A Call To ActionHouston. South Dakota. Tennessee. Kansas. North Carolina. Arizona. Kentucky. Seattle. Pending in: Illinois. Massachusetts. South Carolina. Missouri. Minnesota. Mississippi. Washington.
How many more states and municipalities have to pass or consider passing so-called "bathroom laws" and other transphobic legislation before American transgender people decide that enough is enough? With the rise of the Donald Trump right wing, it is easy to see that the new national pastime of the USA is openly expressing our fears and hatred. Thoughts that once were considered too cruel to express openly, the kind of thing that would demean the person who spoke them, are now part of common discourse. We are living in the dark underbelly of Freedom of Speech. America the Beautiful has transformed, seemingly overnight, into America the Fearful. Where our political speeches once celebrated all that was great about our country, today our politicians–at least on the right wing side–decry all that is wrong, and raise the spectre of further erosion of the American Way (whatever that might be anymore) by those they blame for its downfall: the President, the Mexicans, the Muslims, the gays, the blacks, women, liberals, and–more and more–transgender people.
We're easy marks, transgender people. We don't have much of a political presence. We don't have a whole lot of visibility. Until Caitlyn Jenner, many people were hardly aware we even existed. And many of us feel a strong disconnect with Ms. Jenner, who represents a bizarrely elitist perspective that, politically, does not connect at all with the vast majority of us in life experience, and cannot manage to understand that many of the things she says are anathema to the masses of transgender people who are not wealthy ex-Olympian members of an absurdly famous family. She has not led a real life; she does not understand what a real life is.
I doubt that she would ever worry about where she goes to the bathroom.
But for the tens of thousands of the rest of us, these laws or proposed laws have a shocking impact. Due to the rising Fear of the Unknown, thousands of people are imploring legislators to mandate that we use only the rest rooms of the sex to which we were assigned at birth. Now let us put aside for a moment the complete insanity of a law that expects people to wander around with their birth certificates. Let's forget also the problem of the intersexed, whose sex at birth was questionable. Let's even overlook the sheer impossibility of policing such a law as well as the likelihood of the individual acts of violence it would undoubtedly inflict upon the transgendered and (quite likely) cisgendered people who don't quite "pass muster" according to someone's inner radar. Instead, let's just take this at face value: these lawmakers want every transgender person to use only rest rooms designated for the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Why? Well, as North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said last month, speaking against the Charlotte LGBT non-discrimination ordinance that was swept away by this week's bill. "This shift in policy could also create major public safety issues by putting citizens in possible danger from deviant actions by individuals taking improper advantage of a bad policy." Ah, the old deviant TG predators thing. Except... A recent study undertaken to rebut Florida's effort to pass a bathroom bill utterly debunks that lie: in no state, county or city that has passed non-discrimination laws, it found, has such a thing occurred. This is not to say that people haven't done creepy things–goodness knows they have–but not as a result of laws that protect LGBT people.
Still, there is that Fear of the Unknown. It is especially easy to promulgate in Donald Trump's America. We witness him whipping up fear of Mexicans and Muslims. We hear Ted Cruz leap on his bandwagon, wanting to patrol all Muslim neighborhoods–as if that were possible, as if there were even such a thing as "Muslim neighborhoods" in the US. (Want to patrol mine? I have some Muslims living near me.) And as the smallest, least understood, least politically powerful minority in the country, the transgender community is the target for a lot of this kind of fear.
To be fair, the people in whom this fear (and most of the others) are being engendered are those who are being called the "poorly educated masses," a class of people whose very existence is the result of a generation-long intensely focused movement by the GOP and the Christian Right that began in the 80's with the notion that you win long-term by winning locally. It started with school boards. What these people don't know can be directly attributed to that; look at any article about the things being taught to students in Texas or Kansas, etc. This is not an accident: ignorant masses are easier to control, or so the theory goes. Unfortunately, as the GOP is discovering this year to its chagrin, you can't just ignore them year after year after year while promising them things in exchange for their votes. Even ignorant, uneducated masses have their limits. So now they are following Donald Trump, who pretty much speaks as if he is one of them (though of course he is not) and continues to whip up their fears.
So the anti-LGBT fear coming from this large, ignorant group is in one way pretty easy to understand. And since we in the T part of the acronym are the hardest to comprehend, we are the most feared. And since everyone is just more and more open about who they are all of a sudden– celebrities coming out, athletes coming out, teens coming out, characters on TV coming out, no fewer than seven reality shows last summer about transgender people, etc.–the world in which these people have been living has undergone some pretty sudden and pretty shocking changes. And it doesn't help that some of the churches they go to damn us to hell.
So there is fear. That does not pardon the legislators, who should know better, from passing inhumane, unconstitutional laws. But there it is. And this is a call to action for all transgender people across the country. I have been using women's rooms freely for almost two decades, as have a great many mtf's–and the other way around for ftm's. These so-called "bathroom bills" are designed to remove our rights. Now, of course, for a great many of us they could have no practical effect at all:
- If we look enough like our true genders, we are unlikely to be questioned in our preferred rest rooms.
- If we have been self-conscious enough that we have chosen to restrict ourselves to gender-free rest rooms, there will clearly be no impact.
But for others–those on the margins, those who are androgynous, those who are genderqueer, those who are only beginning their transitions, etc.–these bills represent hell on earth. There is little that is more private than going to the bathroom. And being forced to do so in the wrong rest room can create an enormous amount of anxiety, not to mention the potential for confrontations that could escalate to violence. That is what this is about. When we make the choice to do something else, that's fine: it's our choice. When governments tell us we MUST do something, that's another matter altogether. So we need to do something, and what I think we need to do is this: we should just *show* the bastards what it is they are crowing about, what it is they *think* they want.
Thus I say again, this is a call to action: the entire TG community nationwide should band together for a National Pee-In. It should be well publicized, so there is press and there are no surprises (and so local law enforcement is aware of the potential for any problems that might arise).
On a designated day, announced in advance with a press release, every one of us, across the country, should intentionally and publicly use the rest rooms designated for our birth sex. Let's see how folks like lovely women in the men's rooms and big, burly guys with beards and tattoos in the ladies' rooms. My prediction: it would change the tide of public opinion in a hurry. And if it doesn't, well, we could always do it again a few weeks later, and again until these morons get the point. We'll be uncomfortable a few times, but nowhere near as much as those who are trying to ban us from bathrooms will be.