Anti-Trans Restroom Bills about Fear and Hatred

trans-restroomBy James Esseks

If social conservatives in Tennessee get their way, the state will soon become the second in the nation to use the coercive power of the government to force people into bathrooms that violate their very sense of self or risk punishment. Legislation targeting trans students pending in both houses in the state’s legislature would require public school and university students to use a bathroom or locker room that matches the sex recorded on their birth certificate. Limited-government it’s not.

Tennessee legislators, though, aren’t original in their bigotry. North Carolina controversially passed an even broader law in March, and at least 30 similar bills have been introduced in a total of 16 states this year alone. Proponents of these discriminatory anti-trans bathroom bills have advanced many arguments for why they are necessary. Most are absurd “urban legends.” Some argue these bills are necessary to stop predatory men from dressing up as women, entering the female restroom, and then attacking unsuspecting women. The more restrained say it will stop men from just trying to sneak a peek. Not surprisingly, these are solutions in search of a problem. There is neither evidence that anyone has used the fictional “transgender defense” for illegal conduct nor reports of any increase in public safety incidents in any of the hundreds of jurisdictions that have extended legal protections to transgender people.

The argument getting the most traction, however, is the idea that compelling trans people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their assigned sex at birth protects the privacy of non-transgender boys and girls and men and women. “Letting boys into girls’ restrooms and changing areas, for example, is an invasion of privacy,” said Matt Sharp, a lawyer with the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, in defense of Tennessee’s bill. One of the stated purposes of Florida’s defeated bill last year was “to secure privacy … for all individuals using single-sex public facilities.” North Carolina legislators this year went so far as to name their anti-trans bathroom bill, the “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.”

As a threshold matter, no one is proposing letting boys into girls’ bathrooms. Preying on misinformation about transgender people and calling trans girls boys, advocates for these harmful measures decry the fictitious end of sex-segregated spaces altogether.

But even beyond the absurd distortions peddled in state legislatures across the country, these purported privacy justifications for unconstitutional government discrimination aren’t remotely persuasive. It does not infringe anyone else’s rights to share public space with those who are different. People just don’t get naked in the restroom, and we should all just keep our eyes to ourselves, anyway.  Like previous efforts to expel people of color, people with disabilities, and others from communal space, these arguments for privacy just mask a fear of difference. And as courts have repeatedly recognized, those who are uncomfortable with sharing such spaces can seek out private spaces for themselves rather than force transgender people to be forever stigmatized and isolated.

The privacy argument for these anti-trans bathroom bills falls completely apart when it comes to enforcement. Who exactly will have the authority to verify who is “male” or who is “female”? Will there be pee police? What will happen to androgynous men and women who don’t conform to the police officer or bureaucrat’s notion of what “real” maleness or femaleness is? For legislators trying to protect privacy, the unintended or ill-considered consequences of these bills seem to undermine their purpose.

But let’s get real, these bills aren’t motivated by privacy concerns — they’re motivated by ignorance, misinformation, and fear. Many people, particularly social conservatives, find transgender people, at best, curiosities, and, at worst, less than human, even if the more political hide their disgust with carefully crafted language. The bill’s sponsor in Tennessee, Republican Rep. Susan Lynn, called her measure “very friendly.” Trans students may mistake her kindness for cruelty because forcing transgender people to use the wrong restroom will have terrible consequences for their very real privacy interests as well as their safety.

Transgender people, whether people know it or not, are already using the bathrooms they have a right to, and doing so without incident. In fact, hundreds of localities and school districts across the country have created more welcoming environments for all, including transgender people, and mayors and law enforcement leaders and others have said nondiscrimination protections actually make their cities safer. Laws like North Carolina’s and bills like Tennessee’s, if enacted, mean transgender people will have to make the impossible decision of breaking the law or revealing their private medical information. Not to mention the obvious risk of harassment and violence that comes with forcing transgender women into men’s restrooms and transgender men into women’s restrooms.  The fear of violence is already a daily reality for transgender people, and bills like these could very well make it unsafe for trans people to go out in public if they become law.

Sometimes legislators have fantasized about committing such acts of violence. In 2012, Tennessee State Representative Richard Floyd, who introduced his very own anti-trans bathroom bill that year, described just what he’d do if he discovered a transgender woman in the same bathroom or dressing room as his wife or one of his daughters. “I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry,” he told The Chattanooga Times Free Press. “Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk.”

That state lawmakers feel so emboldened to threaten trans people with physical violence is a testament to the hostile and scary world in which trans people live. These proposed laws and the conversations about them contribute to the climate in which almost 50 percent of transgender people attempt suicide in their lives and transgender women of color are increasingly the target of deadly violence at the hands of partners and strangers.

It is quite clear whose privacy and very lives are really at risk if state legislatures continue to succumb to anti-trans fear and hatred and give it state sanction.

James Esseks is the director of the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Barack Palin

    According to Seattle television station KREM, Seattle Parks and Recreation is trying to figure out what to do after a man walked into the women’s locker roomat a public pool Feb. 8 and began undressing.
    Several women were appalled and summoned staff, who told the man he had to leave. But the man said the law was on his side.
    “The law has changed and I have a right to be here,” the man said, according to eyewitnesses.
    The man apparently gave no indication, physical, verbal, or otherwise that he identifies or lives as a woman. Eventually he left, only to return later when young girls were changing their clothes for swim practice.Read more:

        1. David Greenwald

          Except for one problem – if someone walks into a men’s room wearing a dress and looking a female – they are at risk. If someone walks into a women’s room wearing a dress and looking like a female, who is going to check their package. The problem in the case identified by BP is that someone was flaunting the law and attempting to exploit it. That’s fairly easy to correct.

        2. The Pugilist

          It’s not just wearing clothing – is it?  Are you intentionally being obtuse here?

          Should this person go into a man’s room or a woman’s room?

          1. David Greenwald

            TP: Since I doubt that BP will respond, the photo illustrates the problem with Zaqzaq’s position. Say the person in the photo has a vagina, if that person enters the female bathroom, how comfortable are the women going to be? That standard can’t work and so the current laws are inadequate to deal with that problem. But ZZ and BP are never going to respond to that because it forces them to acknowledge a problem with existing laws.

        3. Tia Will


          The easy answer is people with penises use one facility and individuals with vaginas use the other.  Simple concept.

          As I have posted previously, it is actually not that simple. Which facility would you suggest that a male voice range, male hair and muscle distribution individual who still happens to have a vagina (since the surgery part of their transformation has not been completed) use ?  Do you believe that women or little girls are going to be ok with this individual being in “their” restroom or changing area simple because he/she has a vagina or because his/her birth certificate says female ?

        4. Barack Palin

          The photo above – which bathroom are they supposed to use?  Is it only the clothing that determines it in your view?

          Boy, you certainly haven’t been following the conversation have you? It was David that said that they have to wear proper attire.  Are you intentionally being obtuse?

          1. David Greenwald

            I wasn’t as precise with my language as I could have been – plus the photo that TP posted is worth 1000 words. Now you can address the issue

        5. Barack Palin

          David, what am I missing here?  I posted a link where a man went into a ladies locker room where swimmers were changing and said he had the right to be there because of the law.  You posted there are ways to deal with it such as:

          They have to wear appropriate attire

          Then I stated that women often wear men’s clothing so proper attire has nothing to do with it.  Now you want to post pics and ask what bathroom that person should use which had nothing to do with your initial line of reasoning.  First you’re saying attire matters now you’re trying to say that attire doesn’t matter.  What am I missing here?

          1. David Greenwald

            What you are missing is that I wasn’t precise enough with my comment to convey the complexity of gender ambiguity. The photo conveys better my point than my words.

      1. Barack Palin

        Please tell us how it’s easy to deal with if someone says they identify as the opposite sex?
        In the situation I posted above staff had no idea how to deal with it.

        1. David Greenwald

          (A) They have to confine undressing to stall and (B) They have to wear appropriate attire.

          In the situation you posted, the staff had no way to deal with it because the law didn’t give them an avenue.

        2. Barack Palin

          Do all locker rooms have stalls?

          What’s appropriate attire?  Are you saying a man that says he identifies as a woman needs to where female attire? I often see women wearing male attire.

          1. David Greenwald

            I think it has to be based on more than a simple claim to identity – there must be a concerted effort to physical pass as the opposite gender.

            What is your suggestion if a person is transitioning or identifies in physical appearance with the opposite gender as their genitalia? Which bathroom do they use? ZaqZaq’s suggestion I don’t think works.

        3. Barack Palin

          I think you’re wrong, one can’t be bigoted by what someone is wearing if they were to say they identify as the opposite gender.

          Why don’t you just be honest and admit that it’s a huge problem when laws like this are passed?

        4. tribeUSA

          BP–Yes, I suppose a man who identifies as a woman who likes to cross-dress doesn’t have much of a problem, just use the men’s room–no-one can tell by looking that he self-identifies as a woman who cross-dresses.

          The situation you posted is to be expected to occur, I would expect just about as frequently as a genuine trans-sexual who is not trying to exploit a situation, but just to fit in harmoniously. The trick is to craft a law that is  not only fair, but that is not subject to such abuse (it seems to me that might not be easy–have to scratch my head about this for awhile, maybe!)

          There may not be a legal solution to this that is fair to all and that is not likely to be abused by some.

  2. zaqzaq

    If the ACLU gets its way the state will use the coercive power of the government to force people into bathrooms that violate their very sense of self or safety.  Our children as they go through puberty and move into young adulthood should not be forced by the state to share these facilities with other children of the opposite biological gender.  The rights of these children should be protected instead of being trampled on by the ACLU.  The same goes for adults.  Everyone should feel safe using public restrooms and locker rooms.  The rights of the majority should not be ignored for the few.  I have heard stories from parents about children in our own school district who are afraid to use the bathrooms and hold it due to bullies or other children smoking marijuana in them.  This pushes their sense of safety even further.  Gender neutral bathrooms and locker rooms are poorly conceived responses to the transgender communities demands.

    1. Don Shor

      Everyone should feel safe using public restrooms and locker rooms.  ….Gender neutral bathrooms and locker rooms are poorly conceived responses to the transgender communities demands.

      These two sentences contradict each other. Transgender individuals should feel safe using public restrooms and locker rooms. Please tell me how you resolve that.

      I get the sense from many who comment on this issue that they consider gender to be strictly binary and simply don’t accept the concept of people being transgender.

      1. The Pugilist

        Strong point here Don.  The issue is the same with or without these laws.  Without these laws you have people who don’t identify clearly as one gender or another struggling to figure out how to use the facilities.  With these laws, you have possibility that someone without pure intentions or motives will try to manipulate the law for whatever reason they see fit.

    2. hpierce


      A male who indentifies as  a female is unlikely to be a “safety” risk in a women’s restroom… unless also “lesbian” and into “power”.  I see no “safety” risk to a guy in the men’s room if a female who identifies as a male is present, unless she is gay, into “power”, and has a dildo/toy.

      We are talking more about ‘judgments’ than safety.  Worst case, a judgmental “ick” factor…

      That said, teens, still figuring out who they are in many ways, is a different matter…

      But please, let’s not require folk to “celebrate” trans-genderism… I can’t get there… tolerance, civility, yes, but not “celebration”…

  3. South of Davis

    I have to hand it to the Republicans and Democrats  and others in power that keep Americans busy fighting about bathrooms, gay marriage, prayer in school and gun control while they take more and more money for themselves and their friends and family (the Bush, Clinton, Katehi and Tseregounis families will all be happy if people get back to fighting about the above issues and stop looking at how much taxpayer money their families get each year)…

    1. The Pugilist

      It makes me wonder if you understand that the politicians are reacting to people pushing these issues – look at the bruhaha at UCD over the bathrooms – this is not being generated from the top down, it’s being pushed from the bottom up.

      1. Frankly

        Yup.  The engine of activism that keeps on giving… to the book of de minimis social issues that overwhelm our political capacity to deal with what are the really important issues… the biggest being running out of other people’s money.

        1. Tia Will


           the biggest being running out of other people’s money.”

          The biggest being some, through no fault of their own, running out of their own money.

          The engine of activism that keeps on giving… to the book of de minimis social issues that overwhelm our political capacity to deal with what are the really important issues”

          Like laws dictating revisions to physical plants in which pregnancy terminations have been provided safely for many years ?  Like laws attempting to segregate restrooms ? Like laws about what must be included in classrooms or what must be excluded from both sides of the political spectrum ?  These tactics are not limited to one end of the political spectrum by any stretch of the imagination.


  4. Frankly

    I have two recommended solutions.  Pick one… or maybe both

    Solution # 1: Everyone has to register with their Obamacare doctor to get a “Selected Gender” identification.   The doctor will have a government-provided list of accepted questions that he/she can ask to determine the actual gender of the patient (to help eliminate the female perps that would claim to be a man just to see men’s penises).  This information will then be printed on the newly required voter registration card.  Democrats will finally get behind the voter registration card because everyone will need one (assuming they are human… something that Democrats might not require for their votes).  Then we will need to require that all public restrooms get staffed by a Restroom Guard that is of course a unionized government employee that makes six figures and retires at age 55 with 90% of his/her pay.   The Restroom guards will not check every card for Selected Gender because that would be impractical… only those where a complaint is provided by a restroom attendee.  In the case where someone is using the wrong gender-identified restroom, the guard would politely escort that person to the correct restroom.   If there was any conflict, the guard will call the local law enforcement to deal with it.  Of course we will need a state law to help set the criminal penalty for refusing to use the correct restroom.  And we might need to hire more cops for this.  Jerry Brown will probably need to appoint a Restroom Policy Czar.

    Solution #2: A new state law to remodel every public restroom in the state to be gender neutral.   This means getting rid of urinals and just having toilets in 7′ high stalls that have a smaller floor gap (say 4″) that are mandated to be lockable.    In addition, new construction code to require the same for all new private business and any business renovations.   To fund the remodeling of all the public restrooms, we will cancel the bullet train to nowhere project and use those funds to hire all the unionized contractors to take care of the remodel.  No worry about all the private businesses.  Their CEOs have money trees in the gardens of their mansions.  They will just need to harvest a few more bills to pay for their company restroom remodels.

      1. Frankly

        Some, but not all.  Otherwise why would so many of them be voting for Donald Trump?

        Basically, it is the Democrat and liberal media that give so many legs to these de minimis groupism issues so that Democrats and their liberal medial pals can continue their racial-gender-sexual orientation-sexual ambiguity-victim-group social-wedge-issue-divide-and-conquer strategy.  When you have nothing in your ideological playbook to actually fix the big problems that plague the city/state/nation, then come up with these emotive social issues to deflect from it.

        It works for Democrats wanting to stay in power.

        It is terrible for the whole.

        1. hpierce

          A personal best, frankly, for stringing adjectives, correct or not, to attempt to make a point on an issue of very literal un-real consequence… congrats!

    1. Barack Palin

      Don’t forget all public showers and locker rooms.  They will all need private showers and stalls.  In my high school all the guys showered together in one big room, no more.  What a boom to the economy, billions and billions being spent on reconstruction.

        1. hpierce

          Which also maybe an issue caused by over-reactionary views… [pun unintended…]

          I assume your point was about DJUSD, and not the State , nor nation…

        2. South of Davis

          Don wrote:

          > They don’t shower in high school any more.

          I don’t know about Davis High, but with a lot of friends who have kids that play high school sports around the state I can tell you that they still have MANY locker rooms with showers (and don’t have to get in the car all muddy after football or soccer practice)…

    2. Napoleon Pig IV

      “(assuming they are human… something that Democrats might not require for their votes)”

      Sheep and pigs already vote. I just assumed other species did as well.


  5. Tia Will

    The Pugilist

    this is not being generated from the top down, it’s being pushed from the bottom up.”

    I agree. It is far easier to perceive that one may have an effect on local issues than to believe that one’s opinion on major or national issues such as monetary policy will have any effect. This may be just a matter of “picking one’s battles”. While this may be convenient for those at the financial or political top, it is not their fault.

  6. Biddlin

    This is such a non-issue, in my mind, if people have a reasonable sense of propriety. I often have to help my disabled missus, even in accessible stalls. If some one enters I warn them loudly that I’m in there assisting her. Sometimes they come in sometimes they wait. I have no issue either way and am used to ladies in the gent’s room . Unisex bathrooms have been the norm at rock concerts and in most of Europe for decades.


  7. hpierce

    Now, another sub topic… this piece contains the word HATRED, which is purposely divisive, alarmist, meant to generate “hits” (IMO)… the closest the author came to that was “bigotry”, and bigotry is not = hatred [although they can overlap]… ignorance is an applicable adjective, fear (whether irrational or not, is in the eye of the beholder), and disgust (the “ick” factor).

    The headline for this piece is, in my opinion, bogus AND reprehensible… did the author provide it, or is that the VG’s wok?

    1. Frankly

      Good point.

      I think if you are a card-carrying social justice person that tends to lean largely left in political views, you believe you have earned the credentials to use words in ways that others should not.

      It is that victim mentality thing.  You can either be a victim or advocate for victims, and then you can absolve yourself of responsibility for certain bad words and bad behaviors that non-victims and non-victim advocates would be torn apart over.

      For example, a black dude punching a white dude that was shouting hateful things would be “understood”.  While the reverse would be a hate crime.

      Those victim group memberships can be valuable.

      1. David Greenwald

        “For example, a black dude punching a white dude that was shouting hateful things would be “understood”. While the reverse would be a hate crime.”

        You should read the language in hate crimes legislation.

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