Trans Guidance Ruling: Actual Facts

While doing a short talk on 21st Century gender today, I felt I had to say something about the news that the WH will not be supporting trans students’ bathroom use.

Here’s a few things we know:

All of which, added up, means that this tiny, marginalized, misunderstood minority of trans people need safe access to bathrooms, that they need bathrooms to get an education, that there is little risk to cisgender students when trans students use the bathroom, and that this whole idea that this is about preventing violence against women or children is completely fucking ridiculous, unfounded, and frankly, insulting to every woman and every feminist and every survivor (including the male ones) of sexual violence in this goddamned country.

Here’s NCTE’s FAQ on what the withdrawal of guidance means.

Love to all the trans people out there. I’m with you.

“Calm Down or Suck It Up.”

Here’s a really great piece on bathrooms, Title VII and Title IX, and the “Dear Colleague” letter the DOE published. It explains clearly what the issues are, such as:

So is the Obama administration making a rule that trans people must be permitted to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, or is it interpreting an existing rule?

With respect to Title IX, the DOE issued a “Dear Colleague” letter—which it says is simply a guidance document, not a new rule. The regulations permitting separate bathrooms for boys and girls were unclear about where trans students fit, and the administration decided to let them decide for themselves based on their gender identity.

and they answer other questions such as:

  • What is Title VII?
  • What is Title IX?
  • But why do they think “sex” includes gender identity?
  • But didn’t these agencies just decide that “sex” in Title VII and Title IX includes gender identity? Can they do that? Isn’t that something Congress should do?

But it’s the advice at the end that made me laugh:

You’re now well-equipped to argue, with the law as your weapon, that the Obama administration did a good and legal thing when it decided to recognize the dignity of trans students, and you can tell everyone who is gripped by the bathroom panic to either calm down or suck it up.

Indeed.

Guest Author: Finn Enke

TFP FinnA very good piece about bathroom legislation, NC, and why public accommodations are not just about us.  Enke’s book , Transfeminist Perspectives, is one of my favorites of recent years. 

In 2015, 21 different anti-trans bills were put before legislatures in over 12 states. In the first 3 months of 2016, politicians have brought us another 44 bills in still more states. Most of these bills focus on public facilities that are sex segregated; most criminalize transgender and nonbinary people for using public facilities; most suggest that these bills are necessary for the “safety” and “privacy” of “the public;” most include a definition of “sex” as that determined by birth assignment and confirmed by birth certificate, and chromosomes. Many focus on public schools. In their rhetorical conflation of transgender with perversion and predation, and in their legitimation of excessive surveillance, they disproportionately impact people who are already most targeted: trans and queer people of color, trans women generally, and nonbinary people.

Whether or not they pass, these bills produce a climate of fear and suspicion, and they have already contributed to an increase in violence in and around bathrooms.

As a white transgender person who doesn’t “pass” well in either bathroom, I am more nervous than ever every time I need to use a public restroom (roughly 1,500 times a year).

These bills don’t originate from public concern or from any documented problem, and protests against them show that many people aren’t buying it. After all, trans people have been around forever, and there is no record of any trans person harassing anyone in a bathroom, ever. Plus, the bills themselves are staggering in their fantasies that sex could simply be flashed at the door with the wave of a birth certificate. Most people know that these bills don’t make bathrooms safe and only marginalize trans people, even making it impossible for us to use any bathroom.

We know we are political fodder. The GOP made a sudden “issue” out of our access to public facilities in order to galvanize a crumbling party. It wouldn’t be the first time the GOP has created a political platform around vilifying already-marginal communities. As John Ehrlichman explained in 1994, Nixon advisors designed the war on drugs in order to derail the Civil Rights Movement and the Viet Nam Antiwar Movement. In the midst of the Cold War, the GOP also consolidated itself around anti-abortion platforms. And from the 1990s on, the GOP turned gay marriage into the fuel behind their campaigns rather than addressing economic and environmental crises.

But even more specifically, the rhetoric surrounding these bills relies on a very old trope of white women needing protection against sinister intruders. In Wisconsin during a 9 hour public hearing about its bathroom bill, we heard from quite a few men who didn’t want their daughter or granddaughter to be vulnerable to men preying on girls in the locker room. One said, for example, “we don’t allow exhibitionists and child molesters to hang out outside of school buildings, so how can we even be talking about letting them into girl’s locker rooms?”

North Carolina State Senator David Brock shared a similar concern in response to the state paying $42,000 for an emergency session to pass SB2 which criminalizes trans people for using public facilities: “you know, $42,000 is not going to cover the medical expenses when a pervert walks into a bathroom and my little girls are in there.”

Or we can look at the campaigns against Houston Proposition 1 during 2015. Prop 1 was an Equal Rights Ordinance barring discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of gender identity as well as sex, race, disability and other protected statuses. These are rights that should already be guaranteed under the Civil Rights Act of 1963 and elaborated by Title IX and the American with Disabilities Act. Refusing to affirm these rights, those who opposed the bill claimed that the bill would allow men into women’s bathrooms. They created TV ads depicting large dark men intruding on white girls in bathroom stalls. They rhetorically turned a housing and employment nondiscrimination ordinance into a “bathroom bill,” and they succeeded; Prop One failed to pass.

And let’s not forget that the North Carolina bill also contains unchallenged sections that discriminate against workers and veterans. Against the more graphic iconography of predatory men in women’s bathrooms, the rights and workers and veterans are easily lost from view.

This is not the first time that demands for equality across race, sex and gender have been resisted with the claim that public accommodations will become spaces of unregulated danger against innocence. The face of the intruder may change slightly, but across centuries, the victim is ever and always a young white girl.

It’s also not the first time we have seen white women used in the service of sexist and racist and transphobic violence. Feminist historians have conclusively shown that the 19th and 20th c. trope of protecting young white womanhood was foremost about securing white masculinity, domesticity, and white supremacy.

Though they cause real violences, these bathroom bills are not primarily about transgender people or bathrooms. Nor have lawmakers, for all their concern about young girls being molested in bathrooms, shown similar concern about the most common forms of sexual violence and assault against girls and women (across race) that take place outside of bathrooms.

As mean as these bathroom bills are, something much larger is also at stake.  The North Carolina bill is designed primarily to strip the right of local municipalities to set their own anti-discrimination and protection laws.

We have lost all semblance of constitutional, democratic process.

These anti-trans tactics work because they succeed in directing fear away from the corporate demolition of democracy; they succeed by making people believe that the reason they are struggling and vulnerable is because some other group of people is dangerous and taking away something “we” worked hard to earn.

How, then, can we best address the fact that these bills increase everyone’s vulnerability and directly make the world less safe for people of color, people who are known or perceived to be trans, nonbinary, queer, or gender non-conforming?

While politicians vie for corporate favors at the expense of their constituents, and as more and more people struggle to maintain jobs, health, and life, we can still refuse to perpetuate hatred. Our only hope may be to refuse the rhetoric that pits people against each other. As politicians and corporations dismantle democracy, it is more crucial than ever to organize across race and class and ability, across queer and feminist and trans and straight; and to be brilliant in our resistance to cooptation.

Why I Didn’t Even Watch

I know B. Jenner is exciting and trans people are exciting and – well, not so much for me. As I was saying to my wife recently, I wish the only people who did work on trans people found them incredibly boring and ordinary — otherwise the whole “look at this weird exotic thing” happens and it always depresses me.

Aside from the obvious tropes, Allyson Robinson wrote a good piece about why she didn’t watch, which I’m going to summarize: 1) Jenner coming out doesn’t change the work that needs to be done, 2) If anything, Jenner coming out has just increased the work to be done, and 3) the media is a poor tool for the work because it is always, always based on consumerism and advertising dollars. But do go read the whole thing as she makes key points on each of these issues, and her analysis of the usefulness connects right back to why the Trans Documentary Drinking Game exists in the first place.

Also, there’s this: Jenner’s a Republican, and I can honestly say that is disheartening even if it’s not surprising; there are quite a lot of trans Republicans out there, and I think they’re pretty much deluded that the Republican party will be open to defending trans rights — especially at this moment in time where nearly a dozen Republicans have drafted bills that encourage people to report trans people for using the “wrong” bathroom in public places, with some of them offering as much as a $4k bounty.

Wealthy celebrity athletes and reality shows don’t interest me much either.

But mostly, what Robinson says: there’s work to be done and there will be more as a result. So I’m glad for Jenner and glad for anyone whose families come around a little and glad for new allies who will help in the future, but in the meantime: back to it.

Gender Neutral Bathroom App

So now, there’s an app for that. Where once there was (& still is, actually) safe2pee.org, now there’s Refuge Restrooms, which helps you find bathrooms with the least amount of hassle. Here’s a question from an interview The Advocate did with her about it which gives you the basic idea:

The Advocate:  What exactly is the function of Refuge Restrooms, and how does it work?

Teagan Widmer: Refuge Restrooms is a web application that indexes and maps safe restrooms for transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming individuals. At its core, its goal is to be a place where you can go, type in an address and find the nearest refuge when you really need a place to use the bathroom. Already, the application has over 4000 bathroom listings all over the world (mostly thanks to the data provided by the now-defunct Safe2Pee site) and will only continue to grow as users add new safe bathroom listings.

Additionally, searches are able to be filtered by ADA accessability and unisex designations. That’s part of the service, too, because some bathrooms may not be gender-neutral, but are still safe — i.e. at the local LGBT center.

& In the meantime, students on my campus currently have a petition asking for at least one gender neutral bathroom per building.

Coy Mathis Wins

At long last, great news: Coy Mathis was being discriminated against when her school stopped allowing her to use the girls’ room as she had been all along.

According to TLDEF:

This is the first ruling in the nation holding that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms that match who they are, and the most comprehensive ruling ever supporting the rights of transgender people to access bathrooms without harassment or discrimination.

Great, GREAT news.

Another Bathroom Case: Maines in Maine

Nicole Maines is in a court case to decide whether or not her school did the right thing by her when they asked her to use a staff bathroom.

BANGOR, Maine (AP) — Maine’s highest court heard arguments Wednesday over whether transgender students can use the bathroom of their choice, and the girl at the heart of the case said she hoped justices would recognize the right of children to attend school without being “bullied” by peers or administrators.

Nicole Maines, now 15, watched lawyers argue over whether her rights were violated when the Orono school district required her to use a staff bathroom after there was a complaint about her using the girls’ bathroom.

Maines said after the hearing in Bangor that she hopes the Supreme Judicial Court will ensure no one else experiences what she went though.

A couple of things:

1. I am so glad there are younger people with supportive families who are taking on school systems.

2. I’m also very happy to see we are beginning to have a national dialogue about this, and that many people are starting to realize – often because of the visibility of young transitioners – that trans women are women.

3. It blows my mind that these kinds of cases are even possible, having been around when trans students weren’t given any options besides having to use the bathroom of the sex they were declared at birth.

 

Time to Boycott AZ (Again)

and here’s a quick bit with Masen Davis of the Transgender Law Center explaining on MSNBC:

They’ve tied it to birth certificate gender, which is the hardest one to change (and, for that matter, is not likely to be carried around, either).

And Back in the States…

Arizona legislators want to make it illegal for people to use the “wrong” bathroom, and to make the offense punishable with fines and jail time. They’ve raised the usual bugaboo of pedophilia – which, if anyone has noticed, we don’t seem to care one whit about when it’s done by straight men – and which Mara Keisling clarifies:

“These (anti-discrimination) laws are in effect in more than 160 cities and 16 states,” said Keisling, and that the problem of sexual predation on minors that the discriminatory policy alleges to address, “isn’t happening anywhere. It just doesn’t occur. It’s one of the terrible things that opponents of equality always raise in hopes of scaring people.”

Oh, and by the way? “Birth gender” is an oxymoron. Pass it on.

Bathrooms (for the 82nd Time)

Bathrooms, again, this time in Pittsburgh.

It’s sickening, really, that people should deny other people the basic decency of a hassle-free bathroom.

McDonald’s Employees

There is a petition at change.org which is calling for the McDonald’s employees who stood by, laughed, and videotaped the violent attack on a trans woman be held responsible.

I have no idea what kind of precedent that might be, but a law like this is long overdue.

Not at all ironically, it is in Maryland that a recent non-discrimination law recently went down in flames because gender identity was added to the bill and legislators, as per usual, were presented with the bullshit argument that somehow “men in dresses” would be hiding out in ladies’ room inflicting violence. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A CASE OF THIS HAPPENING, and as we can all see here, it is transpeople who require protection and safety from transphobic bigots. The Democratic Senators who backed out of supporting the bill – even after confirming their support – should be ashamed of themselves.

Passing Privilege and Maine Politics

Last week, Jennifer Finney Boylan spoke to the Maine legislature over gender inclusion in Maine’s non discrimination laws. She writes:

Yesterday, I spoke to the Maine legislature’s Judiciary committee. A bill has been proposed to “exempt” transgender people from protections under the Maine Human Rights Act, which went into effect six years ago. Currently, Maine protects GLBT people from discrimination, and this includes a so called “public accommodations” provision of the very sort that was, in part, the deal breaker in the Maryland law that was shelved last week. (Although I should make it clear that the Maine law has been on the books for six years without problem, and the proposed legislation is to REMOVE the protection for trans people; Maryland currently has no such provisions and the shelved legislation would have put these protections into place.)

She made some lovely remarks to the Maine legislature’s judiciary committee, which she’s reprinted in full on her blog, but the issue that comes up is that of passing privilege: how people are more than ready to have trans people who pass in their transitioned gender protected and welcomed in gender-specific spaces, but that the people who don’t pass are suspect.

That’s obviously a problem, since it’s exactly the trans people (and cis people, for that matter) who don’t have “acceptable” or culturally legible genders that need the protection most. No one asks for anyone’s ID on the way into a public bathroom after all; we are carded by our gender expression, and if our gender isnt normative, there’s often trouble, whether the person is trans, butch or some other gender that doesn’t stick closely enough to “man” or “woman”.

A quick thanks to Boylan for the heads up and for speaking up, too.

Trans Friendly Bathrooms

Genderqueer Chicago is working on a campaign to make bathrooms in Chicago trans-friendly:

CHICAGO–In an unprecedented effort to make the city of Chicago safer for transgender individuals, Genderqueer Chicago, a local youth group, launched the “T-Friendly Bathroom Initiative,” a grassroots project that challenges business owners to recognize and protect gender identity in their public restrooms, according to a press release.

This year, more than 500 businesses and organizations will be asked to sign a pledge that commits them to allowing gender-variant customers to use the bathrooms they choose. Businesses that sign the pledge will receive window decals that gender-variant people can easily identify as trans-friendly.

It sounds like a very cool plan; I hope to see this idea transfer to other cities. Maybe there will be a day when Safe 2 Pee isn’t needed — imagine!

Gender Neutral Bathrooms at CSI

The College of Staten Island is making some of their restrooms unisex, or gender neutral. It’s not particularly tricky: they’re putting signs on the doors of both male & female stick figures, add a lock to the main door and a sign letting people know they can use the gender neutral bathroom as a single-use, private one.

Amazingly uncomplicated, and as the article points out, useful for more than people whose genders are in flux, fluid, or trans: a father who has to change his daughter’s diaper, for instance, doesn’t have to worry about finding a family bathroom, either.

(h/t to Darryl Hill, who is also mentioned in the article)

Bathroom Salon

& Here’s some more (not) good news: a group called Mass Resistance took video of First Event, the annual trans party/conference that takes place up in Boston in January of every year. They cobbled together some footage (badly) in order to show very tall trans women & crossdressers using the ladies’ room at the Radisson where the event was held.

What’s funny about the video is how horrendously boring it all looks. I mean, video footage of people going into & leaving a bathroom is exactly that. You may as well watch paint dry. With any luck, at least some of the people who viewed it thought, “um, yeah. People using a bathroom. Nothing horrible happened.”

On a positive note, Salon’s Broadsheet actually covered the horror of the bigotry being expressed. It’s good to see Salon start to cover trans issues with compassion and even some regularity.

(to to Jean)

Getting It

Interesting coverage of a trans person who is suing their employer for building a gender-neutral bathroom for them:

Interesting because the guy seems hip to trans identities in general, & is only critical of the person’s decision to sue. Strikes me as similar to how I felt about Kim Nixon’s case.

(via TransAdvocate)

DC Bathroom Campaign

DC Trans Coalition and Office of Human Rights Launch Bathroom Access and Safety Campaign

Groups Mobilizing Community to Ensure Enforcement of the Human Rights Act

Washington, DC –   On Friday, July 3rd, the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) along with the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) launched the Bathroom Access and Safety Campaign, otherwise known as the Pee in Peace Campaign – a community mobilization project designed to ensure bathroom access and safety for all residents, including transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming individuals, in the District.

Even with the District’s comprehensive Human Rights Act, which includes protections for gender identity or expression, trans and gender non-conforming people continue to experience verbal and physical harassment ranging from being attacked and thrown out to even being arrested for simply trying to use the bathroom in the District.  In fact, according to a recent citywide survey for transgender and gender non-conforming people, 70 percent of respondents indicated that they had experienced problems accessing or using gender segregated bathrooms. Continue reading “DC Bathroom Campaign”

Peeing, Again

Have you all seen this latest iteration of trans + feminist(ing) + bathroom issues? Oy, it makes me tired. Here’s what I had to say about it four years ago.

Some days I just want to apologize to all the trans people who I ardently needed to talk to about bathrooms when I was working this stuff out, so let me: sorry, all of you, and thank you for educating me when it wasn’t your responsibility.

In the meantime, Gunner Scott has started a new blog about trans people + bathroom experiences, and he put up a sample at TGB (& info about how to send him your own stories, too).

Gainesville Says No

Unofficial results from Gainesville are that the good citizens of the historic Florida town voted no to turning back the clock and getting rid of LGBTQ discrimination protections.

58% No on Amendment 1 (and 42% Yes) according to Mara Keisling of NCTE & Allyson Robinson of HRC.

Good news! Not only that, but the “keep crossdressed men out of bathrooms” schtick didn’t work. Go Equality Gainesville!

Femme Fever Gala Ball

The Femme Fever Gala Ball will be held on April 18, 2009 from 8pm to 12am & has been compared to a prom-like event. Betty & I have been to a few Femme Fever events & Karen hosts a great party.

All the info you need is below the break. Continue reading “Femme Fever Gala Ball”