No matter one’s political affiliation, everyone can agree that there are several issues in our country today. An economy that needs constant attention, the possibility of violence (whether from foreign or domestic terrorism or other sources) against American citizens, tense race relations, a flawed healthcare system and a leader with a really alarming spray tan (Sorry, couldn’t resist a little pettiness).
What are we discussing instead? Whether or not transgender people can use the bathroom that corresponds with their desired gender identification. Yep. Our country is debating where people can pee.
This issue is obviously not minimal, it represents a larger and more salient issue of transphobia and LGBT rights in America, where trans women of color face constant danger. The problem is that the current conversation doesn’t seek to better or improve anyone’s life or to do anything productive, but instead to question the rights and existences of a whole class of people, who already have plenty of other disadvantages. It’s a really gross discourse that basically forces trans people to discuss something private in a very dehumanizing way.
One anti-trans leader, Travis Weber, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council (considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews to discuss what is apparently a high-priority on his list: to police where people pee.
Appearing opposite Weber were transgender activists Laverne Cox, of Orange Is The New Black and Doubt, and Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. The two debated Weber on the latest developments in transgender rights, Donald Trump’s rollback on Barack Obama’s transgender student protections, and Chris Matthews served as a moderator.
Matthews asked Weber questions in regards to the issue, one of which had to do with Laverne Cox.
Weber was stumped.
Matthews straight-up asked Weber if Laverne Cox should be forced to use the men’s room.
Weber responded, “So…”
He did not answer the question and was unable to provide substantial reasoning as to how or why Cox’s use of the bathroom should bother him. Matthews asked the same but in regards to Keisling, still leaving Weber unable to provide any sort of actual “yes” or “no.”
The answer (or lack thereof) implicates the actual issue at the bottom of this debate: the isn’t one.
There is no epidemic of transgender people harming cisgender people in bathrooms. They have done nothing of the sort. To classify a group of people as being of one mindset, particularly a negative one, is discriminatory and comes from a place of phobia. The true issue here is transphobia.
Cox hits the nail on the head on Hardball:
Well my friend Chase Strangio, who works at the ACLU, says this so brilliantly that these anti-trans bathroom bills are not really about bathrooms, it’s about whether or not we believe trans people have a right to exist in public space. When trans people cannot access public bathrooms we can’t go to schools effectively, go to work effectively, access healthcare facilities, it’s about us existing in public space. And the folks who oppose trans people facilities that are consistent with how we identify, know all the things that they claim don’t actually happen it’s really about us not existing, about erasing trans people.
Trans people, no matter how “feminine” or “masculine” they look or where they are in their transition, should be allowed to exist. They have done nothing wrong. They are living authentically. They don’t need to answer to anyone’s bathroom politics.
For as many steps forward, there are so many steps back. The silver lining here is there can be no conversation when there is no reply beyond “So…” and actual discourse can win over uninformed discrimination.