Bathrooms, Identity, And Compassion

 

We have a real issue with identity recently, don’t we? We’re concerned where people pee, and what they like doing in the privacy of their homes. But we don’t stop at private acts. No, we’re worried about how people dress, what they listen to, and what they like.

I’m not sure why we’re so concerned. Maybe it has something to do with tradition, but I doubt it. I think our real problem is that we’re obsessive about making some sense of the world without admitting any problems we have to take responsibility for.

I didn’t know how to write this, but it’s been bothering me so I know that I needed to.* Bills like the transgender bathroom law do not keep those we care about safe, they put victims at risk.

 

Weaponized Toilets

New Choices After The Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill
Source: Huffington Post

North Carolina recently passed a law about bathrooms. The bill states that you have to use the bathroom for the gender on your birth certificate. Known as the “transgender bathroom bill,” North Carolina’s governor signed the bill into law. Since then, other lawmakers prepared similar bills for their own states.

Why do they care so much about where someone goes pee?

Some lawmakers might begin their arguments saying that a man will always be a man. They’ll call transgendered people a perversion, or “mentally disturbed.”

This isn’t their reasoning for the law, but instead just some extra points to support their actual argument. They insist they’re supporting the bill to protect the children.

 

Children’s Rights As A Disposable Shield

According to USA Today, assault by someone who’s transgendered in a restroom isn’t an issue. In fact, there are no reported cases of this happening. Lawmakers who support the bill are aware of this. They’ll admit as much, and claim that the bill isn’t really about people who are transgender. Instead, they support it to stop perverted straight men from dressing as women to spy on little girls.

They’ll list articles where men did just that. Some only dressed in drag, while others claimed to be transgender to get into a bathroom. Once there, they spied on others, or assaulted them, which is horrible, and no one is saying they have the right to do this.

What they did is a crime. But here’s the thing: what they did would be a crime no matter what their gender identity is. Someone filming, ogling, or touching you without your consent is illegal. It doesn’t matter who they are, or what they look like.

This bill does nothing to change this. It will do little, if anything, to reduce violence against women and children. RAINN stands for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. They estimate that there are 293,000 victims (only counting those over the age of 12) every year.

One in Six women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape at some point during their life.  For men, the numbers are harder to figure out. While sexual assault often goes unreported, men are far less likely to report an assault.

Even so, RAINN estimates that 3% of men will be the victims of rape during their lifetime. In the 15 years of data RAINN has, approximately 9% of all victims were male.

Sexual assault and rape is an issue we need to address. 15% of all rape victims are under the age of 12. This is completely unacceptable.

But this law will not do anything to keep them safe. Those people claiming to be transgender who filmed children were already breaking the law. More importantly, this law has the real possibility of putting people in harms way.

The Office for Victim Crimes reports on sexual assault against people who identify as transgender. 12% of youth (k-12) report being sexually assaulted at school. 50% of all victims of hate crimes against LGBTQ people are transgender.  11% of ALL hate crimes reported are against transgender women.

70% of all transgender individuals report harassment or assault trying to use the restroom.  This law has a good chance of significantly increasing that number.

This law puts victims at greater risk. How can we justify doing that when all the data shows that these victims are not the ones we should fear?

 

The Simple Solution Would Be To Ban All Men

Every study on rape and sexual assault show that the perpetrator is almost always a male. In 99 out of 100 assaults, no matter who the victim is, the attacker is a man.

The lawmakers proposing these trans bathroom bills don’t deny this, remember? They say that the law will prevent men from sneaking into women’s bathroom’s.

But what about boy’s assaulted in the restroom? Yes, statistically, victims are often women and girls, but male victims exist. If our goal is to protect our children, we need to protect as many as possible.

I searched to see how often sexual assault occurred in bathrooms or changing areas. I couldn’t find any usable data (if you have something, please let me know).

If we want to protect as many victims as we can, the solution is simple: we ban men from using all public restrooms. This wouldn’t stop bathroom assault completely, but it would reduce it.

So why aren’t lawmakers proposing this? Unlike the transgender bill, this law would target the actual aggressors.

But, we know this won’t happen. The logistics of forcing men to “hold it” or use port-a-potty’s isn’t practical. Not to mention the fact that, as lawmakers would quickly point out, “not all men” are rapists. While true, it highlights the problem.

This bathroom bill does nothing to solve the very real problem of assault and rape. It’s a law signed by fear of people who are different than we are. LGBTQ, and transwomen in particular, are far more likely to be victims of hate crimes just for being who they are. So why are we making a law that punishes them for a crime they aren’t committing?

A harder solution would be to make bathrooms safer by making them all single occupancy. This is expensive, and not feasible everywhere, but it would make bathrooms safer and more private.

The hardest solution of all is admitting that we have a serious problem with assault in our country and we need to find ways to solve it.

 

Creating Safety Isn’t Simple

Banning all men from bathrooms is not realistic, and it’s wrong. So how do we try to keep our loved ones safe in public restrooms? It starts before anyone sets foot in a store.

It starts by changing what we think of as “acceptable” behavior.

We need to take assault seriously all the time, not just when we’re trying to pass a bill about bathrooms. We need to talk about sexual violence against women and men and why it’s so common in our culture.

We need to make it unacceptable for We men to grope or make sexual comments about women. And, we need to do something other than blame the victim when someone (rarely) steps forward. If you own a business, you need to make the financial decision to protect your customers, even if it means turning other, aggressive customers away.

We need to accept responsibility for protecting those around us. If we see someone treat another person inappropriately, we need to say something. We should stop worrying about how someone chooses to dress, or what they choose to do with their own bodies. Instead, let’s worry about what we choose to do to each other.

Safety isn’t easy. It’s not something that just happens if you decide to be nicer. It requires active participation. It requires building a legal system that protects victims. It requires a culture that holds that all people are equal, not just the ones that look like we do.

Just Let Them Go

Think about the times you used a public restroom. When I use one, I’m there to get my business done and get out. When was the last time you remember having an interaction with a complete stranger. Something other than the dance of figuring out how gets to use the stall first.

At sporting events and concerts, it’s not uncommon for women to use the mens room if their line is too long.  Young children accompany their parents into the restroom, even if they’re the opposite gender. We don’t use bathrooms for social calls, we use them because we need to.

Even if you have a moral objection to transwomen or transmen, that’s not what this law is about. What we’re talking about, fundamentally, is treating our fellow humans with respect and dignity.

If someone is inappropriate in the restroom, if they’re violating your privacy, then you report it. If someone tries filming anyone in the bathroom, you call the police. If you see someone being assaulted, you step in to stop it. We need to take the hard steps to keep people safe from bad men. But this bill won’t do that. This bill puts good people at risk, directly into harms way.

If someone comes into the bathroom and heads right to the stall because they have to GO, let them.

 

*I wasn’t sure how to write this article, in part because I’m a straight male. But, the primary reason I didn’t know how to write this is because I’m not a parent. I see a lot of people I love and respect sharing posts in support of this law because they want to protect their kids.

I can’t argue against that need to keep them safe, and I’m not trying to. Please don’t read this article thinking I am saying your fear’s unwarranted. I’m not, because that fear is completely valid. But, I think that this bill will not keep anyone safe, and could instead put people in harms way. We need to keep our kids safe, all of our children, including those who identify as transgender.

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