5 min read
by Emma Glassman-Hughes | 05/19/2016
It’s no secret that President Obama’s legacy on LGBT issues is going to leave behind a trail of rainbows at the end. However, up until recently, the national conversation about LGBT+ rights has centered on the issue of same-sex marriage--an important one for sure, but not the end-all-be-all of LGBT discrimination--and has largely ignored the issues of transgender people of all sexual orientations. And though national controversy (specifically over North Carolina House Bill 2) has sparked some talk recently, it wasn’t until this week that the culture was shocked with a wave of radical inclusivity for trans folks in school: peep President Obama’s shiny, new national directive mandating that all public schools allow students to use bathrooms and changing rooms that correspond to their preferred gender identity even if it does not match up with the gender they were assigned at birth. And if states don’t behave? B.O. is prepared to strip ‘em of their federal funding until they change their minds.
Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy
There are, however, plenty of politicians who oppose this mandate, upset that the government is overstepping its boundaries by forcing a lifestyle upon people (lol, but forcing women into motherhood isn’t overstepping aaaaaany boundaries whatsoever, right my dudes?). The funny thing is, though, that these same politicians are claiming that they oppose gender neutral bathrooms in schools because of their deep concern for women’s health and safety. Acca-scuse me, Ted Cruz? I couldn’t hear you over that demolition truck you’re driving into my local Planned Parenthood.
Fear mongering with images of young boys infiltrating lockerrooms and showers of young girls, claiming that men will be allowed in women’s bathrooms and will therefore be able to assault women in public, and referring to transgenderism as a disease and a threat to the sanctity of young women, these politicians are playing to very real (and highly justified) fears of violence against women--except their emphasis is wildly misplaced. There have been exactly zero (zilch for those of you at home explaining this to your old grandfather from Brooklyn) reported cases of transgender-aggressive assault of women in bathrooms of any sort as a result of these laws. And lest we forget, in eight out of ten cases of sexual assault, the survivor already knows their aggressor, and it is trans people who are also at extreme risk of violence (64% of whom will experience assault). So, lawmakers: you think you can get away with spewing transphobia by veiling it in a pretend interest in women’s safety? Not on my watch, pals. Let’s examine:
Ah, women’s safety. What a magnificently diverse and complex topic, covering everything from the window to the (vaginal) walls. Everything, that is, except for the mostly nonexistent threat of trans-aggressive bathroom violence. So here’s an idea: if we care about women’s safety like we say we do, why don’t we try focusing on protecting women’s health? Like, really protecting women’s physical, mental, and emotional health on a cultural level?
Why don’t we try protecting institutions created specifically for the purpose of providing affordable and effective healthcare to women of all backgrounds?
Why don’t we try focusing on ending rape culture? Why don’t we try cracking down on domestic violence and assault from the actual perpetrators of such acts of violence, almost exclusively cisgender men?
Why don’t we try focusing on adjusting our culture of body-shaming and hypersexualization? Why don’t we try to address the epidemic of eating disorders?
If we really want to keep girls safe in school, there are about a billion other things we should first address before we ever make it to the topic of gender neutral bathrooms. There is a lot of violence committed against young girls in primary and secondary schools of all kinds in this country, but that violence simply is not being carried out at the hands of transgender classmates in pursuit of comfort and self-acceptance. That violence is being carried out in gendered dress codes that amplify and feed the hungry beast that is rape culture. That violence is being carried out in sexual harassment and assault cases from cisgender men and boys. That violence is being carried out in the mistreatment of female faculty members. That violence is carried out by sexist teachers who damper the aspirations of female students. That violence is carried out in abstinence-only “sex education” classes (the last thing you learn about is sex, OK, trust me I’ve been there and all I learned is that E. coli is terrifying and you can become paralyzed from bad spinach) that don’t teach consent, that don’t teach healthy sexuality, that don’t teach the importance of communication in sex. That violence is carried out in the lack of resources and support available for poor students, mostly of color. That violence is carried out in the erasure of women from history books. That violence is carried out in bullying. And a lot of the time, that violence is carried out against transgender students--certainly not from them.
There sure is a lot of violence in schools in America, but it’s the not the kind of violence these politicians seem to be concerned with. Not to mention the amount of violence against women and girls that permeates every aspect of American life; apparently not important enough for these politicians to challenge, either. And I hate to say it (eh, maybe I kinda like it a little) but they are responsible for perpetuating a lot of it themselves. If after 80+ years, you can’t pass the ERA, and all in the same breath you defund Planned Parenthood, shame women for having sex, make it difficult to obtain birth control, tax tampons, refuse to test rape kits, disbelieve women when they say they’ve been raped, punish women for speaking out about violence and abuses they have faced, make poor women choose between giving birth to a baby they could never support and missing a week’s worth of paying work to get to the only abortion clinic in the whole state of Mississippi, ignore science and facts about the nature of rape, populate committees about women’s health with only men, and the list goes on, I have news fa’ you: you don’t actually care about women’s health and safety.
Instead, you are using some very real and pressing issues of women’s health and safety as a way to express your agenda of discrimination, and honestly honey it’s not a cute look on you (yikes...did I just call Ted Cruz ‘honey’? *shivers*). There is a very real chance of a woman getting assaulted in a public restroom, as there is a very real chance of a woman getting assaulted at a house party or by her husband of ten years, and there has been for a very long time--long before any transgender people were allowed the freedom to choose the bathroom that suits their needs. We live in a rape culture that was built and nurtured by the policies and neglect of these politicians. There is no increased threat in allowing a trans person access to the bathroom that works for them. The real threat is hiding in the exploitation of “women’s issues” for political and straight up discriminatory gain. Beyoncé break: ‘no no, hell no.”
And speaking of Queen Bey, she was seen recently sporting an Equality NC tee, and included a post on her website about the need to overturn House Bill 2; soooo at least our sacred goddess is on our side. And of course, as per ush (youzsh? ujj? yuge?), in solidarity we stand.
by Emma Glassman-Hughes