thereby putting men in women's bathrooms. Because the bathroom use complaints simply don't make logical sense.
Not all transgender people fully transition, of course, and trans people may be in various stages of transition, but the fact remains that most trans people do present as their gender and feel more comfortable (and safe) using the restroom accordingly. (There are also non-binary trans people who may present as male one day and female another, or who may appear totally androgynous. The point being is you can't judge a transgender person based on their appearance.)
The idea that someone might pretend to be trans to be able to enter a women's restroom as a man isn't backed up by reality, and even if someone did do that, it wouldn't be transgender people's fault. There's no reason to punish transgender people for what a predator might try to do.
Bills like the Tennessee bathroom sign one are designed to make transgender people feel like they shouldn't exist. But they do exist. They always have, and they've been using the same bathrooms as cisgender people this whole time. They are also designed to arouse suspicion about trans people, which is patently unfair. People just want to pee and poo in peace. Truly. When you know transgender people personally, it's easier to understand how utterly ridiculous these bathroom laws are.
You don't have to understand someone's identity to accept them for who they are. You don't have to personally relate to someone's story to show them basic respect. These kinds of laws are unnecessary and hurtful, and if your lawmakers are pushing for such legislation, ask them to stop. Urge your Senators to pass the Equality Act already passed by the House. And contact your state representatives and ask them to support trans people's right to be themselves.
Everyone deserves at least that much.
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