What the Anti-Trans Bathroom Debate is Really About

After the White House rolled back protections for trans public school students (click here for link to news story) the “should trans people be able to safely use public bathrooms” debate has raised its ugly head yet again. And frankly, this debate is absurd. I cannot believe we are still debating whether or not trans folx are ‘permitted’ to take a piss in a public toilet. Like, are you fucking kidding me? Why are we discussing this? How is this even an issue? The level of bigotry required for this to be a problem for someone is truly terrifying.

prostest this shit

Image Description: An elderly white, feminine-presenting person with a walker holding a sign that reads, “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit!”

Those promoting this specific form of transphobia claim their concern is primarily with protecting children and preventing sexual assault. It’s obvious to me, and most other queer folx, this so called “bathroom debate” is not about protecting children or preventing sexual assault at all. Nor is it really about trans people using bathrooms. However, before I explain what the “bathroom debate” is about, let’s first explore these transphobes’ claims.

First, these transphobes argue they just want to protect “The Children.” But by “The Children” they mean their children; specifically, their cis, straight, and usually white children. But setting aside the fact that these people completely ignore the existence of trans kids (something I will circle back to), let’s dig into this “but what about The Children?” argument:

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Image Description: Mr’s Banks from the TV show The Simpsons. Text reads, “Won’t somebody please think of the children?”

So, what exactly are these people trying to protect their kids from? Well, for one, they want to protect “The Children” from being “scandalized” by seeing genitalia (specifically, penises) in the women’s bathroom. My question here is, what the hell kind of bathrooms are you and your family using? While I primarily use the women’s bathroom, I have also used the men’s and gender neutral facilities. And I can honestly say I have never seen genitalia in any public bathroom – ever. My dad even used to take me in the men’s room with him when I was a toddler and there was never a problem. Okay, a little boy walked in on me once, but I think he was just as scandalized as me. So, this is really not an issue… unless these people are trying to see genitalia in public bathrooms. In which case, they’re the perverts; not trans folx who just need to take a leak. Also, if people with penises really are flinging themselves all about in men’s rooms, why are we comfortable with little boys being exposed to that? Sure, many toddlers go in the women’s room, but by 8 or 10 most kids can use public bathrooms while their guardian waits outside. So, it’s acceptable for little 10 year old boys to be flashed in the bathroom, just not little girls? That’s pretty fucked up. It’s almost as if this argument isn’t about protecting “The Children” at all… Hmm…

Another argument these transphobes make is they don’t want their children to be “confused.” Confused by what? That all humans pee and poop? Aside from the occasional mirror check, peeing and pooping is literally all that goes on in public bathrooms. Unless of course I missed the memo about all the bathroom orgies? Which would be sad, because I’m down for an orgy… although, not in a public bathroom. That’s gross.

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Image Description: A black, masculine-presenting person. Text reads, “Girl that’s nasty.”

I guarantee these same people opposing trans folx safely going to the bathroom are also brainwashing their kids with archaic, unfounded ideas about sex and gender essentialism. (Click here for more information on essentialism.) These are the people who teach their kids sex and gender are the same thing, and there are only two – “male and female” – because god says so. And anyone who doesn’t force themselves into this rigid mold is going to hell. Talk about confusing. Sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and biologists will all tell you sex and gender are not the same thing, and there are more than two of each. So, just because these people refuse to open their minds, and therefore are incapable of providing their children with accurate information on sex and gender, doesn’t mean they get to exile all trans people so their kid never questions this brainwashing. (Click here for link to more information on the differences between sex and gender)

And to circle back to trans kids (because they do actually matter) – they’re being told they have to use a bathroom that makes them uncomfortable, unsafe, and that does not match their gender. Trans girls are being told they have to use the boys’ bathroom because they are a boy – even though they’re girls – is not okay. Trans kids face enough bullying, transphobia, microaggressions, mental health challenges, and other abuse. The last thing they need is to be forced to use a bathroom that is potentially unsafe and traumatic, or at best, awkward and uncomfortable.

The last line of the what-about-The-Children? argument is usually, “I don’t feel comfortable with unsupervised men being in the bathroom with my wife and/or daughter.” Ignoring the paternalistic undertones of this statement, it sort of sounds like [cis] men are the problem. It sounds like even these overly-conservative transphobes don’t trust men to behave themselves around women. To which every woman and feminine of center person sarcastically says, “you don’t say!” Although, you certainly won’t hear these conservative, “god made men superior” -criers, binary gender roll adhere-ers admit men pose a serious threat to women. Oh no. These are the same ‘concerned’ men who blame women for their own sexual assault because of what they were wearing or how much they drank… But I’ll come back to this issue later.


Image Description: Willy Wonka from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Text reads, “So, you don’t want to be sexually assaulted. Have you tried, like, not getting raped?”

So, if men are the problem, why are these people attacking trans women and femms for using the women’s bathroom? Oh, unless they’re misgendering trans folx, equating women with vagina/uterus owners, and are therefore referring to trans women going about their normal bathroom business as “unsupervised men.” (Hint: this is exactly what they’re doing.)

The only counter-argument to make here is that trans woman are women. This is not something that is open for discussion, as this is simply a fact. However, those who insist on being transphobic assholes and saying trans women are not “real” women, don’t get to exclude trans folxs from public facilities simply because they insist on being transphobic assholes. Not to mention, equating women with vagina/uterus owners reveals their true views on women. If she doesn’t have a vagina for them to put a dick in, or uterus to make a baby with, she is not a useful/real woman.

Now, these people might reply by saying men and women are inherently different on a biological level, and it’s not just about having a vagina/uterus. Well, that’s pseudoscience that has been disproved many times over. There are very few significant biological or genetic differences between what we have traditionally classified as “male” and “female” sexes. Given that there are only a few percentage points difference between human and chimpanzee DNA, it is ridiculous to think there are gaping biological differences between people with penises and people with vaginas. Also, studies have shown folx from different sex categories may function differently, but there are very few inherent biological or genetic differences. Much like how people from different cultures or geographical regions function differently but are still very similar on a biological and genetic level. (Click here for a summary of study on the differences between men and women’s brains.) Additionally, conceptualizing sex as a binary thing is empirically false, as more than two sexes exist. (Click here for further information on intersex.)

The second main argument these transphobes make is that women and children need to be protected from sexual assault. Yes! Finally, conservatives are acknowledging sexual assault is a pervasive problem in our society. But wait, how exactly do these transphobes think banning trans folx from public bathrooms will prevent sexual assault? First, they claim allowing trans people to pee in public toilets undisturbed will also allow cross-dressing [cis] men to easily and covertly sexually assault women and children.

Apparently, cross-dressing [cis] men will be able to sneak into the women’s bathroom unnoticed amidst a crowd of trans folx, assault a couple cis women, and disappear with all the trans folx before anyone can say shit about it. But even if that were to happen, which is highly improbable, these cross-dressing men are cis men, not trans people. So, even in this far fetched scenario trans people are not the problem, cis men are. And the many people who have been sexually assaulted by cis men are all like:


Image Description: Comedian Kevin Hart holding a microphone saying, “I gotta stop saying ‘how stupid can you be?’ I’m beginning to feel like people are taking it as a challenge”

You know who is actually likely to rape women and children? Fathers, boyfriends and husbands, teachers and coaches, the creepy neighbor, that perv-y uncle, youth-group leader, a boss, or that long-time family friend you never felt comfortable around. (Click here for more information on perpetrators sexual assaults.)

And even when a [cis] man wants to rape a stranger, he doesn’t need to cross-dress and sneak into a public bathroom. What planet do these transphobes live on? [Cis] men don’t need a ruse to sexually assault people. Women and children are regularly sexually harassed and assaulted in public spaces. Street harassment is a daily occurrence for many women and feminine-presenting folx. Fucking Br*ck T*rner committed his rape behind a dumpster. And just to drive a nail in the coffin of this absurd argument, Oklahoma State Senator, Ralph Shortey, voted for a piece of anti-trans legislation and then was caught in a hotel room with a minor (click here for the story).

The second way these bathroom bill assholes think trans folx using public bathrooms encourages sexual assaults is that it will give sexual predators a free pass because “they can just claim they’re trans.” Um, no.

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Image Description: 3 elderly white, feminine-presenting people talking in a living room. Text reads, “that’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.”

Providing legal protections to trans people when using public bathrooms doesn’t negate existing laws which make assault a criminal act. Cis men and women using the men’s and women’s rooms aren’t legally allowed to assault people in the bathroom. And if a trans person assaulted anyone I’m positive they would be arrested. However, there are no reports of trans people assaulting anyone in public bathrooms. (Click here for article linking to various Trans Rights organizations’ statics) However, white cis men get away with assaulting people all the time. So, it’s not trans people getting a free pass, it’s white cis dudes. (For examples, Google any of the following names: Donald Trump, Casey Affleck, Bill O’Reily, Woody Allen.)

Of course, to non-bigots all of these “anti-trans bathroom” arguments make zero sense. These transphobes’ claims of wanting to protect “The Children” collapse with the slightest breeze like a poorly made souffle. And preventing or reducing sexual assault and trans people’s natural bodily functions have fuck all to do with each other.

If these people were actually concerned about “The Children” they would be concerned about all children, especially the most vulnerable children. Not only would I venture these assholes don’t actually care about poor kids, Black kids, undocumented kids, and kids suffering from abuse, they obviously don’t give two shits about trans kids. Never mind the fact that 92% of trans adults in the U.S. attempted suicide before 25 (click here for data from the Trevor Project). And never mind that an estimated 20 to 40% of homeless youth are trans, LGB, or otherwise queer (click here for data on homelessness in the LGBTQIA+ community). These people still want to force trans youth into unsafe bathrooms and locker rooms that do not match their gender and where they are often bullied and assaulted. So much for protecting “The Children.”

As bad as the “but what about The Children?” argument is, I am most disgusted by the supposed sexual assault prevention claims. Dear transphobic assholes, stop weaponizing sexual assault to promote your anti-trans bathroom bills. Stop pretending to care about sexual assault victims to justify your transphobia. You don’t give a flying fuck about sexual assault victims, you hypocrites!

I’ll believe these fuckwits care about preventing sexual assault, when they stop protecting/defending their own white cis rapists (for examples Google Donald Trump, Casey Affleck, Bill O’Reily, or Woody Allen). Or when the assholes making these transphobic laws stop assaulting people in bathrooms themselves. (More Republican Lawmakers Have Been Arrested For Bathroom Misconduct Than Trans People.) I’ll believe they care about victims and survivors when they start sentencing rapists to more than a few months in jail (Google the Brock Turner or Stacey Rambold rape cases). Or when they actually start holding [cis] men accountable for sexual assault. Or when they start believing folx who say they were raped. Or when they stop normalizing rape in our pop culture. Or when they stop giving boys a pass on assaulting girls because “boys will be boys.” Or when they stop sweeping sexual assault and pedophilia under the rug in religious organizations (for example, the Duggar family). 

So, if the “bathroom debate” isn’t about protecting “The Children” or preventing sexual assaults like its proponents claim, what exactly is this shitty, dehumanizing debate about? It’s actually very simple; this “bathroom debate” is about excluding trans people from public spaces. It’s about making it even more difficult to exist while being trans. It’s about continuing the oppressive systems trans and gender nonconforming folx are living under. It’s about dehumanizing trans folx in order to maintain our current cis supremacist society to the benefit of cis people.

The last thing I want to say is three days ago on June 6, 2017, Kenne McFadden, a 27 year old Black trans woman, was murdered. McFadden is the 12th trans person of colour to be murdered in the U.S. this year alone (click here for link to the news story). So, excuse me while I don’t care about your discomfort at the thought of pissing next to a trans person.

cis tears

Image Description: A white, non-binary presenting person with short brown hair wearing a blue shirt and tie holding a much that says, “cis tears.”

If you are interested in reading more about this issue, please click here for an article by Laverne Cox titled, “It’s Not About Bathrooms: Laverne Cox on the Attack Against Trans Rights.”
Or click here for an article by a trans woman named Mari Brighe titled, “What Really Happens When a Trans Woman Uses a Public Restroom.”


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