Republican lawmakers south of the border (at both the federal and state levels) have been unduly concerned about the safety of cis women like me lately. Are they worried that health outcomes for women will be negatively impacted by conservatives’ proposed cuts to Planned Parenthood? Distressed about the ways in which myriad anti-abortion laws across the nation infringe upon women’s rights and may force women into seeking out unsafe, illegal abortions? Are they worried about the gun violence that turns women with abusive partners into prisoners in their own homes, or about the sexual assaults committed on college campuses nation-wide?
Nope. Dear hearts, those sweet old goats in Republican Party have decided that the biggest threat to the safety of women and girls in their great nation is to be found in public restrooms. Public restrooms that, unless these righteous men legislate a means to stop them, will soon be absolutely RIDDLED with pervy dudes dressing up as ladies so they can spy on women using the toilet and listen to them pee. Pervy dudes, who, if they are allowed to use the same washroom as cis women and girls, will almost CERTAINLY assault them. (Note: if a man dressed in men’s clothing sexually assaults a woman in any other location, Republicans are not interested because she probably just has “buyer’s remorse” or shouldn’t have had so much to drink, but don’t worry, the moment that rapist dons a frilly blouse and tries to use the ladies’ room at the food court, the good men of the GOP will HAVE WOMEN’S BACKS).
Of course, in reality, Republicans aren’t legislating against male rapists donning skirts and sneaking into bathrooms. They’re legislating against trans* women, who ARE women (even if their birth certificates might not say so). Never mind that there is virtually ZERO evidence of any sexual assault ever being committed by a trans* person in a U.S. bathroom, or that trans* people are statistically much more likely to need protection from cis people than we are from them. Republicans aren’t trying to protect women. They are trying to keep a small group of women isolated from other women, and isolated from society at large (because if you can’t use a public restroom, activities like going to school, going shopping, attending a theatre or sporting event, or using a gym or swimming pool become just about impossible). It’s not about keeping women safe, it’s about forcing an already severely marginalized group of people back into hiding (many of these laws would also force trans* men to use women’s washrooms, a completely absurd outcome if your stated desire is to keep men OUT of there).
Let’s be blunt: if a man wanted to attack a woman (or girl) in a public restroom, a new law about who can use which bathroom wouldn’t stop him. The little lady silhouette on the door wouldn’t stop him. He certainly wouldn’t bother dressing in women’s clothes to do it because it wouldn’t make his criminal actions any easier for him–sexual assault is already illegal no matter what you’re wearing. So no, this is not about safety. At all.
As for me, I don’t think I’ve EVER noticed when I’m sharing a public restroom with a trans* woman (unless I happen to run into someone I know personally who I know is trans* while I’m washing my hands or whatever). A major reason for this is probably the fact that even in Canada, where laws don’t specifically target trans* people (to the best of my knowledge), many trans* individuals are still not comfortable in and are not made to feel welcome in multi-stall public restrooms, so I probably haven’t had much opportunity. That said, I’m also pretty sure I wouldn’t notice/haven’t noticed because, like most women, I’m not really in the bathroom to check out other people. When I’m peeing or blowing my nose or having a quick cry on a bad day, what do I care what the lady two stalls down from me has between her legs? How could I possibly know she was trans*, and even if I did, how could that possibly affect me in any way? What does her birth certificate have to do with whatever she’s doing in the bathroom (most likely using the toilet or getting something out of her teeth or just taking a quiet moment for herself like the rest of us)?
How does a trans* woman being allowed to use the women’s restroom impact me whatsoever? The answer is that it doesn’t. And so I feel foolish for even saying, “trans women are welcome to use the same restroom as me” because I shouldn’t even have the power to give that permission in the first place. But since it seems so many socially conservative politicians are concerned about my wellbeing, I want to assure the world: this is okay and nothing bad is going to happen. Women’s restrooms are for women, and since trans* women are women, it’s their restroom too.
P.S. I wrote this post specifically about women and women’s bathrooms, since that seems to be the focus of most of the conservative pearl-clutching about toilets and trans* people. However, I am aware that some people are non-binary, meaning they do not identify as either male or female. For this reason, I’m happy to see that many public spaces in my community are renovating/have renovated to provide private, gender-neutral (and accessible) restrooms in addition to multi-stalled gendered facilities. That said, if a public location did not have one of these gender-neutral restrooms and a non-binary individual felt more comfortable in the ladies’ room than the mens’, I’d still like to think that would be fine with me, since, as I said, most people are in the bathroom to do bathroom stuff and I can’t see how this could possibly hurt me.