Texas is making international news again – this time for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s newly filed bathroom bill seeking to require people to use the bathroom according to the gender on their birth certificate. The Lt. Gov. renamed it as the “Women’s Privacy Act”. He went on to lay out his argument for it: “Transgender people have obviously been going into the ladies’ room for a long time, and there hasn’t been an issue that I know of,” he said. “But, if laws are passed by cities and counties and school districts allow men to go into a bathroom because of the way they feel, we will not be able to stop sexual predators from taking advantage of that law, like sexual predators take advantage of the internet.” (See story on SB6 2017 Leg. on WFAA.com)
Here’s the problem I have with this law… no one gives a crap. Seriously. The only time in my life that I felt threatened in a bathroom was when a three-time convicted male sexual predator was released from prison (seriously, released!) and made his way into the bathroom in the building I worked in. He hid in the stall in the ladies room, eating a cookie, waiting for the next unsuspecting woman to come in alone. It could have been me, but it wasn’t. He attempted to rape a woman that worked in the office next door. She fought him off, screamed, and was rescued by other women from my office who heard her scream. A group of women in my office gave chase, flagged down a female Dallas police officer who chased him down on the streets of downtown Dallas and arrested him. Girl power! He was not transgendered. He was a criminal. No law on the books would have stopped him or made any difference in what happened.
Transgendered women look like women. They sit when they pee. It’s not like you will lean under the wall of the stall and say “Ah Ha! Caught you standing to pee dude!” The last thing a transgendered woman wants is to be outted as a man. She worked hard putting on her makeup and fixing her hair and dressing to be perceived by all of society, including misogynists like Lt. Gov. Patrick, as a woman. Unless you have a super secret hidden camera in the bowl of the toilet aimed just right, you will probably never know. They’ve been peeing in the ladies room for many years and we didn’t even know. This law serves only to further discrimination and bigotry against transgender people without any purpose whatsoever.
I am also concerned about the effect of this law on cisgender women – that means they identify with the gender they got when they were born – who don’t look womanly enough for someone’s perceived definition. (See What does it mean to be cisgendered?) This new law just furthers the misogyny that some in our society want to put forward that a woman should look a certain way. If I don’t wear enough makeup, will someone think I don’t look “female enough” to go pee in the ladies room? If I have a short hair cut, will someone think I don’t look “female enough” to go pee in the ladies room? If I don’t have big Texas size boobs, will someone think I don’t look “female enough” to go pee in the ladies room? If I wear certain clothes, will someone think I don’t look “female enough” to go pee in the ladies room? Hold on… I can’t go pee yet… I have to fix my makeup! What more perfect example of misogyny at work in our society than this movement of conservatives to paternalistically protect my privacy.
And on the other hand, if a cisgender male has long hair and maybe a little bit of man-boobs, will some alpha-male in the bathroom use this law to justify harassing that man because he doesn’t look “dudely enough”? Wrong, wrong and wrong. Having a law that condones this behavior is just wrong.
One of my girlfriends has a young daughter and professed support for this bill to keep her daughter safe from male predators in public bathrooms. To her I say, 1) don’t let your young daughter go to a public bathroom by herself, as there are many other larger dangers lurking out there than a transgender woman, 2) don’t be so small minded to think that transgendered women are pedophiles, that’s rude and wrong, and 3) teach your daughter to focus on the right things – people violating your private space in the bathroom no matter their perceived gender or whether their appearance rises to the level of “female enough”. If you are that worried, get self-defense lessons so your daughter has a fighting chance against someone who intends her harm.
Thank you, Lt. Gov., but I don’t want you to paternalistically protect my privacy in the ladies room. Leave me alone and let me pee in peace. And leave everyone else alone and let them pee in peace too. We have enough laws on the books to handle it if someone tries to accost me in the ladies room – it won’t matter if they are female or male at that point.
And, ladies, you know you’ve all done it – snuck into the empty men’s room when the line to the ladies room is too long. Under this new law, you are a criminal for going in the wrong, door-without-a-line.
And, are we supposed to start carrying our birth certificates with us to prove our right to pee in the ladies room? Do they need to be certified copies to prove we didn’t doctor up the gender assignment? Will Lt. Gov. Patrick appoint bathroom monitors across the state to check birth certificates before entry? Will the Lege issue a list of acceptable appearance criteria to check off before we have to prove our gender-at-birth? What does a female look like? What about a male? Maybe Lt. Gov. Patrick could sponsor a fundraiser for his political bank account with a fashion show of acceptable womanly-looking candidates for the ladies room?
You may ask… this is supposed to be a blog about LGBT issues in Texas family law. What does the bathroom bill have to do with that? Well, the “T” in LGBT stands for transgender. And there can be no more basic right to a transgender person than to be allowed to pee in peace. There are many families I’ve talked to who have transgender children that need to pee whether at the Lt. Gov’s office or at school. While we can make light of the ridiculousness of the “Women’s Protection Act”, for many people, adults or children, this is a very real and scary issue. It has meaning for them… and us… society.
Plus, who can blame anyone for wanting to use the ladies room – they are mostly cleaner than mens rooms anyway and generally smell a whole lot better. You know I’m right.
More reading on the topic: Angry Transgender Woman Writes Story About Texas Bathroom Bill, Changes the World