“But We Open the Door To…”

The conservative fairy-tale at the heart of “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms”

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I hear it from well meaning people seemingly everyday. “If we allow transgender women in women’s rooms, what’s stopping pervert from just wearing a dress and claiming to be trans to gain access?” I admit, it’s a powerful argument at first blush, I have two young daughters myself and a parental instinct to protect them at all times. That’s a normal human response to potential threats. However, if we took more than a few minutes to really flesh out this scenario, we can see just why this scenario has never actually happened in the US, despite over 200 cities and numerous states (my own included) having public accommodation protections for gender identity.

It’s pretty simple really, for anyone with nefarious intent in a bathroom, they’ll never need to claim trans status for anything, they can just walk in. Just as this man did. If there’s anyone in the facility to challenge him on his right to be there, that means those same people will be there to challenge any illegal acts performed. If there’s no one there to challenge his right to be there, that means that he’ll get away with whatever he was planning to do anyway. Therefore, declaring trans status is a very unnecessary step to getting away with an actual crime.

But let’s play out the scenario anyway, just for the thought exercise. Let’s say a cisgender man puts on a dress and lipstick and follows a woman into a restroom. She looks at him and says “You can’t be in here!”

The man replies “Relax lady I’m transgender!” What has this scenario changed? If the man pees and leaves, big deal. If the man attempts a sexual assault, the woman isn’t just going to allow it because he claimed to be transgender. If the man tries to film her, she’s not just going to think it’s ok because he claimed to be trans. More than likely, with just the two of them in the bathroom, the man would just assault and not even bother saying anything. The man doesn’t even have to claim to be trans to have access, he can just walk in when no one is paying attention. If a second woman walks in, the man isn’t going to commit a crime with any witnesses around. Conservatives love to tell us that a sign on the door doesn’t stop a bad guy with a gun, yet they want us to believe that a sign on the door will stop a bad guy with a penis.

The fact of the matter is that 68% of all trans people are harassed in a public restroom. Estimates put the number of trans people in the US at about 700,000 people (a number which is probably too low, for several reasons that I won’t get into) so that means that 476,000 trans people at minimum have been harassed in a public rest room. The stat does not delve into the frequency of these cases of harassment, but an estimate easily puts the number of total incidents well into the millions in the US alone. Trans people have been harassed about their genders literally millions of times. This is why laws that protect us in public spaces are so necessary, this is why we are asking to be treated humanely. It’s not just some whim or affirmation thing, some Tumblr thing, this is a real problem that affects the trans community every day. At the end of the day, you stack up these millions of harassment incidents against a very unrealistic scenario that’s literally never happened in our country before. Where I come from we have a phrase for that, “That dog just don’t hunt.”

Written by

Political journalist. The first openly trans Capitol Hill reporter in US history. Writing about more than just trans issues. Follow her on Twitter @transscribe

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