WON’T SOMEONE think of the women and children?
That is the rallying cry for the bigots obsessed with where their transgender neighbors pee. If we allow women assigned male at birth to use women’s restrooms, there’s nothing to stop cis-male predators from claiming to be trans in order to enter a restroom and assault vulnerable women and children. That’s their argument, anyway.
But bathroom bill logic doesn’t operate on the argument above, however. Instead, it plays on the widespread fear that people who are different must be dangerous. This is the same reason your homophobic grandma believes that the queer community “recruits” children, and it’s why your Trumper brother-in-law thinks that every Muslim he sees is a violent terrorist.
See, if this were truly a case of protecting women and children from cisgender, male criminals, we’d see action focused on combating rape culture. Rape kits would be tested, judges and law enforcement would be fired for blaming victims, and a girl’s right to education would not be based on whether or not her collarbone was visible.
Up to this point, we have had exactly zero incidents of cis-male predators claiming to be trans and entering women’s restrooms. That doesn’t mean those perverts don’t attack people in restrooms, but that they don’t need a guise to do so. In states with these bathroom bills, there’s nothing stopping cis-male predators from claiming to be post-op trans men in order to access potential victims, but, again, the premise is unnecessary. Men who want to attack women and children will attack women and children, and — so long as our society allows victims to be blamed for the crimes committed against them — they may do so, largely, with impunity.
Bathroom bills like North Carolina’s House Bill 2 aren’t intended to protect women and children. That’s just the selling point. Instead, they’re designed with the express purpose of discriminating against trans individuals, making their lives more difficult, and diminishing their experiences.
The fact is, cisgender individuals are more of a threat to trans folks’ lives than the other way around. Half of all trans individuals will be sexually abused or assaulted. Transgender women make up half of all people murdered in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, and 72 percent of the victims of those crimes in general. In 2013, 67 percent of anti-LGBTQ homicide victims were trans women of color.
It’s worth mentioning that these numbers are based only on those attacks which are reported as hate crimes. In many cases, trans individuals are misgendered and dead-named by police and news organizations, and the facts about their deaths may only surface long after they are attacked. Even when these hate crimes are acknowledged, the killers may not be justly punished. In 49 states, murderers may use the “trans panic defense” to avoid punishment for killing a trans person.
Here’s the kicker: the people who murder trans women are overwhelmingly cisgender men. Transphobic activists and politicians claim they want to prevent men from going into the women’s room, but they’re willing to force women into the men’s room in order to make that happen.
This isn’t the first time lawmakers have thrown a marginalized group under the bus in the name of protecting white, cisgender women. For decades, the myth of white women’s sexual purity was used to legitimize Jim Crow laws, and it endures in white supremacist circles. In 2015, Charleston shooter Dylann Roof explained himself to his victims by saying, “You rape our women.” Donald Trump’s supporters accepted at face value his generalization of Mexican immigrants as “rapists.”
In both cases, the exact opposite is true. Black men are not more likely than white men to rape white women, and immigrants are not more inclined than U.S.-born citizens to commit crimes. Only 10 percent of sexual assaults are interracial, and more than half of all rapes are committed by white men. Likewise, “[t]here’s no evidence that immigrants are either more or less likely to commit crimes than anyone else in the population,” according to the right-wing Center for Immigration Studies.
Discriminatory laws don’t just target men of color. As Cosmo points out, “American men have a pretty rich tradition of passing laws meant to protect women — but that end up controlling them or limiting their rights instead.” Coverture, jury duty, and labor laws were passed under the guise of protecting women, but did nothing of the sort, and even left out women of color:
Cannery workers, generally immigrant women, were routinely exempted from night work restrictions; domestic servants, many of them African-American, and particularly vulnerable to exploitation, did not benefit from protection.
Transphobic bathroom bills are another opportunistic endeavor to use the supposed innocence and vulnerability of white women as an excuse to discriminate. But I, as a white woman, am not an excuse for bigotry. I don’t need protection from my trans sisters. Instead, like them, I need protection from cishet white men with anger issues.