Tuesday, April 26, 2016

North Carolina's Transphobic Bathroom Bill, Part II

As discussed in an earlier post, North Carolina recently passed House Bill 2, which prevents transgender persons from using restrooms that correspond with their gender identity and leaves LGBTQ people out of anti-discrimination protections. Several Religious Right figures have defended the legislation, claiming that it protects women and children from transgender "predators" in bathroom.


The Religious Right's rhetoric about protecting women and children isn't fooling many people, especially not professionals who make their living protecting women and children. Women's rights groups and anti-sexual violence advocates have condemned bathroom bills and the laughable arguments that such bills protect anyone.

For example, the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault posted a March 24th statement that advocated for anti-discrimination policies for LGBTQ people and argued against claims that transgender people in public restrooms would pose a public safety menace. "What will actually prevent and end sexual violence is for us to create a culture in which respect for the identities and bodily autonomy of others is a deeply held value," the statement says.

In a March 19th statement, North Carolina Women United president Tara Romano lamented the epidemic of sexual violence in society but added that, "stoking fears based on inaccurate stereotypes and myths — such as the belief that transgender women can easily be impersonated by heterosexual men, or that all men are rapists just waiting for an opportunity to attack to women — isn’t doing anything to curb this epidemic." In another statement, Romano called HB2 "reprehensible" and "discriminatory".

Other advocacy groups across the nation have taken the same stance. On April 21st, hundreds of anti-sexual violence and anti-domestic violence organizations released a joint statement condemning transphobic bathroom bills. The list of signatories -- including the National Center for Victims of Crime, YWCA, Stop It Now, FaithTrust Institute, Just Detention International, Hollaback, and multiple state anti-violence coalitions -- is a nigh-exhaustive who's who of anti-violence organizations in the U.S. The document, National Consensus Statement of Anti-Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Organizations in Support of Full and Equal Access for the Transgender Community, expresses solidarity with transgender persons and argues that bathroom bills do not keep women and children safe.
"We, the undersigned sexual assault and domestic violence organizations, oppose anti-transgender initiatives.  These initiatives utilize and perpetuate the myth that protecting transgender people’s access to restrooms and locker rooms endangers the safety or privacy of others. As organizations that care about reducing assault and violence, we favor laws and policies that protect transgender people from discrimination, including in accessing facilities that match the gender they live every day.

States across the country have introduced harmful legislation or initiatives that seek to repeal non-discrimination protections or restrict transgender people’s access to gender-specific facilities like restrooms. Those who are pushing these proposals have claimed that these proposals are necessary for public safety and to prevent sexual violence against women and children. As rape crisis centers, shelters, and other service providers who work each and every day to meet the needs of all survivors and reduce sexual assault and domestic violence throughout society, we speak from experience and expertise when we state that these claims are false."
The document observes that nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender persons have not compromised public safety.
"Nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender people have existed for a long time. Over 200 municipalities and 18 states have nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender people’s access to facilities consistent with the gender they live every day. In some cases, these protections have been in place for decades. These laws have protected people from discrimination without creating harm. None of those jurisdictions have seen a rise in sexual violence or other public safety issues due to nondiscrimination laws. Assaulting another person in a restroom or changing room remains against the law in every single state. We operate and advocate for rape crisis centers and shelters all over the country, including in cities and states with non-discrimination protections for transgender people. Those protections have not weakened public safety or criminal laws, nor have they compromised their enforcement."
The statement reminds readers that transgender people experience violence at much greater rates than the general population, and that discriminatory legislation undermines their safety.
"The efforts to ban transgender people from using public restrooms obscures the fact that all of us, including transgender people, are deeply concerned about safety and privacy in restrooms. Transgender people already experience unconscionably high rates of sexual assault—and forcing them out of facilities consistent with the gender they live every day makes them vulnerable to assault. As advocates committed to ending sexual assault and domestic violence of every kind, we will never support any law or policy that could put anyone at greater risk for assault or harassment.  That is why we are able to strongly support transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination protections—and why we oppose any law that would jeopardize the safety of transgender people by forcing them into restrooms that do not align with the gender they live every day."
If proponents of bathroom bills were serious about protecting the public from sexual predators, they would invest in domestic violence and sexual assault victim service agencies. They would invest in evidence-based prevention programs. They would press for timely testing of rape kits, so that forensic evidence could be processed in time to catch predators before they offend again. They would focus on actual predators instead of demonizing and scapegoating the transgender community. Bathroom bills are little more than transphobic discrimination measures that endanger transgender persons and leave no one safer.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person: Get your own house in order

Love, Joy, Feminism: The Sexual Predators in Evangelicals’ Backyard

The Nation: North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Law Is Not the Way to Keep Women Safe

Huffington Post: Sexual Abuse Survivors Want Conservative Politicians To Knock It Off With ‘Bathroom Predator’ Myth


  1. Insane that this is such a controversy. I enjoyed Frank Bruni's recent take on Ted Cruz's comments: "I’m guessing that Cruz hasn’t met or read much about transgender people. “Grown adult men” is precisely how many transgender men appear — with beards, muscles, pants — and exactly how they’d look to little girls in the women’s rooms that the North Carolina law would command them to use." http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/24/opinion/sunday/tempest-in-a-toilet.html?_r=0

    1. Donna -- Thanks for the link. Cruz probably hasn't met many transgender persons, and he's banking on the hope that his supporters haven't either. If they had, they'd know that transgender people aren't shadowy monsters.

      I'd like to tell transphobes that I've attended events that had all-gender restrooms, and it was fine. I've been in restrooms with transgender people, and it was fine. It's not this horrible thing that they're making it out to be.


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