Arguing Against Gender-Neutral Bathrooms Is Bigots’ Next Big Attempt at Erasing Trans People
Those who have seen Kaya Jones’s Jan. 5 tweet about gender-neutral bathrooms — in which the former Pussycat Doll ranted about their existence — have likely also seen the replies to said tweet.
Jones’s point was that gender-neutral bathrooms are a danger to children for some reason, despite the fact that gender-neutral bathrooms are found in your home, on airplanes and in many workplaces. But her real point was not about the danger to children posed by unisex toilets; instead her point was one the Christian right and anti-LGBTQ fundamentalists have been pushing for a while: There should be no accommodation for trans people in public spaces whatsoever.
How would you feel about your child using this bathroom? pic.twitter.com/W9HSqDUzCx
— Kaya Jones (@KayaJones) January 6, 2019
The debate around access to female spaces being given to trans women has generated much controversy and debate, both in North America and the UK, where campaigns have been launched to stymie any legislative progress that would grant trans people the dignity they are entitled to. Much has been made in the UK of the isolated incident of Karen White, a trans woman and prisoner who was convicted of rape against women and of using her trans status to gain access to female-only spaces. White’s actions are horrific and despicable, but it’s unfair to use her depravity to paint all trans people as potential rapists and sexual predators.
I can’t understand why, in the minds of tabloid editors across the UK, it’s still acceptable to print headlines that dismiss the value of accepting trans people for who they are and attack them en masse.
I suppose the answer may be the same as the reason the Trump administration goes after trans members of the military. They are a minority within a minority without much political purchase or power. Trans people are perhaps, in terms of societal acceptance and social standing, the most marginalized and vulnerable social group and are a litmus test for ultra-conservative elements to see how much of a wedge they can drive between trans people and the rest of the world.
Using the innocence and safety of children is an old but effective tactic when it comes to stirring up fear about queer people.
The same muted and understated homophobia of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the U.S. military and the (now gone) Section 28 in the United Kingdom were both painted as ways for the conservative right to “protect children” and the “traditional family” and “keep people safe.” Except they had the complete opposite effect by driving queer people out of the U.S. military, queer-inclusive education was banned from UK schools (as well as anything that might “promote” homosexuality) and had a deep and lasting impact on the mental and physical well-being of queer people, their families and, yes, their children.
Trans people are no exception and have just become the most recent minority to be targeted because of who they are. Painted by conservative media outlets and TERFs (but who label themselves as “gender-critical feminists”) as a danger to women and children, their willful ignorance and demonization of an entire community of people is no different than racism or homophobia.
I work as a therapist with gender-variant clients from all ages — trans women, trans men, non-binary clients — who have been suffering emotional and mental anguish at the way media outlets discuss trans issues as though they are talking about the weather. Pundits from either ‘side’ of the debate are made to pontificate at length about the merits of what it means to be a trans person, the conversation always quickly moving away from using bathrooms to whether or not trans people even have the right to exist.
Trans people are not a danger to anyone in public bathrooms, as a September 2018 study by the Williams Institute has confirmed, but the rate of suicide among trans youth is still higher than among their cisgender peers, according to a September 2018 report by the University of Arizona in Tucson, with 30% of trans teens and 42% of teens who don’t identify as male or female having attempted to take their own life at least once.
These tragic statistics do not exist in a vacuum, nor do the vast number of acts of violence against trans people around the world.
The religious leaders and TERFs who preach exclusion and intolerance dressed up as “concern for women and children,” the legislators in State Assemblies passing restrictive genital policing laws governing public gender-neutral bathrooms, the people who feel justified in expressing their righteous anger against trans people through murder and violence — all are part of a sinister spectrum that must be erased.