To pee or not to pee: That is the question facing transgender and gender nonconforming people in North Carolina.
I first wrote on this a year ago when only a few states were considering anti-transgender bathroom statutes which seemed unlikely to pass. In hindsight, that time seems almost quaint.
Now North Carolina and other states are enacting legislation that criminalize transgender and gender nonconforming people for using the bathroom aligned with their identity and/or expression. Behind the rationalizations are two main goals: to scapegoat us for political power, and to punish our community’s nonconformity by creating an environment in which it is impossible—or at least extremely challenging—for transgender and gender nonconforming people to survive.
These laws are commonly directed at transgender women, people who have transitioned (or are transitioning) from male to female, with politicians and others claiming these individuals are ‘men infiltrating women’s bathrooms with the aim of sexually assaulting women and children.’ This is nothing but a fearmongering distortion. Studies have revealed zero incidents of trans people victimizing others in public restrooms, while also clearly documenting that trans people themselves are far more vulnerable, often the targets of ridicule and violence.
But to demonstrate sincerity, these states are advocating bigotry through rewards up to $2,500 for exposing someone using the ‘incorrect’ bathroom. These lawmakers insist on using offensive terminology while also ignoring medical science, mental health, and objective data, as they seem eager to flout their opposition to the growing movement of transgender acceptance. They would instill fear in us so they can feel secure in their ignorance.
Because if transgender people cannot safely pee in public, we cannot safely exist in public.
(Never mind that more U.S. Senators have been arrested for misconduct in public restrooms than trans people. Perhaps we need legislation to protect citizens from elected officials’ ‘wide stances.’)
Simultaneously, this legislation is a component of a coordinated, national effort in which the Republican party is seeking a scapegoat before a major election. Knowing they are unpopular and outdated, they hope to arouse the electorate through the condemnation of a marginalized group. This tactic is hardly new; it runs entirely counter to our country’s basic principles and also their own ‘get government out of people’s lives’ ideology, but they advocate it nevertheless. They even are insensitive to the needs of trans youth, some of the most vulnerable among us:
“‘The Republican National Committee calls on the Department of Education to rescind its interpretation of Title IX that wrongly includes facility use issues by transgender students,’ the resolution reads.”
They would make us pawns for their agenda of hate. They would assault us directly and indirectly through legislation and hate speech. They would use us to create a frenzy to increase conservative votership.
We get it: you don’t like us, and you think we’re a convenient target.
Our answer: We refuse to tolerate it.
It is no longer acceptable to target people who might be ‘different’ any more than it was acceptable to refuse to hire Irish or Italian immigrants in the nineteenth century, to bar entry to Jews in the 1930s, or to insist African American people use different water fountains in the 1960s.
Our community is mobilizing against you. Transgender men, people who have transitioned from female to male and who are otherwise invisible in this debate, are now mandated to use the women’s room and are taking selfies in droves to demonstrate their resistance, while transgender women are doing the same in bathrooms surrounded by men. Genderqueer people are peeing in whatever restroom they please. And a broad coalition of allies including other parts of the LGBTQ community, individuals, organizations, and major corporations stand beside us.
It bears repeating: transgender people are proxies for the broader cultural change occurring so rapidly in today’s world. We represent the breakdown of the social order. Our bodies and identities do not fit the old norms. And so the laws targeting us are a backlash, attempts to regulate out of existence that which seems confusing.
But the world IS changing, like it or not. And as always, it is up to the oppressed to resist.
We’re here, we’re trans and genderqueer. You cannot legislate us out of existence. We are the future and we will not return to the shadows.
Get used to it.
About the Author
Laura A. Jacobs, LCSW-R is a Trans* and GenderQueer-identified psychotherapist, activist, writer, and public speaker in the NYC area working with transgender and gender-nonconforming, LGBTQ, and sexual/gender minority issues. She serves on the Boards of Directors of the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center and Trans Bodies, Trans Selves. She contributes to the Huffington Post, has been featured on Dirty, Sexy, Funny with Jenny McCarthy, The Derek and Romaine Show, and numerous programs on Doctor Radio on SiriusXM, has presented for conferences including the Society for Sex Therapy and Research, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, the Philadelphia Trans* Health Conference, and many others, and at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Vanderbilt University, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, NYU School of Social Work. She is registered as a Kink Aware Professional. As Lawrence Jacobs, she worked as a musician, composer, photographer, and less glamorous positions such as corporate middle management. Follow her on Twitter at @ and visit her website.