6 arguments for bathroom equality

The question of whether transgender people should be allowed to pee here instead of there is becoming increasingly heated, because America.


It’s actually understandable that some women would have concerns. However, it’s pretty clear that the facts support transgender equality. For example:

1. No assaults have been linked to bathroom equality

At least 15 states and numerous municipalities allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice and, despite concerted efforts to find horror stories, there has not been a single reported case where a transgender person exploited a permissive bathroom law to attack a woman.

Unfortunately, opponents of transgender equality – including lawmakers arguing for restrictive bathroom bills and conservative media outlets – keep digging up cases that have nothing to do with bathroom laws. These include cases where women were groomed and abused for years by men who wear women’s clothing (it isn’t always clear if these people are actually transgender) and cases that we’re aware of because the perpetrator was arrested – in other words, where the perpetrator was clearly willing to break a law, including any law against non-cis women in the women’s room.


Do you recognize this person? This is a screen grab from a notorious YouTube video that made the rounds warning women about predatory “men in women’s clothing.” The person in this shot? Canadian. And arrested.

Restricting bathroom access hasn’t saved a single women, but it’s literally killing teenagers – and most women don’t even say they want it.

2. Women still have to pee with men

Cis women opposed to bathroom equality focus so much on transgender women (women born men) that they seem to forget all about their counterparts – transgender men (men born women).

This awesome dude sent a tongue in cheek wakeup call to lawmakers that all women should pay attention to:


How important is this? Well, research shows that transgender men actually, on average, become more violent and criminal as they go from being women to men. (This doesn’t mean transgender people are dangerous, of course; transgender men simply become as violent and criminal as cis men.)

Meanwhile, transgender women (born male) actually become less violent – they become more like women. Who would have guessed?

3. The linguistic argument

Quick: When you get up to relieve yourself at a restaurant, do you head for the males’ and females’ room or the men’s and women’s room?

You go to the men’s and women’s room, and that’s because bathrooms have historically been separated by gender, not sex.

There are varying definitions that can get political, but basically sex has to do with people’s biology and male or female sex organs. It’s what we’re born with. Gender is more abstract – different people define it as “brain sex,” people’s felt sense of who they are or who people are culturally conditioned to be (is a young person given Barbies or GI Joes?).

Transgender people are born with a male or female sex and decide that sex isn’t right. So a transgender person born a girl would be boy would be born into the male sex; he would then transition into being a man. Likewise, a person born a boy would transition from being a male to a woman.

Man and woman = Men’s Room and Women’s Room. Linguistically and culturally, transgender people should be able to choose the bathroom matching their assumed genders.

4. Women don’t want transgender people banned as much as you think

To hear some talk about it, anybody who supports bathroom equality hates women and wants them to get hurt. However, women are more supportive of men when it comes to letting transgender people choose their bathroom. Only 35% of women oppose allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their chosen gender compared with 41% of men (25% of people are unsure about this, so there’s lots of room for education). Older people of all genders are more likely to oppose bathroom equality with younger people being more likely to support it.

In this way the numbers are reminiscent of polling numbers about support for gay marriage; they suggest demographics make it inevitable bathroom equality will happen.

The opponents of bathroom equality are very, very noisy though. They include fake medical groups in an unholy alliance with social conservatives and a particular subgroup of feminist known by their critics as Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs). To most feminists TERFs are like that one aunt you’re obligated to invite for Thanksgiving; they’re too loud to ignore but too mean to sit next to at the table.

So the next time you’re talking to someone who opposes bathroom equality, try to get a sense of whether there’s any ideology behind their position.

5. “Separate but equal” has already been done

Some people are suggesting a seemingly reasonable compromise of building separate bathrooms for transgender people. I wouldn’t compare that idea to segregated bathrooms in the Jim Crow South, but I’d say it raises some of the same concerns. (OK, so I am comparing them.)

The “separate but equal” bathrooms created for black people were, of course, anything but equal. Given the current social climate, it’s obvious that there would be states, municipalities, companies and facilities that would create unsanitary, unsafe and inaccessible bathrooms for transgender people.

Of course, separate but equal bathrooms also send a powerful message: your own people are willing to spend millions of dollars specifically to exclude you. I think a narrative from a black woman who survived segregation hints at what some of the psychological impact might be:

As we grew, we noticed the separate drinking fountains, restrooms and waiting areas. The white ones were always cleaner and nicer than the colored… My aunt, who was white, begged the white clerk to allow her to take the little girl to the bathroom, but he refused, and she wet her pants. My face was hardened against racism from that moment, and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., came like a hero to us all, black and white…
-Anonymous, from Austin, TX, as told to American Radio Works

Enough said, maybe.

6. Transgender people need this more than we do

At this point I hope most of us are familiar with the shocking rates of violence, exclusion, unemployment, suicidal ideation and shame endured by transgender people. They need people telling them what bathroom to use like… well, like my favorite restaurant needs a third bathroom.

For transgender people, using the bathroom of their birth sex, which they don’t identify with, can mean getting mocked or beaten. By telling transgender people they’re not allowed to choose the right bathroom we’re not only telling them we think they’re dangerous predators – we’re also, as a society, collectively rejecting the identity that they’ve endured so much pain to establish.

Small wonder that bathroom inequality has been linked to increased suicide rates among transgender teenagers. A majority of tansgender people of all ages report they’ve experienced problems because they weren’t comfortable using a bathroom – consequences ranging from dehydration to job loss.

Restricting bathroom access hasn’t saved a single women, but it’s literally killing teenagers – and most women don’t even say they want it.

If we can’t get this policy decision right we’re screwed on the tough ones.

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