The Great Public Restroom Debate
Amid a storm of “bathroom bills” and public opinions on who can use what toilet, I want to take a deep dive into what’s really at the heart of this issue: transphobia.
Here’s a sentence I don’t think any of us ever expected to have to write: many people in this country are very concerned about where folks they do not know are peeing and pooping.
This debacle has been deemed by the media as the “transgender bathroom debate,” or some predictable variation of that. It all centers on the concept of gender-neutral bathrooms, which for some is a concept as terrifying as the nuclear holocaust.
A gender-neutral bathroom is just what it sounds like: instead of labelling the doors with “male” and “female,” the bathrooms remain unlabeled and are usable by anyone of any gender identity, which for transgender people takes the stress and fear out of deciding which bathroom to use when the gender they present externally may not match with the societal definition of the bathroom they are expected to use.
Now, I know this is completely and utterly horrifying. No labels on bathroom doors? What will we do? How will we know which toilet to pee in? What if we accidentally pee in a toilet that was used by someone of a different gender than us? How will we keep from crying as we poop in a toilet that doesn't have a gender identity and instead is just a piece of cold porcelain?
It’s almost too difficult to think about… until you realize that every home restroom you have ever used is gender-neutral. When you poop at your own home, you are participating in the horrifying action of using a gender-neutral restroom - and you may not have even realized that until you read this! But, don’t worry, I am here with a PSA: all of us have used gender-neutral restrooms before, and all of us somehow survived.
Some of you may be reading this and thinking I’m not concerned about sharing the toilets, I’m concerned about who is in the restroom with me. As much as I would like to validate your inherently transphobic arguments, I’m afraid I’m here to do quite the opposite. You see, a label on a bathroom door is never going to stop someone from walking into the restroom in question.
One of the biggest things I’ve seen people concerned about with gender-neutral restrooms is the supposed safety of their children, whom they seem to think are going to be raped by transgender people in restrooms if labels are taken off the doors. As sad as it is to say this, labels on a door do not stop rapists, or kidnappers, or murderers, or any other person who is intent upon committing a crime. Whether or not that label is on that restroom door, a person who wants to enter that restroom and rape someone is going to enter that restroom and rape someone.
If you are concerned specifically about a transgender person entering a restroom and raping your child when labels are taken off the doors, then you are transphobic. If you view transgender women as “men in disguise” with ill intentions, then you are ignorant.
Transgender women are women, transgender men are men, and non-binary people are non-binary - and, newsflash, none of those identities have anything to do with you or your restroom preferences. Those identities, in fact, have nothing to do with you at all. You really have no right to an opinion on who you think these people are and how they live their lives, including where they use the restroom.
There is absolutely no evidence to support the fact that transgender people are more likely to sexually assault cisgender people in public restrooms than anyone else. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: transgender people are much more often the victims of violence in public restrooms at the hands of cisgender people than the other way around. It’s more dangerous to be a transgender person in the United States than it is to identify any other way.
So let’s call the uproar over gender-neutral restrooms and “bathroom bills” what it is: moral outrage steeped in transphobia. There is no reason to pass legislation limiting what restrooms people can use, nor is there any reason why all restrooms couldn’t be gender-neutral, other than the fact that some people feel the need to push their religious and moral beliefs onto others.
In doing so, these right-leaning outrage politicians are actively making public spaces less safe for transgender individuals. As this conversation continues to leak into the public and legal sphere, more and more people are brainwashed into thinking they and/or their families are at risk of being assaulted by transgender individuals, which in turn heightens transphobia across the board and makes it scarier and scarier for a transgender person to even walk down the street.
Using politics and legislation to “other” certain communities and sow fear in the minds of the easily-influenced is nothing new, but it continues to be extremely dangerous. The people who are fighting for bathroom bills and perpetuating these unhealthy and false stereotypes against transgender people are actively promoting violence against these people and, ultimately, enabling higher murder rates from hate crimes.
I’ve said it before on this blog and I will say it again - much of the racism, homophobia, and transphobia in the world comes down to the difference between letting people be who they are while minding your own business and actively pushing your beliefs and morals onto other people.
I urge you to think about how the way you speak and the ideas you share may have more of an impact on actual human lives than you think they do when you share a post on Facebook or have a conversation over coffee. No thought or action is completely isolated.
Maybe you can think about this the next time you’re sitting on the toilet in a gender-neutral restroom, safely and contentedly minding your own business in your stall and not caring who is in the stall next to you.
A toilet is a toilet, folks. Let’s not make it into something more, especially when lives are at stake. Live and let live.
This post was brought to you by Selfish by Future and Rihanna, because I think we could all be a little less selfish at times and think about how our actions might negatively affect the lives of others. It’s been added to my blog playlist, which you can stream and follow on Spotify.