On January 21, 2017, thousands marched in the Women’s March. It was a massive demonstration against misogyny in American culture and politics that displayed the will for national change. Now is the time to use that power to support the trans* community.
Recently, the republican administration rolled back President Obama’s 2016 directive for schools to allow trans* students to use the public bathrooms that aligns with their gender identities on school campuses, at the risk of losing federal funding. The ruling was a huge boon to the trans* community, symbolizing a national push for much-needed acceptance and safety. The republican administration claimed that further analysis was needed on the issue.
“Further analysis” is a smoke screen to disguise attempts to push trans* people out of society by demonizing them as predators and perverts. The reality is, trans* people are far more likely to be harassed or assaulted in the bathroom than cis (non-trans) people. While there have been no reported incidents of trans* people harassing cis people in bathrooms, in 2015 the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 12% of trans* people had been verbally harassed in public restrooms, and 59% of trans* people had avoided using public restrooms.
Trans* people want to use the bathroom for the same reason as everybody else: to relieve bodily functions. While doing nothing to protect people from predators, laws that require trans* people to use the bathroom that “aligns” with the sex listed on their birth certificate endanger trans* people who will often avoid using the bathroom rather than face harassment.
These restrictions effectively ban trans* people from public spaces. You can’t hold it in all day, and trans* students can’t excel under these conditions.
The bottom line is that trans* people are not a public menace, but rather are in need of protection. However, it’s unlikely that the republican administration is going to see things this way which is why we need you. Please advocate for the rights of trans* students to use the bathroom that they feel comfortable using. You can do this by writing to school administrators, superintendents, and lawmakers who have the power to create policies and laws to protect people.
As a gender nonbinary person who is usually perceived as a cis woman, I understand the power cis women have on this issue. Cis women are often framed as the reason for transphobic legislation. Lawmakers claim that allowing trans* people to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity will allow cis men to dress in female clothes in order to assault women in public bathrooms. As demonstrated by the Women’s March, sexual assault is a very real issue that deserves legislation that will actually ensure justice. But trans* people aren’t the problem, and demonizing trans* people only fuels hate crimes and harassment and does nothing to prevent sexual assault.
If the federal government is not going to protect all American people, it is the responsibility of citizens to ensure that local governments are protecting their communities. Please use your power to speak up for trans* people by not just protesting legislation that perpetuates fears, but also demanding protection of trans* people’s right to exist in public spaces. Make it known to schools and other public spaces that this issue is important to the community. You can write your own letter, or use the letter shown below.
Discrimination is illegal in Washington State, but there are still people who are trying push through anti-trans* legislation. Our public institutions need to know that we care about our trans* siblings. Feel free to adjust the template letter as needed and send it along with this article to friends and family, both in and out of state, so they can affect change as well!
Kit Gertje is recent graduate from the Evergreen State College and a nonbinary member of the Olympia LGBTQIA+ community. They graduated in March 2017 with a degree in Communications.