The Crucial Problem We’re Forgetting In the Trans Bathroom Debate

Originally published on the Huffington Post and republished here with the author’s permission.

A metal sign with an arrow, pointing to where the restrooms are located, featuring a figure with a dress and a figure without a dress.

A metal sign with an arrow, pointing to where the restrooms are located, featuring a figure with a dress and a figure without a dress.

To be quite honest, we as transgender people are beyond tired of hearing about and talking about restrooms. That being said, I’m going to spend a moment talking about them today, but only because I want to.

We don’t owe it to anyone to make them feel comfortable in restrooms with us; this isn’t something we’re obligated to talk about. Actually, we aren’t ever obligated to entertain any cisgender sense of entitlement, but that’s a whole other subject in and of itself.

So if you are cis and you’re reading this, it’s not intended for your comfort. Everyone has shared restrooms with trans people before, probably many times in their lives, without even knowing it, and it’s never hurt a single cis individual.

I’d say it’s never hurt anyone, but that wouldn’t be true. Ironically, however, every single person who has gotten hurt has been a transgender victim of transphobic violence.

There has literally never been a reported case of a transgender person committing any crime in a public restroom. If that’s not enough to ensure cis comfort, I don’t know what would be.

However, in spite of this actually being a complete non-issue, there are many attempts going on right now across the United States to pass anti-trans legislation to bar us from public restrooms.

Most often, these are put forth under the guise of being intended to “protect women.” I find this ironic considering that, in most cases, they are coming from parties and organizations which are misogynist, and therefore actually have zero interest in protecting women, but at the end of the day, we know that thy aren’t actually about keeping anyone safe at all.

Quite the opposite, they’re about targeting trans people, specifically transgender women. One prominent legitimized transphobic hate group, which I won’t name in this article, actually lists it as the first step in their five step plan to attempt to essentially eradicate trans people from American society.

Frequently, we have fought back by pointing out that transgender men also exist. This has generally been praised as a brilliant tactic, because trans men are very frequently visually indistinguishable from cis men, and anti-trans laws would invariably force them into women’s restrooms for being born with a vagina.

The brilliance lies in the way that society seems to love forgetting that trans men even exist any time it helps justify institutionalized transphobia and the desire to legitimize violence against trans women.

Speaking of forgetting people, l want to take a moment to talk about the people who even we in the transgender community also always seem to be forgetting: non-binary trans people.

Non-binary people frequently either have experiences of gender we have no way of really understanding at all from a binary perspective, or even no experience of gender whatsoever, and in a world of gendered restrooms, nothing is correct for them, except for gender neutral restrooms.

After thinking about that, it really starts to feel like we’re going about all of this the wrong way. We’re still enforcing the gender binary, along with perpetuating the violent and unnecessary gendering of pretty much everything, and at the end of the day, that’s just as transphobic as any attempt to force trans women to choose between facing violence in the men’s room or facing prison just to pee.

I started wondering why restrooms are gender segregated anyway and of course it occurred to me that, much the same as any other woman, I don’t really feel safe in a space where I’m surrounded by cis men because of institutionalized misogyny and the normalization of violence against women.

Thinking on this, I came to realize that gendered spaces are actually a prime example of one of the worst parts of the violence and misogyny: How we go about trying to compensate for it when we should be trying to eliminate it.

For a very long time we’ve wanted to act like we’re protecting women by gendering spaces, but all we’re really doing is enabling the misogyny to continue everywhere outside of those spaces.

Instead of doing the right thing, and teaching men that violence against women is wrong, we took the “easy way out” and separated the restrooms, but men know they don’t have to disguise themselves as women and go into a restroom to commit violence against us, which is probably why it’s never happened.

It’s unnecessary. It actually makes it more likely for them to get caught and face the consequences. It’s literally the worst idea a sexual predator could ever have. In short, gendered restrooms have only really ever served to even further legitimize misogyny as well as transphobia. The proof is in the fact that we’re even having to discuss whether or not trans people belong in appropriately gendered spaces.

The only correct solution would seem to be to eliminate misogyny and transphobia from our society; essentially, “teach men not to rape women,” “teach cis people not to assault or murder trans people.”

It’s easy to make the argument that this solution, although correct, is unrealistic because institutionalized transphobia and misogyny are the status quo, essentially saying “that’s just the way it is,” but that doesn’t change the fact that “the way it is,” is wrong.

It does do a good job of highlighting the fact that misogyny and transphobia are incredibly complex issues, and that there really are no easy answers, but we shouldn’t be looking for easy answers anyway.

We should be looking for comprehensive answers that actually do something about the issue, which by the way, is not the idea of a gender neutral restroom, but rather the society which raises men to give us as women an understandably justified reason to fear sharing such a space with them.

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Delia is an independent musician, and YouTube personality, who has been called the loudest trans rights activist in Northwest Florida. She serves as the Volunteer Coordinator on the board of STRIVE as well as being the Social Media Director for the Florida Transgender Alliance. Follow her on Twitter @Delia_Melody.