These days, the folks starting conversations on the subject seem to all be watching Fox News, at least the ones talking to me. Here’s an example from last night when my spouse and I were out to dinner.
Spouse: There was no soap in the unisex bathroom or the men’s room, so I had to grab some from the women’s room once I knocked and no one was in there.
Friend: Wow, you should be careful! These days, you might be asked to prove something!
Me: Thankfully, not in this state.
Me: Connecticut is actually pretty good about equal access, unlike North Carolina, which is the one that’s been in the news recently. And anyway, it’s a completely different situation.
Seriously, how is someone who knocks and makes sure they’re not going to startle someone in order to grab some soap even part of the same conversation as access to appropriate public bathrooms for transgender people? My answer is, obviously, that the two situations have nothing to do with one another besides the fact that, in North Carolina, whether he knocked to be sure no one was in there or not, Spouse could’ve (at least theoretically) been hauled off to jail.
I’ve found myself in several of these conversations over the last couple of days (well, weeks, really, but quite a few very recently). I’m sure that once my Gender and Sexual Minority Healthcare Issues classes start, there will be more. Last year, Caitlyn Jenner and Jazz Jennings came up frequently. This year, I expect it will be bathroom bills. So, I’m going to park some references to back up the assertion that the person at risk for assault when a transgender person accesses a public bathroom is the transgender person. Because, to borrow from the UHart Center for Reading and Writing
Grant, Jaime M., Lisa A. Mottet, Justin Tanis, Jack Harrison, Jody L. Herman,
and Mara Keisling. Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender
Discrimination Survey. Washington: National Center for Transgender Equality
and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2011. Retrieved May 17, 2016, from http://endtransdiscrimination.org/PDFs/NTDS_Report.pdf
(Okay, it’s not APA-formatted, but it is the recommended citation, so I’m rolling with it.)
This report deals with discrimination overall. The segment on discrimination in public accommodations begins on page 124, and does not specifically address access to public restrooms. It is possible that access to restrooms and/or access to changing rooms are one of the reasons that retail outlets scored so high, but this survey does not appear to have captured that information.
Herman, J. L. (2013). Gendered restrooms and minority stress: The public regulation of gender and its impact on transgender people’s lives. Journal of Public Management & Social Policy (Spring 2013) p. 65-80. Retrieved May 17, 2016, from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Herman-Gendered-Restrooms-and-Minority-Stress-June-2013.pdf
While this was a fairly small study (n=93), the following finding is still significant: “Eight respondents (9 percent) reported experiencing at least one instance of physical assault in gender-segregated public restrooms” (p. 73).
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. (2014). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected hate violence in 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2016, from http://avp.org/storage/documents/2013_ncavp_hvreport_final.pdf
This report shows that transgender women are at extremely elevated risk for violence. In particular, “[t]ransgender women were 4 times more likely to experience police violence compared to overall survivors. Transgender women were 6 times more likely to experience physical violence when interacting with the police compared to overall survivors. Additionally, transgender women were 2 times as likely to experience discrimination, 1.8 times more likely to experience harassment, and 1.5 times as likely to experience threats and intimidation compared to overall survivors. Transgender women were 1.8 times more likely to experience sexual violence when compared with other survivors. In addition, transgender survivors were 1.5 times more likely to experience hate violence in public areas and 1.4 times
more likely to experience hate violence in shelters.”
It should also go without saying (but apparently not) that the people who might theoretically pretend to be transgender in order to commit various acts of assault are breaking the law regardless of whether there are laws in place preventing people who are transgender from accessing the bathroom congruent with their gender identity. Assault remains against the law in any case. Cisgender men who assault other cisgender men in a men’s room are guilty of assault, as are cisgender women who assault other cisgender women.
How about we normalize the idea that assaulting anyone is never okay, and being around people who are getting changed or going to the bathroom is not some sort of free pass for assault? Because really, that is what would make everyone safer.