As a transgender woman, I’m beyond sick and tired of having to hear and talk about restrooms. I think we’re all sick and tired of it to be honest, but It’s one thing when all you have to do is hear about it. It’s really quite another when you also happen to be one of the 70 percent of trans people who’ve actually been sexually harassed or even assaulted in a public restroom simply for having to pee while trans, only to have those lived experiences regularly erased by individuals who benefit from the privilege of not having to face a similar risk. It’s erasive, it’s marginalizing, and it’s exactly the kind of perspective I was forced to endure when my attention was recently brought to an article in the New York Times by Judith Shulevitz, which posed the rather loaded question “Is it Time to Desegregate the Sexes?”
Even that title alone came as my first red flag to brace myself for the veritable rabbit-hole of anti-trans rhetoric I was about to dive into;
The piece itself came off thinly guised as a “radical” feminist perspective, but that facade quickly collapsed under a barrage of citations from the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), one of two openly anti-trans organizations the author seems to rely on for the bulk of her argument, all while rather suspiciously failing to accurately describe any of them as such...
Let’s be honest, there’s nothing radical about hating trans people.
In an institutionally cissexist society (one which favors and grants privilege to those individuals who are not trans), It’s the norm; and so, for all of the piece’s rather impressive length, I wasn’t honestly surprised when I couldn’t seem to find a single sentence which brought anything new to the table. While focus of her argument does seem to have shifted just a few feet from the restroom to the locker room, all in all, it still relies on the same deceptive, and frankly misogynist, exclusionary tactics we intersectional feminists have come to recognize as the hallmarks of nothing less than an exclusionary reactionary (see TERF) attempting to manipulate her own internalized misogyny in order to derail a conversation which could otherwise help bring an end to the oppression faced by a specific group of women she still holds privilege over in spite of the other valid experiences of oppression she may still face as a woman.
As an abuse survivor, I found the tone of her arguments eerily reminiscent of the subtle gaslighting I’ve had to endure myself at the hands of my abusers. I was especially concerned by her characterization of recent federal government clarifications to include trans protections as though they’d somehow occurred “by fiat, without public debate,” in spite of the fact that this has literally been one of the most hotly debated topics in the nation for quite some time, now. In yet another familiar tactic, she also seems to feign neutrality while simultaneously brushing off a perspective which even she is forced to admit has scientific basis: That gender and even sex (Yes, those are two separate things) may be less biologically rigid or simple than society might currently care to admit, and that perhaps it is time to rethink the way we discuss gender and sex based oppression and privileges as though they represented some kind of dichotomy, when the reality is that it’s much more complex than that.
In a similarly false dichotomy, Shulevitz seems to suggest that the uphill battle for trans rights is somehow even at odds with those self-same Title IX protections we have only recently been granted inclusion under, and that somehow the only solution is to choose between the two equally immature and unnecessary options of either sacrificing bodily privacy for everyone, or tearing everything down and starting over, but when I reached out to my good friend and Regional Director of the Northwest Florida ACLU, Sara Latshaw for a statement, she unsurprisingly assured me that this is not the case. As she put it:
“Title IX has long prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, and federal courts have recognized that this includes protections for transgender students, including in single-sex spaces and activities. This is about girls and women entering spaces for girls and women.”
As a legal professional, self-proclaimed feminist, and cisgender (not trans) woman herself with an established track record in a career of fighting for women’s rights, I’d trust Sara to know what she’s talking about when she reminds us that “Fears about sharing the restroom with transgender people are unfounded,” long before I’d trust Shulevitz given her unapolagetic references to another anti-LGBT hate group the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). It’s an odd group for anyone claiming a feminist perspective to cite, given their stance on reproductive rights and other feminist issues. Regardless, as Sara has affirmed, and as I’ve already gone to great lengths to establish myself several times in my previous articles and YouTube videos, and even gone to City Hall to argue, transgender women are nothing to actually fear. As a matter of fact, You’re literally more likely to be accosted in a restroom by a United States Senator than by a transgender woman.
Not only are trans people not sexual predators, but as Sara went on to explain, “It’s already illegal to enter a bathroom with the intention of harming someone,” anyway. Existing laws will still protect both cis and trans women alike from the already unlikely scenario of a male predator disguising himself to enter a women’s space in what could only be accurately described as the stuff of Scooby-Doo episodes, not to mention one of the most ludicrous and inadvisable schemes a criminal wishing to escape notice and avoid capture could ever hatch.
It’s also literally never happened. As Sara was also quick to point out, “Many states and cities – 17 states and more than 200 cities across the country – have [already] enacted laws to end discrimination against [LGBT People]” and In each case, she notes, citing reports by local authorities, that “There is no evidence that this has resulted in [any] increased violence or other public safety incidents.” We’ve been down this road in the locker room as well, and that doesn’t lead to the almost Orwellian nightmare world Shulevitz suggests either, in which trans and cis students are forced to “strip” in front of one another, as though that wouldn’t already constitute sexual harassment on behalf of the school system regardless of the gender of the students involved, and at some level, even she seems to grasp that.
Even when referencing a current Minnesota lawsuit being pursued by the openly transphobic ADF with regards to a supposed locker room “incident,” she seems forced to admit that the plaintiff’s “concerns” over a trans girl literally just dancing along to a popular song, as any other girl would, could easily be read as nothing more than “an overwrought attack on a student who did nothing more than act like a typical girl,” which is exactly what they represent.
I’m going to be blunt, It’s time for society to get over their hangups with trans people.
Some girls are born with penises, and we can and should get over it. Some boys are born with vaginas. We can get over that too. Some people identify as both, or neither of the genders western society currently acknowledges under the western gender binary construct, or somewhere in between, or which has no equivalent in the dominant white social gender construct, and we all need to be included in this conversation so that we can stand united with our “cis-sters,” if you’ll forgive the well-intended pun, in the ongoing battle for gender equality.
We’re all impacted by institutionalized misogyny, and we will never overcome it if we continue to stand divided in the way that this article attempts to divide us against one another, pretending to care about trans people just enough to not actually be convincing with the left hand, while playing a dangerous devil’s advocate of cleverly disguised hatred with the right.
I am a feminist, specifically a third wave, intersectional feminist. My siblings’ struggles are my struggle, and to be honest, no; I don’t feel like we can solve them by perpetuating a form of sex-segregation which not only excludes trans people, but which also, believe it or not, continues to enable institutionalized misogyny against cis women as well.
As Terry Kogan, a law professor at the University of Utah, who has done extensive research on the history of sex segregations in restrooms had to say to TIME in an interview earlier this year, the idea that “Bathrooms are separated by sex because [of] basic biological differences,” between the sexes is, in his words “completely wrong.”
In that interview, as well as another with the Guardian, He also debunks current feigned concerns for bodily privacy as a “total red herring,” while simultaneously laying out the history of how the advent of sex-segregated restrooms, along with all of the similarly sex-segregated spaces we also once had along with them were never intended as a means of protecting women from sexual violence, but instead came about as the product of a misogynist societal belief that women were inherently more psychiatrically unstable than men and required separate environments which could be designed to mimic the comforts of home in order to even survive as we began to leave a purely domestic role for the workplace and other public spaces unaccompanied on a more regular basis at the turn of the century.
Those same ideas continued to perpetuate misogyny as policymakers began encoding them in the form of laws aimed at “protecting” what was believed at the time to also literally be the physically “weaker” sex, (a pseudoscientific relic which has since been thoroughly debunked as an attack against the emerging women’s rights movement of the time,) from other such “dangers” they may face in the workplace. To this day, we are still left with a hotly debated wage gap which seems to have merely taken the place of similarly sexist laws our nation once held requiring special limited work hours, and rest requirements specifically for us “weak,” little women, along with other laws which even went so far as to dictate which careers were and were not acceptable for anyone but cis men.
As Kogan explains, in his interview with the Guardian, all of this sex-segregation originated as a product of the Victorian era, a period so well known for it’s misogynist values, which placed a great emphasis on what was once viewed as a woman’s “responsibility” to cover herself in order to prevent cis men’s seemingly uncontrollable sexual urges. According to Kogan, along with other experts such as York University’s Sheila Cavanaugh, it was that plethora of misogynist attitudes and early examples of workplace discrimination, along with social anxieties over the widespread cholera outbreaks of the time which led directly to the same sex-segregated restrooms we somehow still have today.
it’s just one more clear example in a long list of tactics patriarchy continues to employ in order to enable the same rape culture we should be fighting to overcome, not making accommodations for.
It engenders a subtle, but unmistakable demand that we should be the one’s to carry on the work of building walls to exclude women from what once were, and in some places are once again becoming communal spaces, free of misogynist intimidation, instead of teaching men not to violate women’s privacy and bodies so that we can leave the last remnants of that misogynist segregation behind once and for all.
Try that on for a “radical” feminist perspective.
Like it or not, gender-inclusive facilities already seem to be proving themselves as an adequate solution to the all this “bathroom bullshit” in every case that they’ve been implemented so far, anyway. It’s almost tempting to say that society is finally becoming mature enough to handle that without a need for the “potty police,” but given that there are still some trans-exclusionary, individuals who still feel the need for special, segregated spaces, along with the fact that violence against trans people is still a very real issue perhaps it would be easiest to simply switch from a binary system of men’s and women’s spaces to a binary system of trans inclusive spaces, and non-trans-inclusive spaces instead. One of those spaces would obviously have to be itself subdivided into sex-segregated spaces, but given the declining popularity of anti-trans sentiments in mainstream feminism, and arguably, perhaps even somewhat in mainstream societal attitudes as a whole, they probably won’t need much more space than that anyway.
Not to mention that while gender, sex, and yes, even religion are protected characteristics under most federal non-discrimination policies, hatred is not, and that’s really what this all boils down to; The attitude, that transgender people somehow just don’t deserve the same basic fundamental human rights, respect, and even just plain kindness and decency that all cis people are entitled to just for being cis. Let’s face it, no one has ever been denied any form of privilege on the basis of not being trans, and while it’s really not fair to discriminate against anyone, I do still believe in an exclusionary individual’s right to choose to alienate themselves in their own segregated space if it helps the rest of society to advance the cause for true social justice and equality without their stubbornness to hold us back.
I hope that’e enough to put this whole argument to rest, but just in case anyone’s still uncomfortable, I invite you to take a look at my most recent, 2 minute video, which shows in detail exactly what happens when transgender people are allowed to make use of public facilities, almost as though we actually were the completely ordinary, boring people none of us actually wishes we could pretend we were.
I hope you’ll find it eye-opening, and even though I know I probably won’t get my wish any time soon, I really hope that this is the last time I’ll ever have to say or hear anything with regards to this whole distraction. The trans community needs to be able to move past it so that we can continue with our other struggles for equal access to things like employment, housing, and even medical treatment. With November right around the corner, It’s also my hope that maybe, one day, if we’re lucky, some of us may even live to see an end to the overwhelming degree of physical violence we also face, which is in and of itself already so common as to have necessitated the establishment of an annual worldwide Transgender Day of Remembrance just to honor the lives we continue to lose to institutionalized hatred each year.
As ACLU Lawyer, and trans rights advocate Chase Strangio so very poignantly outlines out in his own recent response in the Medium,
“Trans People’s Lives are jeopardized by [this] latest trend of “think pieces” on trans issues,"
and while that may be difficult to swallow, he’s absolutely right.
The overwhelming epidemic of violence and murders faced by trans people, especially as it’s uniquely faced by trans women of color, is really just one more manifestation of the exact same attitudes Shulevitz herself perpetuates in her article by means of her casual use of cissexist terms such as “girl-born-girls” to describe cis women, while she also sees fit to describe other girls’ bodies as those of “boys” just for happening to have born with a penis, which doesn’t actually change the fact that it’s still literally a girl’s body if a girl owns it, and It’s not okay to just exclude that group of women to the point that we are literally being murdered on a regular basis just for being different.
Furthermore, framing the conversation around our issues as though they amounted to nothing more than an intellectual debate, with no real consequences for those of us who are left to actually live with those consequences, has devastating ramifications for a community, which already faces that overwhelming extent of violence and oppression, seemingly for even daring to exist in a world which attempts to deny that trans people are real, and valid and deserve equal access to every protection cisgender people already enjoy the benefits of.
Enough is Enough. We just need to pee.
Let’s please move on now. I really need to “go.”
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