Controversy over transgender people’s access to public bathrooms is not new—Arizona had a bathroom bill fight back in 2013. But the issue has risen to prominence in the past few weeks because of the recent hubbub in North Carolina, where the backlash to the bathroom bill led Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams to cancel concerts, PayPal and Deutsche Bank to cancel planned expansions, and porn site XHamster to shut down access from North Carolina-based IP addresses. The consequences for North Carolina may even include the loss of over $4.3 billion dollars in federal education funding.
Why, despite the economic and legal consequences, do states like North Carolina fight so hard to prevent transgender people from peeing?
So let’s talk about some little girls who need to be protected.
Let’s talk about 9-year-old Malisa Phillips, the granddaughter of U.S. Congressman Mike Honda. Or 15-year-old reality star and trans activist Jazz Jennings. Or Coy Mathis, who as a first-grader was singled out and told she couldn’t use the same bathroom as the other girls in her class.
As long as we’re talking about protecting little girls, who is going to protect these little girls?
Because the fact of the matter is, there are transgender children.
I’ll say it again: There are transgender children. And transgender children do not deserve to be legally forced to subject themselves to the harassment and abuse of using the wrong restroom—or of having access to no restroom at all. Transgender children do not deserve the trauma of being told at age seven that pose such a threat to their friends and peers that they cannot pee in their vicinity. Transgender children do not deserve to be demeaned and maligned by their own government.
Another trope among the right-wing supporters of bathroom bills is the idea of conflicting rights: “Your rights aren’t more important than mine,” they shout, and they argue that the government needs to mediate these situations in which the rights of two groups of people meet.
They’re right. There are situations in which the rights of two people conflict, and the government has to weigh those rights against each other.
Let’s weigh them.
On one side, we have the right to move freely in public. We have the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex. We have the right to be protected from the very real and well-documented threat of violence.
One the other side, we have the right not to be around people who disgust you and the baseless fear that children will be abused.
If the government is supposed to mediate between those two conflicting “rights,” the appropriate response seems pretty clear.
If we want to protect children, we need to be investing in resources to prevent abuse by the people who are already spending time with them—which is how 75% of child sexual abuse survivors are targeted. If we want to protect children, we should consider protecting them from Republican politicians.
If we want to protect children, we should protect them from bigotry.
Jacqui is a terrible dinner party guest—she only knows how to talk about politics and religion. On a typical Friday night, she can be found binge-watching her current Netflix show of choice, playing Civilization: The Board Game and drinking <$8 bottles of champagne.