Civil Rights, Bathrooms, And The “Bathroom Bill” Meme
Civil rights movements — ones formed to address the oppression of minority populations — have often had significant pushback by societal oppressors that have included bathroom and/or significant shower components.
Jim Crow states passed statutes severely regulating social interactions between the races. Jim Crow signs were placed above water fountains, door entrances and exits, and in front of public facilities — to include public restrooms. There were separate hospitals for Blacks and Whites, separate prisons, separate public and private schools, separate churches, separate cemeteries, separate public restrooms, and separate public accommodations to include separate public restrooms.
The leader of the anti-ERA movement was Phyllis Schlafly, a Radcliffe-educated mother of six from Alton, Illinois. As the leader of the Eagle Forum, Schlafly argued that the ERA was unnecessary because women were already protected by the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which barred sex discrimination. She also argued that the proposed amendment would outlaw separate public restrooms for men and women — implying that men are predators, and that men in unisex restrooms can’t control their deviant sexual urges in public restrooms.
The tendency to reduce civil rights and integration into society for the disabled to bathrooms and bus lifts permeated coverage of Americans With Disability Act (ADA). Critics of the ADA argued that it cost too much, promoted frivolous litigation, enjoyed no business support and mandated federal intrusion while discouraging negotiation and ignoring market forces. However, The ADA’s ideals often can be realized simply and inexpensively. According to the Job Accommodation Network, fully one-third of workplace accommodations cost nothing, and in another third of cases the average cost of compliance is less than $500.
In discredited researcher Paul Cameron’s paper Child Molestation and Homosexuality, he stated that gay men were more likely to commit child molestation than straight men. His discredited report suggested 1%-to-3% of adults who practice homosexuality account for between a fifth and a third of all child molestation — the argument implied gay men as a class of people can’t be trusted with children in public restrooms. In arguments against repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the arguments included ones that gays and lesbians would engage in leering at other males and females in latrines, showers, barracks, and ships’ berthing spaces, and that there would be and recruiting of straight men and women to be gay and lesbian in those common showers — as well as that there would be frequent homosexual sex in barracks and ships’ berthing spaces.
And in the relatively new “bathroom bill” meme argument against trans people and their civil rights — especially used in relations to trans women — there is the obvious implication is that “men in dresses”/”transvestites” are bathroom predators to be feared. Trans women are perceived to be sexual deviants, and as “men in dresses”/”transvestites” it’s argued that trans women — or men posing to be trans women — will engage in predatory behavior towards women and children in public restrooms and showers.
What hasn’t occurred is a logical argument. 1.) Is bathroom predation of women and children by “men in dresses”/”transvestites” is really a common occurrence? 2.) If it is a common occurrence, is it a more common occurrence in countries, states, provinces, territories, counties, and municipalities where public accommodation antidiscrimination laws based on gender identity have been put into law?
The answer, with regards to those who oppose ordinary equality for trans people, is that a public study hasn’t been published on this as yet. Social conservative organizations, to include those on the religious right such as Focus On The Family’s (FOTF) activist arm CitizenLink, have the financial resources to fund such a study, but haven’t. And, FOTF/CitizenLink is the organization that funds most of the “bathroom bill” ads where antidiscrimination laws on the basis of gender identity are being considered. It’s very likely that these social conservatives/religious right organizations haven’t done any empirical research is because fear mongering alone has been successfully winning in many jurisdiction in the marketplace of ideas without having to conduct such studies.
If one were to base one’s conclusions on the how common it is that “men dressed as women”/”transvestites” are invading public women’s restrooms to engage in unlawful leering or bathroom predation, the occurrences of these is very, very far from common, and these don’t appear to be more common in countries, states, provinces, territories, counties, and municipalities where public accommodation antidiscrimination laws based on gender identity have been put into law.
The burden of proof that should be on the social conservatives to prove that bathroom predation of women and children by “men in dresses”/”transvestites” is really a common occurrence, and that it’s a more common occurrence in countries, states, provinces, territories, counties, and municipalities where public accommodation antidiscrimination laws based on gender identity have been put into law, but to this point it hasn’t been.
What I’m arguing is that the “bathroom bill” meme — the trans-women-are-a-suspect-class-of-predators-of-women-and-children-in-public-bathrooms argument — is yet another red herring argument against civil rights. Social conservatives aren’t really discussing trans people’s use of public bathrooms, but instead are having an ancillary bathroom discussion to argue against ordinary equality for trans people because the fear mongering to this point has often been working. In this incarnation of arguing against civil rights, this “bathroom bill” meme” is an indirect discussion used as a fear mongering tool to oppress the civil rights of trans people in general, and of trans women in particular. To me, the “bathroom bill” argument by social conservatives — an argument even picked up by some transsexuals who are vaginoplasty essentialists — is about the oppressing yet another minority population by changing the subject from ordinary equality to a discussion of trans people’s use of public bathrooms.
Let’s not make civil rights about bathrooms yet again.
This discussion of bathrooms is as wrong as can be. We don’t, or at least we shouldn’t, base equality under the law on others’ fears – if we did, we’d still have Jim Crow laws in the American south in part because many white men and women were afraid of what black men may do to white women — many still are afraid. We also wouldn’t have repeal of DADT because of a fear that most gays and lesbians are hypersexual sexual deviants that will leer at and rape their peer servicemembers in latrine and shower facilities. Facts and logic don’t support these fears, but imagined fears are what many in majority society based their oppression of African-Americans, gays, and lesbians upon.
When it comes to previous civil rights movements, we in North America consciously have turned away from denying people in “suspect classes” the ordinary equality they deserve because of fear of what people in suspect classes may do. We base civil rights instead on the idea that all individuals are part of humankind and thus deserve ordinary equality. Our membership in a minority class of people should not determine what our rights are — especially when compared to people who may belong to larger and more powerful classes.
What social conservatives — to include a number people on the religious right — are suggesting is that trans women are members of a suspect class because of their physical characteristics. Therefore, trans people — especially trans women — should be treated as a suspect class not because of who trans people may be as an individuals, but because of their physical characteristics; because of the class of people they belong to; because of physical characteristics and/or the gender marker found on an individual’s birth certificate.
It’s not right to discriminate against people because of the color of their skin, their religious creed, their veteran status, their disabilities, and/or their sexual orientation because we are afraid of what people in particular classes of people may do — specifically because these people are suspect just for belonging to a particular class of people. In the same way, it isn’t right to discriminate against people because of their sex, to include gender identity and expression, because we’re afraid of what members of a particular class may do. Again, we base civil rights on the idea that all individuals are part of humankind and thus deserve ordinary equality — civil rights are human rights.
We do best in our society when we conquer our fears and base our decisions regarding civil equality on facts relating to real harm instead of imagined harm, on logic, and the basic humanity of all peoples. When we don’t do that, we surrender to our lesser angels and end up on the wrong side of civil rights history.
Let me say it again: let’s not make civil rights about bathrooms yet again.