Trigger warning: r*pe, sexual violence, sexual assault
Transgender bathroom laws has been a hot topic of debate in recent years, as one by one, places all around the world attempt to deny trans people the right to legally use the restroom in public. We are constantly framed as rapists and sexual predators who are out to prey on innocent women and children in the bathroom, despite there being no evidence to suggest that this ever happens. We’re denied access to public restrooms on the grounds that cis men will abuse any law allowing us to pee in public to further prey on innocent women and children. This whole debate is incredibly harmful to transgender people.
This might surprise you, but we really just want to go to the bathroom.
Having cis male conservatives tell us every day that trans people want to rape women and children is incredibly harmful, and not based in any factual evidence whatsoever. Trans women are much more likely to be the victim than the ones committing the assault, and since 93% of perpetrators of sexual violence are cis men, you are way more likely to be sexually assaulted by a cis male than you are a transgender person in the bathroom. Cis male conservatives are also the last people to actually care about survivors of sexual violence. These are men who love “locker room talk” and voted for President Donald Trump, a man who has loudly and boldly boasted about sexually assaulting women. By feigning support for women and girls just so they can oppress transgender people, but then ignore and disparage survivors of sexual violence in every other situation, cis male conservatives care about no one except themselves.
Furthermore, if we allow transgender people to use the public restroom, cis men will not abuse this and ‘pretend to be transgender’ just so they can go into the women’s restroom and sexually assault women. This idea of a cis man in a dress, pretending to be transgender to rape a woman in the restroom is unrealistic and ridiculous. In reality, if a cis man wants to sexually assault a woman, a sign with a skirt on it isn’t going to stop him. He’s already breaking the law by committing the rape, s0 why would he go through the hassle of appearing feminine just to abide by a trans law? This just doesn’t happen.
For trans people, going to the bathroom has become a political battleground where it’s hard to feel normal. For example, my gender is non-binary and my pronouns are he/him and they/them. However, I have a lot of passing privilege, and I’m perceived as a cis man to the majority of the population. I’m very fortunate in that my parents and friends have been very supportive, and I haven’t had many struggles come from my gender being non-binary. This being said, the bathroom is still a difficult situation for me.
I use the gender-neutral restroom, and while I’m lucky that my school does have one gender-neutral restroom on campus, it’s still the only one. It’s also on the other side of the school, away from my locker and most of my classes. Since labelling my gender as non-binary and using the gender-neutral restroom at the start of the year, I’ve found that what was once a quick two minute trip to the toilet is now a ten minute hassle, where I drop everything in my locker, go to the other side of the school to go to the toilet, then come back to get my books and go to my next class.
Furthermore, the one gender-neutral restroom in my school is the one disabled toilet in my school, as well as a shower, meaning it’s often in use. It’s also in the middle of a busy corridor that, during recesses and lunch times, is full of other students, turning an insignificant trip to the bathroom into something that is so political and public, for all to stare and watch as the trans kid goes to the bathroom.
For all the cis people reading this, I want you to understand how even I, someone who is a fairly privileged trans person, has major inconveniences when going to the bathroom, something that is truly involuntary and necessary to function as a human being. I have to schedule my whole day around when is the best time to go to the bathroom, when no one will see me and when it’s most likely vacant. For the majority of cis people, going to the bathroom is just a quick detour in their journey, but for trans people, it has become so much more. The bathroom is something so inherently political for us now that many of us just stop using the restroom in public altogether.
At just 8 years old, Georgie Stone, a trans woman, was forced to use the boys’ swimming change room at school, where she was subsequently bullied and harassed. For the rest of the term, she got changed behind a tree, and stopped going to the bathroom altogether. This is the conclusion that many trans people come to, as we are so often denied or have limited access to public restrooms. However, this survival tactic has terrible repercussions, as 54% of trans people report harmful side effects from avoiding public restrooms, including dehydration, urinary tract infections, kidney infections, and other kidney-related problems.
This whole debate surrounding transgender bathroom laws is incredibly detrimental to trans people’s health. Having to fight every day just to go to the bathroom, something so basic and mundane, is frustrating and exhausting. No wonder 50% of trans youth avoid school on a regular basis, and dropout rates are staggeringly high, when there is a never-ending focus on our genitalia and not our education. The evidence is all there: transgender people are not sexual predators. We won’t rape women, your daughters, your children. We won’t harass or assault you. Allowing us to use the public restroom won’t bring in rapists pretending to be trans.
We just want to have the most basic human right: to go to the bathroom.