Criminalising the ‘T’

Just as the segregation of blacks and whites was never about drinking fountains, the events that are happening in North Carolina, and elsewhere in the United States, is not about bathrooms.

It is not even about what is, or is not, in someone’s pants.

It’s about fear. It’s about hatred. It’s about taking a group of people and making them less than human.

That’s what this is about.

There’s a meme going around social media, depicting the first FTM bodybuilding champion, with the caption “I can’t wait to see what happens when someone who looks like him walks into the ladies room.” Many people will simply chuckle, finding humour about having a man in a women’s restroom. However, the implications are far darker than most understand.

We live in a country where children are being shot and killed because they have a toy gun, simply because they are black. We live in a society where a suspected black criminal is shot multiple times, and where a white man who commits mass murder is taken into custody in handcuffs and given a burger, where being black and wearing a hoodie automatically makes you a “thug”, but where being white and opening fire on a large group of people makes you “disturbed”. Knowing this, what do you supposed would happen if a black, buff, passing, trans man was found in the ladies room?

The ignorance that this country is displaying is mind-blowing. Our politicians simply do not think things through. They rely on fear tactics, making the transgender community out to be a bunch of pedophiles, sex offenders, and deviants. They tell you that sexual predators will pretend to be a trans person, in order to gain access to women’s restrooms. They tell you that a law like this protects your children. Which, of course, makes perfect sense, because, you know, children are never sexually assaulted anywhere but the bathroom, and certainly never in their own homes, at school, or at church, and certainly never by anyone who isn’t either transgender or someone pretending to be transgender.

Here’s the problem with such an ignorant, fear-based, narrow-minded law… In their rush to make sure VAGINAS ONLY use the women’s room, they’ve gone and alienated mothers with children who happen to be little boys, fathers with children who happen to be little girls, adults with a family member, partner, child, who is physically disabled, and needs assistance, etc etc etc. As great an idea as it would be, not every business has a family restroom. So what are these people supposed to do? “Excuse me ma’am, I’m a single dad, and my toddler daughter here needs to pee. I can’t take her in with me, so would you be so kind as to take my daughter in with you?” “Excuse me sir, my elderly father needs assistance in the restroom. Can you bring him in with you, and please make sure you wipe him well, otherwise he’ll get a rash.” I mean, seriously.

When I’m in the restroom, and I go into a stall, my vagina does not begin to sing the song of my people when I drop my drawers. Unless you decide to sneak a peak under the door (and if you do, then really, who should NOT be allowed into the bathroom?!) you wouldn’t know whether I had a penis, a vagina, or fucking tentacles in my boxer briefs. At no point does a pre-op trans woman have to put a muzzle on her penis to stop it from striking up a conversation with the vagina in the stall next to her. And that’s just talking about trans* folk who are pre-op! If I were a post-bottom surgery trans man, and I went into the ladies restroom, and someone called the cops because “there’s a man in here”, at first frisk, they’d find a man with all the “right” bits. At which time I’d probably be thrown to the ground and hauled out of there in cuffs, and branded a pervert. Only after digging up my ORIGINAL birth certificate would I be exonerated, with them saying, “Sorry… we thought you were a dude.” Well, DUH! That’s because… spoiler alert… I AM a dude.

Before transitioning, I would often get the double take at work when coming out of the restroom, and running into a woman coming in. They’d look at me, apologise, back out, then look at me again, look at the sign on the door, then look at me again. And that was BEFORE facial hair. How uncomfortable do you think those cisgender women at work would be to see me, as I am now, coming out of a stall, or coming into the bathroom while they’re standing at the mirror?

Seriously. We just need to pee. Public restrooms are already a source of major anxiety in the trans* community. Many just avoid using the restroom away from home, period. Why? Because WE fear for OUR safety. Because historically, we have been the VICTIM of violence far more often than we have perpetuated it. Like the trans woman who was just sexually assaulted in the bathroom at… get this… THE STONEWALL INN of all places! Is there nowhere we are safe?! The trans community started the movement, the trans community has fought for marriage equality, we have fought for the rights of cisgender gays and lesbians for decades. But now that marriage equality is a thing, the lesbians and gays have gone silent, while we continue to fight for our very right to exist. Sure, you may share a meme. You may share an article about one of the dozens of trans women murdered with “RIP” and a crying emoji. But what are you DOING? We fought for you, when will you begin to fight for us?!

All these bathroom bills are going to succeed in doing is criminalising the transgender community. My wanting to use the restroom that best fits my identity does not make me a criminal. I don’t give a flying fuck if the person in the stall next to me has a penis, a vagina, or a mackerel in their pants. I don’t care if the person at the urinal was born with their penis, had it surgically attached last Christmas, or chooses to use a silicone prosthetic. It’s none of my damn business, and it’s none of yours either. I promise you, I PROMISE YOU, that you have already shared a bathroom with a transgender person. Multiple times. And you survived. Not only did you survive, but you went about your day none the wiser. You were not molested. You were not accosted. You probably weren’t even spoken to.

The transgender community, whether we identify as trans, trans*, queer, non-binary, men, women, something in between, or neither, are not criminals. At least not when it comes to needing to pee. We fear for our safety in restrooms far more than you will ever need to fear for yours when we’re there. What I have in my pants is no one’s business but mine, my doctor’s, and my partners. What you have in your pants is none of my damn business. America needs to stop trying to repeat history. It didn’t go well then, and it will not go well now. The transgender community will not become the scapegoat for all things the politicians believe is wrong with this country, we will not become the new, passive, target for all your hate, and bigotry.

We sure as hell will NOT go gentle into that good night.

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