Why the Bathrooms Matter

Steven Harper PiziksBy now we all know that Department of Education and Justice have issued guidelines for public schools on how they should treat transgender students.  They basically say that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom, locker room, and changing area of the gender they identity with.  The guidelines also state that schools must accept the student’s and parent’s word about gender, name, and pronoun when it comes to school records and form of address.  (Schools may not refuse to address a transgender boy as “he,” for example, if that’s what the boy in question wants.)  If non-transgender students or their parents object to this, the objector may, at the school’s option, be given a segregated bathroom or changing area.

In other words, the objectors will be separated out, not the transgender students.

These are guidelines, not laws, but districts that don’t follow them run the risk of losing federal money, which usually consists of 5-10% of their budget, depending.  That’s a lot of money, so it’s a big stick.

The right wing is howling that this is blackmail, extortion, and overreach, and why are we doing this when less than 1% of the population is transgender?

Let’s look at what’s happening here.

First, the idea that it’s blackmail or extortion or overreach is a flat lie, part of a two-year-old’s tantrum.  The federal government doesn’t give money away for nothing.  When the feds offer you money, it comes with strings.  Every state, for example, gets money to build and maintain interstate highways. This money, however, can’t be used to repair a governor’s mansion.  Also, the contractors who use that money to repair interstate highways have to follow federal rules, including federal safety regulations and federal employment rules.  If they don’t follow those rules, the feds will take the money away.

This is what’s happening here.  The federal government has NOT passed a new law.  It has, instead, told public schools that receiving federal money has a new condition–treating transgender students a certain way.  Schools that opt out of these guidelines can’t get that money.  It’s the fed’s money.  They get to decide how to spend it.  I find it interesting that the loudest “we won’t stand for this” protests about this are coming from Texas, the largest receiver of federal money in the country.

Second, the “it’s less than 1%” argument is horrible.  The size of a group has never dictated its eligibility for equal rights and protection.  Native Americans are 1.7% of the population, but no one (these days) would consider passing laws that ban them from using the same bathrooms as everyone else.  Asians are 5% of the population, but no one would pass laws allowing the rest of us to ignore their civil rights.

The students who have a problem with sharing a restroom with a transgender person have the option of using a segregated bathroom of their own.  This is the right way to handle things.  The person who has the problem removes himself from the situation.  Don’t like nudity in movies?  Don’t go to those movies.  No reason to close the theaters to the rest of us.  Don’t like reading?  Then don’t read.  No reason to close the library for the rest of us.  If you have the problem, remove yourself.  We don’t need to remove it for you.

Why does all this matter?  The federal government is sending a message: in America, we are to treat everyone equally, and =this= is what equality means.  It validates transgender students and their struggles to survive and thrive in our society.  It says, “The federal government has your back.”

It’s also important–and incredible–how FAST all this has happened.  Two years ago, transgender rights were barely on anyone’s radar.  Now suddenly everyone’s talking about them.  Amazing!

Really, this trumped-up fight is the last gasp of the right wing on LGBT issues.  They lost big on same-sex marriage, and they’re steadily losing ground on LGBT equality elsewhere.  They’re trying for some clawback, desperate to get something, anything, to hold as a victory.  First it was wedding cakes and photography, now it’s bathrooms.  Bathrooms!  The right wing has been reduced to arguing about where people pee.

The sad thing is, they don’t seem to understand how far they’ve fallen–or how to stop.

–Steven Harper Piziks

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Why the Bathrooms Matter — 5 Comments

  1. Really, this trumped-up fight is the last gasp of the right wing on LGBT issues.

    Given the House Rethuglicans’ insistence on shoving the Russell Amendment into the defense budget bill–which will guarantee that the House bill gets vetoed–I’m far from convinced of this. To quote ThinkProgress:

    The amendment would effectively overturn President Obama’s executive order protecting LGBT workers in federal contracts — what the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus described in a statement as “a signature victory of the LGBT equality movement.” That order protected LGBT employment rights for 28 million people.

    Members of the caucus criticized the amendment’s sweeping language, which makes every contract, subcontract, grant, cooperative agreement, and purchase order awarded by every federal agency eligible for a “religious exemption” from the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    Not to mention that as of April 16, 2016, there were 100 anti-LGBTQ bills pending in various states.

    Seven states have active Religious Freedom Restoration Act bills–bills that would allow bigots to deny services to LGBTQ people on the basis of religious liberty: Colorado (HB 1180), Hawaii (HB 1160), Iowa (HF 2032, HF 2200, SF 2171), Michigan (SB 4), Mississippi (SB 2093, SB 2822), North Carolina (HB 348, SB 550) and Oklahoma (HB 1371, SB 440, SB 723, SB 898).

    Three states have active First Amendment Defense Act bills: Hawaii (SB 2164), Illinois (SB 2164) and Oklahoma (SB 440). Remember Kim Davis? These bills allow any person, business or taxpayer-funded organization to ignore any law that conflicts with their religious beliefs about marriage.

    Fourteen states have active Pastor Protection Act bills–bills to allow churches to refuse to perform marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs: Arkansas (HB 236, SB 120), Colorado (HB 1123), Kentucky (HB 17, HB 28), Louisiana (HB 597), Maryland (HB 16), Michigan (HB 4732, HB 4855, HB 4858), Minnesota (SF 2158), Missouri (HJR 97, SJR 39, HB 2000, HB 2040, HB 2730), Mississippi (HB 587, HB 737), New Jersey (AB 1706), Ohio (HB 286), Oklahoma (HB 1371, SB 811), South Carolina (H 4446, H 4508) and Tennessee (HB 2375, SB 2329).

    Four states have active bills that allow judges and clerks to perform same-sex marriage or to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples: Kentucky (HB 17, HB 14), Minnesota (SF 2158), Mississippi (HB 586, HB 1342) and South Carolina (SB 116).

    Four states have active bills that permit businesses to refuse to provide goods or services to marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs: Kentucky (SB 180), Minnesota (SF 2158), Missouri (HJR 97, SJR 39) and Ohio (HB 296).

    Five states have active bills relating to other religious exemptions to same-sex marriage: Kentucky (HB 31), Michigan (HB 4733), Missouri (HB 2754), Oklahoma (HB 1125, HB 1599, SB 478, HJR 1059, SB 973) and South Carolina (H 3022, H 3150, H 4513).

    Nine states have active bills forbidding transgender people from using the bathroom that conforms to their gender identity–and some of these bills CRIMINALIZE that identity: Illinois (HB 4474), Kansas (SB 513, HB 2737), Kentucky (HB 364), Minnesota (HF 3395, HF 3396, SF 3002), Missouri (HB 1624, SB 720), Mississippi (HB 1258), Oklahoma (HB 2215, HB 3049, SB 1014), South Carolina (SC 1203) and Tennessee (HB 2414, SB 2387, HB 2600, SB 2275).

    Three states have bills pending that allow foster care and adoption services to refuse to provide any services that conflict with their beliefs about marriage (like, oh, same-sex couples): Alabama (HB 158, SB 204), Nebraska (LB 975) and Oklahoma (HJR 1059, HB 2428).

    Two states have bills (AB 1212 in California; SB 210 in South Carolina) that require public universities to provide funds for student organizations, regardless of whether the organization discriminates against LGBT people based on religious beliefs.

    Three states have bills (HB 325 in Arkansas; HJR 1059 in Oklahoma; and Tennessee’s HB 566, SB 397, HB 1840 and SB 1556) that let health professionals deny services to LGBT people by citing religious objections.

    And there’s one bill in Oklahoma (SB 1289) that prevents local governments from passing nondiscrimination protections, including LGBT protections, that go further than protections at the state level. North Carolina’s recent anti-LGBT law does this.

    I look at all of this, and I can’t believe that the bigots are on their last gasp. It looks to me like we’re still in the middle of a war.

  2. Agree. What bothers me most about this issue is the wrong assumption that people change their gender in order to become sexual predators. No. No. NO! They change after much agonizing reflection and arguments and deep soul searching in order to be who they truly are.

    Republicans are lashing out in fear. Fear of losing control. Fear of themselves?

    • I think that the assumption is more that people CLAIM to be another gender to gain access to the gender that they want to molest and rape. In the minds of many conservatives, being a gender other than the one you’re assigned at birth simply isn’t a possibility.

  3. Bathrooms have always been a focal point of right-wing campaigns against human rights. As I recall, campaigns about unisex bathrooms helped torpedo the Equal Rights Amendment for women. And I can still remember how shocked I was when I realized (as a small child) that our neighborhood gas station had three restrooms: women, men, and “colored.”