Why the Trans Bathroom Debate is Utter Bullshit

Content warning: Discussions about sexual assault.

For those who live under a rock, North Carolina recently passed House Bill 2, which restricts transgender people from using their preferred restroom. According to certain legislators, including North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, allowing biologically male people to enter women’s bathrooms puts predators and victims in closer proximity, and would make it easier for rapists to commit sexual assault.

I don’t even know where to begin.

Like, literally. I wrote that sentence, and then stared at my screen for 10 minutes thinking about where to start because there are so many levels as to why this debate is absolutely ridiculous.

Let’s start with the fact that we’ve been sharing restrooms with trans people for our entire lives, and probably have never realized when it’s happening. The only reason that this is such an outlandish issue for some people is because it’s being discussed so heavily in the media, and it gives people an outlet to express their discriminatory beliefs outside of their living rooms. Odds are, the trans woman using the women’s bathroom doesn’t have the appearance of a man sporting a full beard and a skirt (although this cis woman sports the look beautifully). We’re probably not going to notice if a woman is a cis or trans woman in the minute and a half that we’re in the bathroom with her. Never mind the fact that enforcing the bill itself would be near impossible. Must we bring our drivers licenses to use the bathroom? Are there going to be gender officers that we have to flash in order to gain entry if we don’t have a valid form of identification?

Possibly what is the most infuriating, however, is the conversation around sexual assault. Predators have been sexually assaulting women in bathrooms for as long as there have been bathrooms. I have been taught ever since I was a little girl to go to the bathroom with at least one other female, because men can enter a woman’s bathroom and sexually assault a girl more easily if she’s alone. As a matter of fact, the first time I ever saw a man in the woman’s bathroom, I was thirteen, and he was urinating in the first stall of the movie theater bathroom with the door wide open. I immediately alerted the managers, but the response was underwhelming to say the least. He was simply escorted out of the bathroom, but allowed to stay at the theater and finish his movie. In addition, I remember in middle school hearing my girlfriends tell me about boys peeking under the stalls in the girl’s room during school hours, and I’ve heard personal stories about cis women being attacked in the bathroom by cis men. None of these predators needed to wear lipstick and a wig in order to commit their crimes. Men have never needed a dress or the excuse of gender identity to stop them from entering in a place where they were not invited, in terms of both bathrooms and women’s bodies.

In addition, House Bill 2 is completely misguided. Not only is it penalizing transgender people’s comfort for the sexual violence of cis men, but women are more likely to be attacked by their partners, family members, friends, or someone else she already knows, than they are by a stranger entering the bathroom. Although it does happen, the myth that it is more likely to occur by a stranger just isn’t true. It is harmful to the majority of victims who have been attacked by a familiar person, and who may not believe that their experience can be considered rape because it doesn’t fit the stereotype. In many cases, the predator following the woman into the bathroom is someone she already knows. This does not invalidate women who have been attacked by strangers in any way, shape, or form. However, I am questioning why certain people are so vocally concerned about men posing as women to rape anonymously, and not as concerned about where the majority of assaults are coming from.

In 2012, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned a conviction for an accused rapist with the justification that his victim, who was severely mentally and physically handicapped, “didn’t fight back enough” to constitute nonconsensual sex. In six states, the term “forcible rape” is still used as a legal term for sexual assault; as if there is rape that isn’t forcible. Just yesterday, a court in Oklahoma ruled that having oral sex with someone who is unconscious isn’t sexual assault. Between low conviction rates, high reports of victim blaming by justice systems across the country, and the prevalence of sexual assault given with the repeated 1 in 5 statistic, one thing is clear. These legislators obviously don’t care about sexual assault or its victims. If they did, they would have been getting up on their podiums a long time ago and calling for legislative reform. They would have been calling for sexual assault to be discussed in schools. They would have called for training for police officers to effectively handle sexual assault reports before they become outed, so to speak, in civil lawsuits. They would have been aggressively raising awareness about sexual assault long before transgender people became a media topic to discuss. Instead, they simply saw an opportunity to legally discriminate against people who they do not understand, and in doing so, they are exploiting a real tragedy that happens every day without the assistance of an open bathroom.

I personally find this morally disgusting. If we want to talk about sexual assault, there is a lot to say without accusing transgender people of contributing to the problem. Most importantly, the conversation we should be having about transgender people and sexual assault is being silenced by House Bill 2. The rates of transgender people who have experienced sexual assault are more than double that of their cis counterparts. If anyone is at a higher risk, especially now that this bill is inciting open hate and transphobia (I don’t need a link to support this statement, just log on to your Facebook and scroll through your newsfeed), it’s the people who House Bill 2 is discriminating against. We need to stand with our sisters, brothers, and others. We can’t let discrimination prevail. We have more momentum than ever in fighting for both transgender people’s rights, and the rights of those who have been sexually assaulted. We will repeal this bill, and stop more states from passing similar legislation. But we have to speak up, both to those around us and to those leading us.

-M

Fully-Concentrated Feminism

I have an irrational problem with edits to my work.

I have always been a bit of a control freak when it comes to creativity. Group projects were my ultimate nemesis; I remember getting into arguments at a young age with kids who called me “too bossy” (a title I have since learned to reclaim as “leadership skills”), and nitpicking over details in order to hand in a perfect assignment. Since graduating college, I haven’t been reconnected with this issue until very recently. I have begun to professionalize my hobby of writing by polishing off the articles that have been sitting in the confines of my computer, and submitting them to online blogs and newspapers.

When my online debut of writing about women’s issues was first published, the excitement I felt was quickly clouded with discontent. The title of my article had been altered to something that I felt didn’t completely fit with my message, and wasn’t as strong of a title. Although it was a small edit, I was completely bothered by the fact that something with my name on it was changed without my permission. I had already cut my original article by at least 20% to fit the 800-word limit. Now my work was edited further? 

This is obviously something that I need to get over as a writer. If I submit something that another organization is going to publish on their site, they ultimately (and rightfully so) have control over the content. In addition, although being a boss is something I take pride in now, I also have to remember to be a team player. I am consistently trying to catch myself so that my bossy attitude doesn’t become an overbearing demeanor, especially because I don’t always have all of the right answers. No one does. Compromise and understanding is almost always better than “my way or the highway.”

However, I feel the need to put my foot down with my latest article submission, “I Thought About It,” posted on the National Organization of Women (NOW) NYC Chapter blog site. A couple of Saturdays per month, I volunteer my time as a clinic escort for a healthcare organization that provides abortions. Escorts are necessary because the clinics themselves oftentimes experience extremely aggressive, overzealously religious protestors who scream at, follow, and harass women trying to get to the clinic. They hold signs that equate abortion to the Holocaust, recite Bible verses on a sound-amplifier, and try to intimidate women out of seeking treatment. They also refer women to local crisis pregnancy centers, which is another article in and of itself for another day. I wrote “I Thought About It” based on an experience I had while escorting at a clinic in Queens.

Like the first article I had written that was published, my excitement was quickly diminished when I read the last paragraph of my essay. However, unlike the first article, this time I had felt deep frustration when I saw exactly how much the content of my essay had been changed.

When I had submitted my essay for the first time, the editors of the blog had asked me to change the last paragraph in my essay. The paragraph was focused on the religious hypocrisy that ensues when pro-lifers (or anti-choicers) protest outside of abortion clinics in the name of God. The editors said that they didn’t want to make pro-choice feminists who share the same religion as anti-choice protestors feel alienated. My intent is never to make people feel alienated or targeted, however, I feel that beating around the bush to a very direct source of a lot of societal misogyny is harmful. I reworded some of what I wrote, but insisted on keeping the content about religion. After all, anyone who has been paying attention to the controversies surrounding Planned Parenthood and reproductive health legislation in general knows that these issues are religiously-charged. The editors thanked me for making the changes, and I figured my work would be published as submitted.

However, the last paragraph ended up being completely diluted. My very direct message against outdated religious hypocrisy was watered down into a statement that completely skips over the underlying problem. I appreciated that NOW published my work and gave me a platform to discuss my experience. Nonetheless, the paragraph that was altered formerly tied all of the ideas in my essay together. More so than the title change of my first published article, I felt that the paragraph no longer fit.

Nowhere in my original essay did I say “All Catholics and Christians are the problem.” However, I did quote various parts of the Bible to suggest anti-choice contradiction. I don’t think it is possible for someone to stand outside of a clinic for 4 hours, hear various Bible verses shouted at them, hear that they’re going to Hell 57 times, have rosaries shoved in their face, and for that person to come back and say that this issue has little to nothing to do with religion. I’m sorry, but we cannot be afraid to criticize these things to avoid hurt feelings. The harshest legislative attacks on women’s healthcare come from religious legislators. The harshest attacks on clinics come from fundamentalist religious civilians. This does not mean that religion is inherently bad, and this does not mean that there aren’t fantastic people who practice religion and do so without harming their fellow citizens. However, there is an obviously clear correlation between how literally people take their religious books and discrimination against women, homosexuals, birth control, and the like. While we’re sitting around trying to water down our message, there are legislators out there with a Bible in one hand and a pen in the other writing horrific bills through Congress with no regard for our feelings, and at that, our reproductive freedom. Contrary to the published, “I cannot imagine religious morality endorsing the acts of following scared young women down the sidewalk…” I can imagine it. Clinics see it every day. Women across the world see it every day. This isn’t just about my essay. This is about the larger problem that social justice has with censorship. We can’t be afraid of analyzing and criticizing that which is directly part of the problem.

So, this blog is going to be for the posts that are hard to swallow. It’s going to be for the posts that don’t fit the 800-1200 word count. It’s for the issues that people are afraid to talk about, and the criticisms that people are afraid to make. Our movement is getting drowned out by our own echo chambers. We are hurting ourselves by avoiding hard conversations. I’m not here to watch Congress take away our reproductive freedom while we’re struggling to discuss the reasons why it’s happening.

Stay tuned for more unadulterated feminist content.

In the meantime, if you’re interested, this is the paragraph that I originally submitted:

I could take the easy way out and tell you that your outfit, which consists of a sweatshirt and jeans, is just as much reason for you to burn in Hell, according to the Bible (Leviticus 19:19). I could tell you that God says not to oppress a stranger (Jeremiah 7:6) or to judge one another (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37, Romans 14:10). I cannot imagine Jesus Christ following scared young women down the sidewalk and screaming at them to the point of tears. I cannot imagine that traumatizing someone, on what is already one of the most difficult days of her life, is something that He would do. If your interpretation of the Bible is right, then sure, I will burn in Hell for all of eternity. But if you’re wrong, the sin you commit every Saturday is the outright intimidation and harassment you commit against women just trying to go to the doctor. To me, it seems that your concerns are less about loving God, and more about controlling women. You claim to be compassionate towards the unborn, but where is your compassion towards fully developed human beings? Your kindness and understanding for people seems to end with the cutting of the umbilical cord.

Thank you for reading.

-M