Brandon Bartlett is an English sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints and editorial content of Mustang News.
OK everyone, brace yourselves. I’m about to violate every rule when it comes to commenting on politics. Are you sitting down yet? Because I’m about to admit that I don’t have enough information to form an opinion on an issue. (GASP!)
Everyone still OK? Because it’s about to get even worse. My ignorance is not concerning some random issue, it’s about a hot-button, race-to-your-guns, my-way-or-the-highway issue. That’s right, I don’t know what we should do about transgender individuals and bathrooms.
Upon analysis, there seem to be five options, and none of them are very good.
- The Target option
Per Target’s new controversial policy, we could allow individuals to use whichever bathroom fits their gender identity. And while in theory this seems like a great idea, it has one obvious problem: There is no way to verify someone’s gender identity. Consequently, this gives people the ability to go into whichever bathroom or changing room they want.
Yes, that sounds like fear-mongering. But I don’t think that is what it is, not fully. Take, for instance, the recent case in Seattle where a man, with no signs of appearing transgender used a public women’s locker room while young girls were changing for swim practice. When told to leave, he merely said “The law has changed. I have a right to be here.”
But to specifically address those on the left: If rape culture is even half as problematic as it is claimed to be, is it really a stretch to assume that this rule would be abused? I would think not. In a society where women have to fear walking alone at night, it seems blatantly unwise to allow men into secluded areas with women in substantially more vulnerable states than usual.
- The rule of thumb
It seems as though the worst of this could be avoided if we simply allow people to go into the bathroom in which they appear to belong. But this carries nearly the exact same problem: the abuse of the few. There are already cases of men dressing as women, such as in Virginia or Los Angeles, in order to watch or film women and young girls on the toilet. Of course, this would still be illegal, but that is not quite the point.
By codifying this rule of thumb, one takes away the potential safety net of a woman seeing through the disguise. But more to the point: For those who are not filming, and are content merely watching in more subtle voyeuristic ways, we have now taken away all recourse for their victims. Imagine the aforementioned Seattle incident, except the man is in drag.
And for the unconvinced liberals, remember rape culture.
Seemingly, this sidesteps the issue all together. But, unfortunately, it fails in a predictable way. Take the example of University of Toronto, where they had to re-gender several bathrooms after multiple incidents of male students recording showering female students.
Once again, we must assume that this rule will be exploited at least to some degree by sexual predators.
- Show us what you’ve got
Now we get to the conservative solutions. What if, instead of segregating based on gender, we segregate based solely on biology; whatever sex organ you have, that’s the bathroom you use. Well, now we start running into a different problem.
Because of the cost and complications of going through sex reassignment surgery, many transgender individuals either cannot or do not have the operation done. Consequently, this would require individuals who appear to be women to use the men’s bathroom, and vice versa.
This raises its own set of problems: discrimination.
Trans people are one of the most highly discriminated against communities in the world, and this obviously causes great amounts of physical and psychological suffering. And while I am usually not a fan of “feelings oriented politics,” when the attempted suicide rate among trans people has reached 10 times higher than that of the general public, it seems that it is time to pay attention to feelings.
And to those who would attribute this suicide rate to their “psychological sickness,” take into account the fact that the suicide rate goes down by a third for trans individuals who are accepted by their families; conversely, the rate nearly doubles for those who experience physical or sexual violence while at school. So even if it is true the trans community naturally has a higher suicide rate (as can neither be proven nor disproven), this rate is clearly hyper-inflated by the way society treats them.
Consequently, forcing trans individuals to publicly “come out” every time they need to use the bathroom not only puts them in places where they are likely to be discriminated against (as has been reported), but also stands as a symbolic testament to how society has systematically rejected them.
And if that isn’t enough, let us look to the fact that even in very liberal and tolerant U.S. cites, nearly 1 in every 10 trans individuals has experienced some form of physical or sexual assault in a bathroom according to a study done by the Williams Institute.
- Show me your birth certificate
And, finally, we could decide based on the way people were born. But, as you may imagine, this raises every problem listed in option four and applies to moew people (those who have gone through surgery).
Not only that, but this leaves open the question of more than 5 million individuals in the U.S. who were born without a clear biological sex.
So what should we do? I honestly do not know.
My only idea rests in attempting to figure out which of these options hurts the least amount of people. Not only would calculating such a number be utterly untenable (how could you assign a value to discrimination or the discomfort of woman who know that they are potentially changing with a man in the room?), but the necessary statistics do not exist. Even when considering objective facts, there is no clear way to know, especially not at this point, whether going with option one or two would decrease sexual assault crimes when compared with four or five.
At best, our choice is between putting a large population at a low risk or a small population at a high risk. And I don’t like either of these options.
Yet, a policy decision must still be made. And I am glad that I do not have to make it.
And thus concludes our strange experiment in humility. I hope it wasn’t too dissettling for anyone. And don’t worry, my firmly confident persona is scheduled to reappear in the next installment.