Five Truths About “Bathroom Bills”

Why Anti-Trans Bills Aren’t Really About Protecting Women and Children

There has been an increasing attempt by state legislatures to introduce trans exclusionary bills that limit public spaces that transgender citizens are allowed to access. On the surface they claim that these bills are designed to “protect women and children” but there has been no evidence that inclusive access to bathrooms based on person’s identified gender has caused any increases in attacks on women or children. This coding is hiding what these “bathroom bills” are actually doing. The truth behind their implementation can be determined by breaking them down into ten points:

(1) The laws are focused on transgender women. By erasing the existence of transgender men and non-binary individuals these laws immediately loose any “good-faith” argument they might be attempting. Most of the cisgender, heterosexual men introducing these laws have zero knowledge of the transgender community they are legislating against. It does not occur to them that gender identity and transition is multi-spectral and presents in many different forms. This results in situations where these men are confronted by individuals who are transgender men, non-binary individuals, and cis-passing trans women, and they are at a complete loss as to which bathroom is appropriate for them under their law. In other words, this is born out of identity policing and misogyny. By creating a stylised image of what transgender women “look” like they hope to inspire fear in the general community that will make it easier to target the transgender and queer communities with limiting laws. It is, also at it’s core, misogynistic. Trans misogyny has its roots in misogyny and has the same goal: to control women and their expression of self.

(2) The laws are unenforceable without a bathroom attendant checking people’s birth certificates. Some trans women are indistinguishable from cis women and some cis women are butch or masculine in appearance. The only way to distinguish between them is seeing their documentation (assuming the trans woman has not had documentation updated to reflect her lived gender). Short of mandating that all people carry a copy of a birth certificate and assigning guards at all public restrooms to check said birth certificates, the law cannot be enforced fairly or accurately. Which leads to . . .

(3) It encourages citizens to make personal judgements based on what a person looks like. This will result in cisgender, heterosexual men and women policing which presentations styles are acceptable for a woman and which are not. Again, this is rooted in misogyny and will result in not only the policing of how womanhood should be defined for transgender women but also for queer and gender non-conforming women. Anyone who fails to fit into the white, upper class, cisgender, heterosexual ideal of womanhood risks harassment when participating in the public sphere.

(4) The exclusion of transgender women from public life. The number of transgender children and adults who don’t eat or drink so they can last eight hours without using a public bathroom will rise past the 1 in 3 it is already at. This has negative health consequences such as the development of malnutrition, dehydration, and UTIs. Further this impacts an individuals' ability to concentrate and perform effectively. Adults will have an impaired ability to work at competitive levels and students will not be able to focus on their studies and prepare themselves for life outside of the school environment. That is, it further limits transgender individuals' access to resources already restricted by bigotry and gatekeeping.

(5) The objective is to make public life impossible for transgender and gender non-conforming women. The negative impacts of being denied basic rights, such as hydration and elimination, makes functioning in public spaces impossible. This serves as a social gatekeeping that discourages gender transition or presenting femininity in any way that does not meet current patriarchal standards. The men in power use “protecting women and children" as a smoke screen for enforcing misogynistic ideals that limit self-expression, growth, and any challenge to their authority.

Ultimately, this is why “bathroom bills” and similar policies are so insidious and why resisting them is in the best interest of transgender, queer, and gender non-conforming minorities. It, also, works as a test case for the politicians proposing it. If they can slip these laws past with little resistance then they will try for broader and further reaching bills such as the restriction of benefits for same sex marriage or the further restrictions on the voting rights of racial minorities, which is why it is in the interest of other minority groups to oppose these bills.


GLAAD: Debunking the Bathroom Bill Myth

National LGBTQ Task Force: Injustice at Every Turn National Consensus Statement of Anti-Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Organizations in Support of Full and Equal Access for the Transgender Community

The Nation: The Ugly Fantasy at the Heart of Anti-Trans Bathroom Bills

Media Matters: Four North Carolina Universities Debunk Anti-LGBT “Bathroom Predator" Myth

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