At I Blame the Patriarchy, the debate over bathroom libel rages on. I rarely post there, but some mad little hamster in my brain jumped on the wheel this time and squeaked out, “These ridiculous claims cannot stand! Bring it on!”
A commenter named lesbot asks:
How could any radfem care more about “gender” than sex and more about an xy’s comfort in a women’s bathroom than about protecting xx’s, including xx children, from rape?
Twisty replies, “Gender, incidentally, is one of the top 3 most pressing issues in all of Savage Death Islandism. Cultural narratives surrounding gender are the primary underlying motivation for rape as well as for lawmakers’ steaming craps.”
She also asks, “Why the fervent defense of these so-called ladies’ rooms? The only thing keeping pervs and rapists out of them is — du dum — NOTHING! It’s not like there’s an anti-y-chromosome force field surrounding them.”
These are both good points, but I can’t get over the incoherence of the bathroom libel to begin with.
Does anyone have evidence of trans women attacking cis women in bathrooms, ever? Or is evidence too sciencey and thus patriarchal?
If the fear of trans women in ladies restrooms is about actual fear of rape and not, say, freaking out because trans people are icky, then examples should be easy at hand.
Another commenter, yttik asks, “Does anybody hear the double standard going on? Women better make room for transwomen in the potty or else you’re a bunch of anti-science bigots who hate dogs. And if we don’t happily share the potty, what will we do? Cast a jaded look at somebody? Not smile and be welcoming? Meanwhile, why are transwomen afraid to use the mens room? Because they might be assaulted, raped, murdered, etc. Are we addressing the fact that men can be flippin violent and transphobic bastards? Nope, we’re hating on women who might not be passing out warm inclusive hugs to transwomen in public restrooms.”
But trans women DO encounter violence in women’s restrooms, as per my links above. They may be assaulted. They may be arrested. More commonly, they are harassed. Under threat of arrest or harassment, they may be forced to use men’s restrooms (again, see above links) where the chances of violence probably do rise, due to the incongruity between gender presentation and using the bathroom.
“What will we do?” yttik asks, referring to transphobic cis women as if they are passive and powerless. Well, there are a number of tactics, aren’t there? Using the force of law to pressure trans women into situations where they are more likely to be violently attacked is not doing nothing; it is actively increasing the likelihood of violence. Using the force of law to subject trans women to police brutality from men is not doing nothing. Harassment, verbal or sexual, is not doing nothing, and yes, it does come from cis women:
I’ll also state for the record that I have also been sexually assaulted in a public toilet – in this case it was a woman’s toilet and a cis woman apparently felt that grabbing my tits while I was washing my hands was a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
Over on Twisty’s blog, a lot of people are frustrated that the debate continues. Twisty has tried to end it (although she sparked it back up again by bringing it up in her next post). Both sides seem to find the argument exhausting. “Oh fuck,” says commenter nails, “the Debate That Shall Not Be Named is back on. I’ll just kick back and witness the bannage I guess.” Other commenters insinuate that Twisty will only allow comments that aren’t transphobic–which, well, I wouldn’t object to that, but it’s manifestly not what she’s doing.
I sympathize with the fact that people want the debate to “be over.” For pro-trans people, it’s tiring having to defend their humanity, or the humanity of their friends and loved ones, or even just the humanity of other humans. For anti-trans people, well, it’s always kind of tiring when people refuse to just accept your bigotry, isn’t it? Cognitive dissonance is painful.
But no, the debate isn’t going to “be over,” not while the transphobia remains in that space, just the same as the debates about whether sexism is okay or racism is okay aren’t going to vanish just because sexists and racists want them to.
And isn’t it tiring that the debate centers around bathrooms when there are theoretically more important issues in trans people’s lives, such as, you know, the incredibly high murder rate? But the bathroom debate is important. First of all, being able to pee is a human need. As someone who has panic attacks when entering situations where I’m likely to be harassed, I can’t even imagine the panic that must accompany some trans public whenever they go out in public, knowing that if they have to use the bathroom, they could be subjected to harassment and violence.
Also, the bathroom issue–like gay marriage–has become symbolic, an imperfect but important barometer for anti-trans sentiment.
Commenter smaller: “Jill raised the “potty issue” most likely because that is the biggest fixation for bigots who can’t wrap their heads around transpeople’s basic humanity. Sure, it’s a very real and pressing issue for transpeople in everyday life -do they walk into the bathroom that’s “right” for their genetics, or the one that’s “right” for their gender presentation, and risk being thrown out, arrested, beaten, killed or raped depending on how the people around them judge what sex they ought to be, no matter which choice they make?”
“Speaking of which,” smaller adds, “talk to some of your really dykey lesbian friends some time and ask them how often they’ve been kicked out of bars or public places because a homophobic woman complains about “the man in the bathroom”- but it’s seized upon to a ridiculous degree by people who want to belittle the issues surrounding trans-ness.”
“I’ve peed in a lot of bathrooms labeled ‘men,’” says commenter Nails. “When the other one is busy- especially in single stall bathrooms- I don’t see much of a point behind waiting.”
And I’m betting many of the transphobic commenters at I Blame the Patriarchy have done the same thing. It’s not the bathroom that’s a big deal. It’s the symbol they make of it. They’ve made it into the center of debate because they think it’s more important to symbolically reject trans women than it is to let real human beings pursue basic needs without the fear of violence.