This is a response post to a video released a few days ago by a youtuber named Paul Joeseph Watson. Here’s the vid:
This video is a fine compilation of misunderstandings and misconceptions regarding the “bathroom bill”, so go ahead and give it a watch before we break this down.
1. What The Transgender Bathroom Bill (HB2) Actually Says
Paul’s first point is that according to the bill, only state and public restrooms are regulated by the HB2 bill, and private businesses are unaffected, so that trans people entering a private business “can use either bathroom”. But that’s not what it means at all. You can see HB2 here: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2015E2/Bills/House/PDF/H2v4.pdf . The bill does more than just prevent trans people from using bathrooms matching their gender identity on state property; it also specifically omits discriminatory protections for people of the LBGT community, and also overrules any local or municipal ability to pass any alternative form of legislation.
So in state and public restrooms, discrimination is mandatory. In private businesses, it’s optional. This is not okay.
When we say “state and public”, we’re referring to quite a lot of different places, yet Paul speaks of this like it’s no big deal. This includes all public schools, for instance, and public parks, and any state run agencies. Private businesses have the option to discriminate, and again it’s not just against who can use their restrooms, but also regarding who they will hire. People can now be terminated from their place of employment for being an LGBT identified person.
A little bit of background is also important here: as of February 22 of this year, the city of Charlotte in North Carolina had passed an ordinance that would have *expanded* discrimination protection to LGBT people, which also would have allowed them to use the restroom of the gender they identified with. What’s important to note here is that the law was an expansion of protections, and not merely granting the right to use the proper restroom. The HB2 bill passed by the state was made primarily as a response to this move by the city of Charlotte. Religious conservatives, like the state’s governor Pat McCrory – who has a history of opposition against the LGBT community – wanted to stop the city’s ability to expand discriminatory protections. This is why everyone is up in arms over North Carolina’s decision to go forward with this.
Is this beginning to make sense?
This also completely defeats the notion (as has been argued by a certain someone) that businesses can simply deny anyone the use of a restroom, because while it’s true a business can turn down service to any individual customer, they *CANNOT* turn away someone just because they belong to a minority group. You can’t say blacks aren’t allowed to use your restrooms, for example, and treat that as your right to refuse service. The bill restricts who’s entitled to protected from discrimination, specifically omitting LGBT people, and so it allows businesses to target transgender people.
At around the 00:20 mark in the video, it’s stated that private businesses can allow transgender people to use whichever bathrooms they choose – but again and just to clarify, this isn’t the issue. It’s possible that private businesses *might* do that, but it’s also possible that they can now target trans people specifically and disallow them from using the bathroom on the grounds of their trans status, or, allow them to use the restroom, but force them to use the bathroom corresponding with their biological birth and not with the gender identity they have now.
Now you might be wondering what ought to happen if a person who is born male and identifies as female, but clearly doesn’t look female. In this case, we would say she doesn’t “pass”. “Passing” is a term that means your appearance matches your gender identity. Some of us have to work at it more than other. This comes up again in a bit, so hang in there.
2. Who Should Be Protected From Discrimination, and When Does It Not Matter? .
The next point Paul brings up in his video is that 0.3% of population is transgender, and therefore wouldn’t affect enough people to matter.
Yea, that’s really an argument being made here.
First, I’m not sure if we had an all-white town, that it would be okay to have discriminatory policies against black people just because there’s not enough of them to “matter”. According to information from the Census Bureau, Native Americans make up only 2% of the US population: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2014/cb14-ff26.html – yet we wouldn’t dream of saying an anti-discrimination ordinance on their behalf simply “doesn’t matter” because there’s not enough of them.
Quite frankly, if 1 single person in the entire United States of America is gay, I want that person to have the same exact protections that all the rest of us have – and no, it is *NOT* too much trouble to expand the language of the Civil Rights Act to protect them. You could slip that in rather easily between some of the other classes that are protected: https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm .
Back to the video, we hear Paul say that a few people may “be embarrassed for a few minutes” by requiring individuals to use the bathroom of their birth.
Paul doesn’t seem to consider that a fully passing trans-man, who has to use the women’s bathroom, is going to embarrass a lot more than himself every time he goes in. Everyone else is going to be bothered by this too.
Remember, for *state and public properties*, this kind of thing would actually be required, and private businesses can require this as well (if they decide not to outright refuse service outright).
Another point brought up here is that “trans women who make the effort to look like women won’t get noticed”. That is, if you’re a trans woman, and you’re trying to “pass” as we mentioned earlier, then no one’s ever going to suspect that you were ever anything but a non-trans woman.
It is simply not the case that everyone who tries will pass, will pass so well that no one else notices. I don’t want someone violently trying to “out” me when all I want to do is use the bathroom really quick and not bother anyone, especially after I *do* go through all the effort needed to pass.
Hey, here’s an idea! Lets write some sort of law that says if my gender ID is female, that I can use the women’s room and not have to worry about my safety! You know, like the city of Charlotte was *going* to do before the state legislature enacted the HB2 bill.
3. So What If Perverts / Pedophiles / Offenders Pretend To Be Trans?
At around 00:55 mark in the video, the issue is brought up regarding a pervert putting on a dress and walking into the girl’s locker room.
First, if you want to talk about rarity, this is where we should start. If you’re familiar with my Response to Rape Culture series, you might be familiar with some actual statistics on rape and sexual assault. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2013, the prevalence of rape and sexual assault in America for college aged women was 0.43% (for not-college aged women it was 0.14%). *NONE* of these cases, to my knowledge, involved “a pervert putting on a dress and walking into a girl’s locker room”.
So far I’ve not found a single incident of someone pretending to be trans in an effort to commit rape or sexual assault in the women’s room. But have there been any incidents of men trying to do this in an effort to sneak in and commit other indecent acts? I’ve been working on this post for about 2 days now, and I’ve done so many searches that my eyes are starting to cramp. But yes, as a matter of fact, I was able to find a few cases, and the author of this vid does mention a few of these.
Finding such incidents is not easy, because they’re so exceedingly rare. And finding a person pretending to be trans that does this is so rare that its difficult to find any more than a handful of examples. In a country of 300 million, this would account for something like 0.00001% criminal acts (have no idea what the actual math is here, but it’s somewhere close to about that low).
But we do have to admit that this has happened, and may at some point happen again. There might at some point be a guy thinking it’s a thrill to put on a wig and walk into the women’s room to see if he can get away with it. So lets entertain this possibility for a moment. What if, somehow or another, a sudden outbreak of people pretending to be trans decide to start using that as a cover to infiltrate women’s locker rooms so they can see someone getting undressed, not unlike what they could see at home with a simple google search.
Personally, I’m not against having a staff person simply by ask for ID, and going by whatever the ID shows. Now before my trans friends grab their torches and pitch forks, let me finish. I don’t see this as unreasonable, and it would also quell the fears of anyone on the other side of this issue who points to the above cases and asks “what if”. This provides them a better answer than “it probably won’t” and “it’s frequent enough to worry about”. After all, we check IDs for alcohol purchases. I remember working in Georgia, where we had to ask the person’s ID on every alcoholic purchase they made, no matter how old or young they looked.
And since I’m probably going to get asked “So you’re saying we have to show our ID every time just to use the bathroom?” – Consider that if I wanted to use the bathroom at Safeway right now, I would have to ask an employee to unlock the restroom anyway. So having my ID in hand and pointing to the F doesn’t seem like it’s that much extra trouble, and again, this does answer the concerns of those on the other side of this issue.
In conjunction with this, however, states need to allow a person to go through a fair and demonstrated process of changing ID to match their gender.
As most of my regular readers know, I’m a trans woman. I had to have my condition diagnosed by a psychologist, and then needed to begin living full time as a woman (at this point, I couldn’t use the other locker room just yet – which was fine because I wasn’t fully passing yet either). After a few months and more therapy sessions (not that I was in need; these were basically check ins to see how I was doing, if I had any questions, needed any help, that sort – although some people *do* need therapy during this time to help with adjustments), I then needed to get written affidavits from at least 2 social service agencies stating that I had been living full time as a woman, and fill out forms for a legal name change. I then had to post public notice of my name change, and then I had to wait 2 weeks. Once that time had passed, I came back and signed my papers for my new name. Next, I had to bring my affidavits, my name change paperwork, and a signed letter from my therapist to court, and swear in front of a judge that I was going to legally change my gender identification, and henceforth live my life as a woman, complete with all the ongoing hormone / medical treatments I chose to take (as there are a number of options).
After all that, I had to make a trip to the DMV, bringing all my papers along, and get a new state ID made! (And also of course go to the bank and have my records changed, then head down to the post office and do the same thing, etc etc etc to each place individually until I had everything changed.)
…….. **THEN** …. I could use the women’s locker room.
See, I agree that you can’t just say “I’m a woman”, put on a wig, and that’s it. The hoops I had to jump through were tough, but I think they were fair. Because if you really are transgender, then it shouldn’t be a problem to keep all your appointments and go through the process.
I still remember the day before I was to show up in court, by the way. I stayed up half the night crying, because this was going to be the biggest day of my life, and I was going to become a completely new person the following morning. I would live the rest of my life as Athena. “Miss Athena”.
Again I want to emphasize this process ought to be “FAIR!” A standardized, federal process should be in place that anyone could reasonably achieve. If you leave this up to the states, some conservative governor somewhere (you all know what I’m talking about) will make up requirements deliberately designed to prevent anyone from ever being able to transition.
But that’s how you would settle the issue. You go by what the gender ID states.
As for passing – this would become a common decency thing. Much like not chewing with your mouth open at a restaurant, you’d want to make sure your face was prepped before heading in the locker room to change. I go to 24 Hour Fitness pretty regularly, and if I’m too lazy to shave and put on eyeliner, well then I’m too lazy to go to 24 Hour Fitness, aren’t I. Not everyone can afford the laser surgery that permanently removes facial hair forever, but we can still afford a basic razor. And if I need to change clothes while I’m at the gym, I go into the bathroom stall and change there. Respect is a 2 way street; I’m doing my part to make sure everyone else feels comfortable with me being there, and the people who suspect that I’m trans are willing to help me feel comfortable too.
4. A Bunch of Irrelevant Stuff. Plus, Science!
Between the 1:00 and 1:30 mark, we get some irrelevant stuff. Pedophilia and it’s definitions are not related to this discussion, and neither is race. Paul states it doesn’t matter how we identify, because our “chromosomes are never going to change”, and proudly waves his ignorance in the air with “That’s science, bitches!”
Apparently Paul’s understanding of science comes from what his PE coach scrawled across a chalk board in 8th grade gym class. Women can have a Y chromosome: http://www.isna.org/faq/y_chromosome. In particular interest from the report: “About 1 in 20,000 men has no Y chromosome, instead having 2 Xs. This means that in the United States there are about 7,500 men without a Y chromosome. The equivalent situation – females who have XY instead of XX chromosomes – can occur for a variety of reasons and overall is similar in frequency. ” There are a number of other studies on this subject: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141105165209.htm . There’s also another condition where sexual development does not match chromosomes, called Swyer Syndrome: https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/swyer-syndrome .
That’s SCIENCE, bitches!
Ultimately, none of this matters, and is still irrelevant. How many men / women did you talk to today? And how many times did you stop to check their chromosomes? Do you carry a DNA scanner around with you everywhere you go so you’ll know how to treat someone? Probably not. And chances are, you don’t check everyone’s genitalia either. You simply treat someone as female when they present as female, and treat them as male when they present as male.
The fact that you have this “idea” of femaleness and maleness based entirely on how someone looks is why gender is a “social construct”. There are lots of things we consider “male” or “female” that are not inherently male or female. Men can wear earrings. Women can wear flannel shirts. Once upon a time, men wore high heels, dresses, and skirts. Look at King Louis XVI.
What we consider masculine and feminine changes with time, and it has nothing to do with chromosomes, DNA, or anatomy. This change happens because gender is a social construct. Now that doesn’t mean it isn’t important! The idea of money is a social construct too; there’s nothing inherently valuable about green inked pieces of paper. Yet the concept associated with that paper is so powerful that people are willing to risk their lives if enough of it is offered.
It’s extremely important you respect a person’s gender identity, by treating them as the gender they identify as. Ask any trans person how much it seriously hurts to be misgendered.
5. Hypocrites and Double Standards?
The final point brought up that’s worth answering is regarding how Ringo Starr won’t hold a concert in North Carolina, but he’ll tour Russia where LGBT rights are condemned. Brian Adams likewise won’t show in the state, but he’ll tour Egypt. Companies like Paypal threaten to pull out of the state, while still doing business in Saudi Arabia. So why the double standard?
This seems rather perplexing to ask… we protest events that happen in the US, because this is the country where we live. No one asked Obama to forego healthcare reform because Pakistan doesn’t have a similar measure. That wouldn’t make sense. I can’t think of any law or social action in this country that had to pass through a checklist of other countries first to see if it was okay. We can’t control how life works in other countries, and just look how hard we’ve tried. We’ve done a hell of a lot more than just withholding a business deal. For example we had sanction imposed on Iran or ages, and this did very little to change any of their policies in the middle east. Cuba had sanctions for 40 years? They successfully remained communist the entire time. So while we may not be able to strongly influence other countries, we can – and should – control how life works *HERE*, in our own country. We live in a democracy, and we can change policies through direct actions, like boycotting and demonstrating. That’s why we treat North Carolina different from, say, Egypt.
One last thing I would suggest, and this goes out to everyone who has a concern on this issue…
It seems like a lot of hysteria happening over this is coming from a place of simply not understanding who transgender people are. Paul speaks of trans people with such admonishment, and even tries to draw parallels between us and pedophilia, so he strikes me as someone who probably has never actually tried getting to know a trans person in real life. Because if he had, then he wouldn’t think this way.
We are not “men in dresses”. We are women, but we were born with slightly different anatomy that we did not ask for. Think of it the same way someone might be born with a disability, but then one day science discovers a way around that disability so it doesn’t have to control our lives anymore, and we can finally live the way that feels right.
We aren’t coming into the bathroom to “rape you”. And we’re not coming in after your kids either – lots of transgender people have kids of their own. We’re coming into the bathroom, believe it or not, because we have to pee. That’s probably the same reason you’re there.
At least try getting to know one trans person before passing judgement on what restrictions we need to have because you feel scared of us. When the apprehension fades, so will the prejudice and the urge towards discrimination.