Panic About Transgender People In Bathrooms Echoes Logic On Racial Segregation

Daughters and wives must be saved, apparently.
Why is this an issue.
Why is this an issue.

WASHINGTON -- We've hit a point in the political cycle where Republicans are trying to fuel a hysteria over transgender people going to the bathroom.

They warn that transgender women -- people who were assigned male at birth but who identify their gender as female -- are, somehow, predators who will harass your wives and daughters when they go to use the loo. Think of the children, say these Republicans, and the likelihood that creepy perverts will follow them into public restrooms.

That logic is absurd -- being transgender has nothing to do with being a sexual predator preying on children in bathrooms (plenty of cisgender men have that covered) -- but it's not new. It goes back decades, and it has been used to discriminate against an entirely different group of people: African-Americans.

Jump back to 1961, for example, to a report that the Louisiana State Advisory Committee issued to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. It details the chaos of desegregation in the state, and highlights what critics at the time were saying about what it meant for the parents of white girls.

"Don't wait for your daughters to be raped by these Congolese," Leander Perez, a leader of the White Citizens' Council of Louisiana, told a crowd of 5,000 gathered at a meeting in New Orleans. "Do something about it now."

A couple of years later, Byron De La Beckwith, a Ku Klux Klan member who assassinated civil rights activist Medgar Evers, wrote to the National Rifle Association that white people needed to take drastic measures to keep their families safe because of desegregation.

"For the next fifteen years we here in Mississippi are going to have to do a lot of shooting to protect our wives, children, and ourselves from bad negroes," Beckwith wrote, according to For Us, The Living, a book by Evers' wife.

Compare that to the way Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who was running for president until recently, warns the public about transgender women using women's bathrooms.

"There is no greater evil than predators," he said at a campaign event in April. "If the law says that any man, if he chooses, can enter a women's restroom, a little girl's restroom, and stay there, and he cannot be removed because he simply says at that moment he feels like a woman, you're opening the door for predators."

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tried to get a bump in the polls by saying scary things about transgender people sharing bathrooms wi
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tried to get a bump in the polls by saying scary things about transgender people sharing bathrooms with your kids. It didn't work.

Cruz made demonizing transgender people a focal point in the waning days of his presidential campaign. He released an ad last month with the sole purpose of terrifying people about transgender women being in women's bathrooms.

"Should a grown man pretending to be a woman be allowed to use the women's restroom?" read words across the screen. "The same restroom used by your daughter? Your wife? It's not appropriate. It's not safe."

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) went as far as signing a law this year to ban transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. He, too, has issued warnings about transgender people trying to jump into showers with kids.

"Would you want a man to walk into your daughter's shower and legally be able to do that because mentally they think they are of the other gender?" McCrory said in March.

Texas' lieutenant governorDan Patrick (R), said a couple of weeks ago that it's not safe for any female to have a transgender woman peeing in a stall next to them.

"This issue is plain and simple: we should not allow men into women’s restrooms," Patrick said. "I certainly don’t want a man going into a bathroom or locker room with my mom, my wife, my daughter or my granddaughter."

Compare those sentiments to the words of the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who in 1950 warned white people to "wake up" and see the ill effects of desegregation on America.

"White people, wake up before it is too late," he said. "Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife, and your daughters, in your mills and factories?"

A black and white student get acquainted on their first day together at a desegregated school in 1969. Hide your white daught
A black and white student get acquainted on their first day together at a desegregated school in 1969. Hide your white daughters!

A deeper dig shows that people have been using this tactic to discriminate against black people for more than 100 years, at least.

An 1890 editorial in The New Orleans Times-Democrat lambasts the Louisiana legislature for failing to pass a bill to create separate train cars for black and white people, and states that a white man "would be horrified at the idea of his wife or daughter" seated next to a black man. In 1898, a North Carolina newspaper ran a poem urging proud white people to defend the "spotless virtue" of their wives and daughters from black men.

"I will die on this issue politically," Texas Rep. Matt Shaheen (R) declared. "I am going to bat for my wife and daughters."

He said that two weeks ago, and he was talking about transgender people going to the bathroom.

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