On Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s administration rescinded a guidance allowing transgender students to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity in public schools. While the Obama era guidance clarified that trans students are federally protected from sex discrimination under Title IX, the Trump administration said that it wants to leave LGBTQ rights to the states. Rescinding the guidance opens the door to discrimination against trans students at this level, and sends the message that the government will not stand up for the nation’s most vulnerable kids.
A common claim that opponents of such protections for trans students make is that allowing transgender people into bathrooms endangers cisgender women and girls. In his much discussed appearance on “Real Time,” alt-right former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos told host Bill Maher that he “makes no apologies for protecting women and children from men who are confused about their sexual identity.” This argument perpetuates the myth that trans people are predators, when they are far more likely to face violence and harassment in restrooms at the hands of cis people.
Yet, Yiannopoulos’s line is a common refrain that continues to be used by those who care little about real, not mythical, violence against women. When walking back LGBTQ protections or promoting so-called “bathroom bills,” proponents of such legislation have said that allowing trans people to use the appropriate restroom means men can “enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls,” and that businesses that allow trans people to use the appropriate restroom pose “a danger to wives and daughters.”
But invoking women’s safety while ignoring real violence faced by women and girls on college campuses, on the street and within their own homes is nothing more than a veil for hate. This so-called protection is a justification for transphobia — and as cisgender women, we’re done being your excuse.
“To those who would use my body and the bodies of women like me as an excuse for violence and discrimination: It stops today.”
There are no recorded cases of transgender people harming anyone in the bathroom. In fact, trans people are far more likely to encounter violence and harassment themselves. In 2016 alone, at least 27 transgender people were murdered, the majority being transgender women of color. A whopping 41 percent of transgender people will attempt suicide in their lifetimes, compared with just 4.6 percent of the general public, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute. On top of that, trans women encounter structural sexism just as cis women do. Perpetuating the lie that transgender people are predators just feeds into this discrimination. And we cis women never asked for this kind of “protection” to begin with.
Conservatives are right that the safety of women and girls is at risk, but certainly not because of trans people. One in five women will be raped in her life, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and nearly 30 percent of women worldwide will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization. Trans people face even more staggering rates of these types of violence. One in two trans people will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to the Office for Victims of Crime. Meanwhile, the cis men who commit sexual assault ― if they face consequences at all ― face shockingly light sentences, like Brock Turner who served just three months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.
“The safety of women and girls is at risk, but certainly not because of trans people.”
If opponents of trans protections sincerely cared about the safety of women and girls, they’d care about ending rape culture. They’d care about holding President Trump accountable for more than 15 allegations of sexual assault and harassment against women. And they wouldn’t paternalistically tell us who we ought to fear when we proudly count trans and queer people as part of our communities.
Rescinding the Obama administration’s guidance and rejecting similar protections is simply an act of hate against transgender people. To those who would use my body and the bodies of women like me as an excuse for violence and discrimination: It stops today.