UNCOVERING QUEER MYTHS: Bathrooms
By: Sam (she/they) | SHRIMPTEETH
Let's talk about bathrooms. First, apologies dear readers if I seem exasperated, I am. This blog should be summarized in one sentence: just let other people pee and mind your own business. Unfortunately, the world is not nice, and certain people currently can't access the most basic of human dignities, so here we are.
If you've been living under a rock, here's a quick summary of the issue: bathroom access for trans people continues to be limited in public spaces. Law-makers engage in ongoing debate about inclusion because (mostly conservative) cis people claim they fear being in danger.
Let's break this down:
Fallacy #1: cis women are at risk
The top reason given in opposition to integrated bathrooms is that inclusive policies are a safety hazard, this ignores two glaring points. First, cis women DO face a higher risk of sexual violence than cis men, but it's largely due to their intimate partners and other male acquaintances, not trans women. Look at any sexual violence research from RAINN and the NSVRC, the two most prominent anti-sexual violence organizations in the US, and they all confirm that the majority of assaults occur domestically or between folks with prior connections. I'm not saying that people aren't assaulted in public by strangers; however, sensationalizing and inflating the rate at which this occurs obscures the actual issue at hand. Furthermore, both agencies are abundantly clear that folks with higher levels of marginalization, like trans and queer folks, are at a much higher risk of assault and they have less resources available to access justice. This moral panic over bathroom sexual violence is not based on any legitimate research. We need to call this out for being nothing more than transphobic propaganda aimed at limiting the rights of queer folks.
Secondly, absolutely no one is condoning harassment or violence. Even if a trans women WERE to behave sexually inappropriately, the laws on sexual violence aren't being challenged by bathroom policies. Rape, harassment, stalking, and assault are still illegal regardless of who pees where. Inclusive bathroom policies in no way, shape, or form seek to give out free rape passes. How are people even making this leap? I also find it pretty fucking ironic that cis male law-makers are only interested in paying lip service to sexual violence as a justification for violating the rights of queer people. To date, I have never heard a single law-maker that opposes inclusive bathroom policies on the basis of safety propose new legislation to protect sexual violence victims. If we were to even entertain for a second the notion that they give a shit about cis women's safety, there wouldn't be a fuckload of rapists serving on the supreme court (and in every branch of government) actively dismantling laws that protect women's rights. This debate has absolutely nothing to do with safety, it's about upholding the status quo. I rest my case.
Fallacy #2: trans women are predatory men in disguise
The idea that predatory men are taking the time to dress as women is honestly fucking stupid. But again, here we are. First, rapists rape without needing disguises - I sometimes feel like people's grasp on sexual violence is informed by Looney Tunes-esque antics. Second, it should go without saying, but trans women are women, they are not men. Therefore, they literally cannot be predatory men. Any insistence to the contrary is pure buffoonery,and I don't really feel like wasting my time debunking transphobic TERF logic. Let's move on to the next point which is much more relevant - cis women, being the dominant group, pose an enormous risk to the well-being and dignity of trans women, not the other way around. Cis people have institutional power over trans folks and can easily exert it, creating inherently threatening dynamics. Cis women can (and do) call security guards and have trans women forcibly removed from bathrooms just for being trans. This behavior is humiliating and violent towards folks who are minding their business. Cis women routinely invalidate, vilify, and endanger trans women without consequence because trans folks do not have access to systemized support to defend themselves. Just think about it, cis women are able to prohibit trans women from peeing (a fundamental human right) simply by claiming fear of harm, based on no tangible facts. Who's actually in danger? Sounds to me like trans women are the ones who need protecting... oh wait, they do, that's the whole point of inclusive bathroom policies ????
Fallacy #3: bathroom policing is helpful
There's always that one proper lady ready to jump in and inform gender non-conforming humans that they're "in the wrong bathroom." I personally interpret this as transphobic and misogynistic entitlement; the goal isn't to help, it's to police. Hidden in these "well-meaning" comments I hear: you aren't passing as cis, so you deserve exclusion because trans women are not real women. But even if it's meant to be sincere, it's ridiculous. Trans people or gender non-conforming humans in general (this happens to my butch partner on a regular basis too) aren't walking in a perpetual directionless fog. If someone is in a bathroom, assume they intended to be there. There's a strange delusional savior complex that cis women have towards trans folks. Literally no one assigned them the role of bathroom police or tour guide; it's not their job to make sure that gender non-conforming people are in the correct place. Even if someone DID make the mistake of going into the wrong bathroom, it doesn't prevent them from accomplishing the mission of pissing, shitting, and washing their hands. Furthermore, trust strangers to observe and correct their mistakes in the ways they see fit. Why would intervening ever be helpful in this situation? Let people do their business. If you feel that uncomfortable by someone's presence in a public bathroom, no one is stopping you from waiting outside until they're done. Your personal gender-expression related discomfort doesn't justify the ongoing exclusion and discrimination against other women. Get over yourself.
Fallacy #4: segregated bathrooms are necessary for privacy
This privacy argument drives me bonkers because it's so illogical (although by now it's probably amply clear that so is this entire debate). Opponents to inclusive bathroom policies simultaneously claim that the presence of trans folks in the restroom threatens their privacy (whatever that means), while also demanding to know about trans folk's private parts (????). Unless you're pissing with the stall door open, or somehow gazing into the eyes of the person shitting next to you, the gender of the human in the stall next door has ZERO impact on your life. Close the fucking door and the entire problem is resolved, you complete weirdo. There's no reason or obligation to engage with strangers in public bathrooms, let alone with their genitals. In the 30 years I've been using toilets, not once have I encountered another stranger's dangly bits while peeing. Since when is defecating a group activity, outside of kink spaces? Just mind your own business - it's that simple. The equipment in other people's trousers has nothing to do with you, unless you've both consensually agreed it does. Again, this moral panic over privacy entirely negates bathroom etiquette. Anecdotally, but I'm willing to make a generalization, I don't know any trans people who get off on watching cis strangers take dums in public restrooms. I don't think anyone is arguing for that becoming a norm. "Keep your privates private, and mind your business" seems to be a reminder cis people need way more frequently than trans folks.
Takeaways: Let's cut the shit, if you're scared of inclusive bathroom policies, you're the only one posing a threat. Trans and gender non-conforming folks have the right to pee, like everyone else. People are who they say they are, no one is pretending to be a woman as a ploy to spy on you peeing. People get to express their gender however they want and no one needs to conform to arbitrary standards of femininity or masculinity as a prerequisite for using public restrooms. People don't need your permission to be in a given space, who the fuck appointed you the moral authority? My trans siblings deserve better. Mind your own business, and have a happy shit.
About the Author
Sam (she/they) is a proud queer vulva-owner (a clam parent, if you will). They are polyamorous; she loves many people and allows each relationship to develop in mutually supportive structures. Sam has a Master in Arts from New York University in social psychology with a focus on consumer behavior. They are a sex educator, writer, researcher, avid reader, designer (with a Bachelor in Fine Arts in packaging design from Fashion Institute of Technology), and artist who does social media content creation.
Sam created Shrimp Teeth in 2018 to talk about how we communicate / approach / talk and think about sexxx. Check out their Patreon http://Patreon.com/shrimpteeth, website www.shrimpteeth.com, or email [email protected] for questions and/or collaboration opportunities!