Bathroom laws policing our genitals

Rev. Irene MonroeConservatives have always been a demographic group obsessed with policing this nation’s genitals. They feel comfortable with ordinances that mandate what they do, how we use them, what body orifices they enter, and now — with transgender bathroom bills up for debate across the country — where we take them to go relieve ourselves.

If the state of Virginia wasn’t serious I could laugh off their Republican lawmakers’ suggestion that “Adults must check children’s private parts before entering restroom.” And, if a transgender child should violate the state’s bathroom ordinance he or she will be slapped with a $50.00 fine.

House Bill 663, which was filed this week, states a students’ gender is “the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person’s anatomy.” The bill, however, didn’t state what action it would take for repeated offenders. HB 663 is receiving an avalanche of outcry from the state’s progressive and LGBTQ populations.

“This is what the conservative movement has devolved into,” LGBTQ activist Tim Peacock wrote on his blog, “forcing children to allow adults to examine their genitals out of misplaced fear that transgender kids and adults might commit a hypothetical never-before-seen act of violence or sexual aggression (that would still be against the law with or without transgender protections).”

Across the country, however, this sort of amped-up fear-mongering of the “predatory heterosexual male pervert” or “Peeping Tom” has either halted or canned movement forward in getting needed transgender public accommodations bills passed. And the obstructionist claims against the bill, purporting to have nothing against transgender people, goes something like this one published in “The Federalist” by Kaeley Triller, a Christian mother of two:

“Let me be clear: I am not saying that transgender people are predators. Not by a long shot. What I am saying is that there are countless deviant men in this world who will pretend to be transgender as a means of gaining access to the people they want to exploit, namely women and children.” To date there is no evidence to corroborate Triller’s fear.

As a matter-of-fact, Media Matters, a progressive news watchdog, report no incident from the 17 largest school districts in the country that have adopted policies for transgender students to have access to “gender-appropriate facilities.” And according to a study put out by the UCLA’s Williams Institute, an LGBTQ think tank, approximately 80 percent of transgender students have reported either harassment or physical assault in their attempt to use “gender-segregated bathrooms” where no policy is in place to protect them.

Data, however, has shown that access to “gender-appropriate facilities” greatly assist transgender students in feeling accepted by their peers and community, and to live more fully as their identified gender. If we’re looking for a federal nondiscrimination law passed on this issue should any of the Republican presidential hopefuls take office we need not hold ourselves waiting. According to Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie giving transgender K-12 students the right to choose their bathroom is a confusing matter.

“Men go to men’s rooms, women go to women’s rooms and there really shouldn’t be a whole lot of confusion about that — public accommodations. And I don’t think we should be making life more confusing for our children.”

And according to former renowned neurosurgeon Ben Carson, transgender students should have a “separate,” and I surmise “equal,” bathroom because Carson feels “it is not fair for them to make everybody else uncomfortable.” One would think that Carson would know better than to utter such a statement like that living the African American experience in this country.

Transgender Americans being denied access to public lavatories is eerily reminiscent of the country’s last century Jim Crow era denying African Americans access to lunch counters, water fountains, and restrooms in restaurants, libraries, gas stations, theaters, to name a few.

It is my hope for 2016 that state lawmakers pass their “Bathroom Bills.” Then they could focus their political gaze and energy on more important issues rather than on our genitals.

 

Rev. Irene Monroe is a Huffington Post blogger and freelance journalist.