Yesterday, Time magazine published an article written by Judy Shepard — mother of 1998 gaybashing victim Matthew Shepard and founder and president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation opposing anti-LGBTQ hatred. In her article, Shepard compared contemporary anti-LGBTQ legislation to early 20th century Jim Crow laws that racially discriminated against black Americans.
Specifically, she calls out Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Southern Poverty Law Center-certified anti-LGBTQ hate group that has authored many of the transphobic “bathroom bills” popping up in U.S. state legislatures. In 2014, an ADF lawyer called Matthew Shepard’s murder “a hoax fabricated to advance the ‘homosexual agenda.'”
Recently, the ADF has been suing schools with policies allowing transgender students to use the locker rooms and bathrooms matching their gender identity. Ostensibly, some of these lawsuits are filed on behalf of students who feel uncomfortable or unsafe undressing in front of transgender students (even though transgender students are for more likely to be the victims of harassment or sexual assault than their cisgender peers).
Shepard’s entire Time article is worth a read, but here’s the powderkeg:
The same strategies that were employed did during segregation era — the strategy of selecting white people who “became ill” or “felt uncomfortable” sharing a water fountain with their black neighbors. We already know how this will play out over the course of history. It was never about water fountains, and it’s not about restrooms or locker rooms now. It is a misguided attempt to remind people that in their world view the trans community is not worthy of equal treatment under the law.
While it’s problematic and inaccurate to equate racism and queerphobia (black queers, for instance, face uniquely intersecting forms of discrimination which multiply their hardships beyond homophobia alone), Shepard is right insofar as anti-trans bathroom bills have nothing to do with promoting social harmony or protecting privacy.
Cisgender students aren’t actually harmed by trans-inclusive school policies: Schools with trans-inclusive facilities have reported zero instances of harassment or violence by transgender students. Furthermore, excluding trans students has the effect of alienating them and increasing the likelihood of their suicide. Conversely, giving trans students strong support networks reduces their chance of suicide by up to 82%.
No anti-trans opponents on TV news programs have ever answered the question about which bathroom trans-women should use because their answer (the men’s room) is patently absurd. The truth is that transphobes don’t want transgender people using any restrooms because they don’t want trans people to even exist, not anymore than racists wanted black people to exist — they’d just rather not see them in public at all.
Luckily, the ADF won’t win its ideological battle quite so easily. Even in conservative southern states, businesses have banded together to oppose anti-LGBTQ legislation, threatening to boycott the state if they dare pass any anti-trans bathroom bills. This effectively scuttled an anti-trans bill in Texas after lawmakers failed to pursue it beyond the house vote.
Also, despite the fact that current U.S. President Donald Trump tried to torpedo transgender student access to public school bathrooms and locker rooms earlier this year, Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act still requires schools to provide equal access to public school facilities regardless of gender. Many courts agree that Title IX protects trans facility access, and it would take a Supreme Court ruling or a federal legislative repeal to undo it.