Content Warning: Brief mentions of suicide, rape and general discussions of transphobia.
Recently there’s been laws among several states that unfairly target the trans community, most notably in South Dakota.
South Dakota not only has a bill that targets the transgender community in public schools, but has had this bill passed in both the House and the Senate. This means that the only way it can fail is if the governor vetoes. The chances of this are mixed however as governor Dennis Daugaard has stated, “I have my own set of values and in the end I’ll make my own decisions…” even after meeting members of the transgender community and saying that it helped him see things “through their eyes”.
According to ThinkProgress the bill, “…requires that every restroom, locker room, and shower room in any public school be ‘designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex.’” But people’s biological sex aren’t easy to determine for many reasons. The first of many is the fact that as many as 1 in 2000 are born intersex. Intersex individuals are people who have a condition that makes their sexual anatomy different from what it “should” look like.
One of the other main issues is how legislatures enforce this bill? Will they enforce mandatory blood tests or access to private medical records? By what method will someone be determined “objectively” a particular gender?
Another issue is how state’s will overrule the Department of Education’s guidance that transgender students are protected under Title IX. If states continue to pass legislation that contradicts this, we could see many potentially costly lawsuits.
More fundamentally, there’s no particular “gender gene” and often our genes don’t correspond to how we personally see ourselves. And as stated, gender is complicated and there’s never been a clear cut line between “gender” and “sex”. The “sex is between your legs and gender is between your ears” may be a step up from outright conflation, but it’s still too simplistic.
The alternative to letting people identify with their chosen gender is what the state does best: repress individuality.
But supporters of the bill claim it’s to make sure children in schools are kept safe. These claims are specious to say the least. As of yet there have been no reported incidents of “inappropriate behavior” in the 17 school districts that have had non-discrimination protection for the transgender community. Further, there are no statistics that can justify the claim that opening up gender inclusive bathrooms leads predators to take advantage of children.
It’s even less likely when you consider that most incidents of rape happen in private areas where the victim trusts the rapists, not in public bathrooms or schools. Thus concerns about rape survivors being re-traumatized from seeing transgender individuals in bathrooms are also insufficiently founded to justify harmful legislation.
Getting the legislatures out of the way of transgender lives is well-needed, but there’s also a more foundational cultural issue that motivates these bills. Transphobia is currently a powerful cultural force and, with the help of the state, people’s prejudices powerfully contribute to the transgender community’s depressingly high level of suicides. Which do not occur because they are transgender, but rather because of discrimination that these bills themselves help create.
If we want to prevent legislation from individuals who think they know what’s best for the transgender community, we should not only fight the state but fight the motivations behind it. Fighting back against both the state and transphobia via education, dialogue, creating transgender support groups, or being a good ally to transgender individuals are all great steps.
Further, creating campaigns like #Illgowithyou helps. The #Illgowithyou campaign has individuals going with transgender people into the bathrooms transgender people feel most comfortable in so at to prevent the occurrence of harassment or assault.
And that is the irony in all of this.
Transgender individuals are the ones who are in the most danger of being assaulted, harassed and abused in bathrooms. The “children” are a bogeyman largely created by an odd collection of Christian fundamentalist groups, conservatives, trans-exclusionary radical feminists, naive liberals, etc.
Statistically speaking, we’re not dangerous, cis people are.