JANUARY 21, 2012 8:36PM

Equality = Bathroom Bills = Rape: Reality Check

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Protections will allow men to dress as women “… in order to perpetrate crimes of homicide, rape, robbery [and] assault…”

Sound familiar? It sounds like the arguments of TS Separatism and Religious Fundamentalists, doesn’t it?

Actually, this quote is 40 years old and comes from a pamphlet published by a religious fundamentalist group campaigning against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). While this equality-for-the-sexes amendment was approved by the federal government, a fundamentalist  bathroom argument scared enough states into not ratifying the amendment so that it ultimately failed to become part of our Constitution.

1977 Post Mortem on ERA

The above story is worth a read. It’s a glimpse into the very playbook Separatists and Fundies use in their war against transgender equality.

Here’s just a few quotes:

(NOTE: When the ERA discussion talks about the integration of restrooms, “integrate” meant allowing men access to the women’s restrooms under the cover of an equality law.)

“ERA would… integrate public toilets.”

“Law professor Paul Freund objected in 1973 to being “quoted erroneously and out of context by certain opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment” and commented flatly, “I have not staled, and 1 do not believe, that the Amendment would require the sharing of rest room and prison cells by both sexes.” Yet in 1975 a huge anti-ERA advertisement in Baton Rouge papers credited him with the allegation that the ERA would integrate bathrooms.”

And then the story gets down to the point of restroom scare tactics:

“The hubbub over the implementation of the Amendment is designed to elicit a knee-jerk reaction…”

Compare this to the rhetoric of the modern anti-equality fundamentalist camp:

From nobathroombill.com: Who's going to be waiting for YOUR wife and daughter?

Compare this to the rhetoric of the modern anti-equality Separatists camp:

image

Dana Lane Taylor, Cathy Brennan and Elizabeth Hungerford Anti-Trans United Nations letter: Trans protections allow men to harm woman and all men are just as likely to harm women.

This letter linked back (note the “xxii” citation) to Taylor’s site wherein she asserts “When discussing laws that protect gender identity and expression, for public accommodations, it is crucial to use specific language.” She then goes on to warn the reader about the evils of “broad definitions of gender identity and/or expression.” As part of her warning, she lists a number of incidents wherein men (whose unrelated behavior could somehow/some way be tied to back to breaking some sort of gender stereotype) hurt women. For example,  Taylor cites the arrest of a peeping tom who was wearing panties on his head:

According to Separatists, this guy would be protected under trans equality measures.

  • Did the anti-ERA people have any evidence to support their assertion that equality laws nullify existing laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance? Nope… just fear and a purposeful misrepresentation of the facts concerning the restroom safety.
  • Do the modern anti-trans religious fundies have any evidence to support assertion that equality laws nullify existing laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance? Nope… just fear and a purposeful misrepresentation of the facts concerning the restroom safety.
  • Do the modern TS Separatists have any evidence to support assertion that equality laws nullify existing laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance? Nope… just fear and a purposeful misrepresentation of the facts concerning the restroom safety.

3/25/1973, The Anniston Star: Men in the women's restrooms

If they can integrate restrooms on the basis of race, why not on the basis of sex?

These anti-equality groups have had 40 years to make their evidence-based case showing us exactly how equality laws nullify existing laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance. Have they done it even once? Nope. When I challenged Dana Lane Taylor a few weeks ago to provide just 10 real-world examples, she shut down her entire site and hasn’t yet provided any examples of how trans protections nullify existing laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance.

So, what might you expect the forces of anti-equality to do when they can’t actually make  a cogent evidence-based argument explaining exactly how equality laws nullify existing laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance? Well, they do what comes naturally… they just lie:

"Since Montgomery County passed a similar bill, there have been 4 rapes by men, dressing as women lying in wait for their victims in ladies rooms."

Really? Four rapes you say? Well, lets see what law enforcement has to say about that testable assertion of fact:

"Since this law has been in effect, we have had no reported rapes committed in restrooms by men dressed as women."

What are the forces of anti-equality hoping to communicate with their propaganda? Are they claiming that a rapist in a dress thought they’d get away with a rape due to equality laws? Are they suggesting that equality protections somehow condones abhorrent behaviors like rape? Are they hoping to make the public believe that in the absence of equality protections, a rapist is somehow prevented from entering a restroom due to some force field-like bubble which equality will somehow destroy? Well, yes… those are apparently the basic arguments anti-equality forces have made for decades.

They hope that the normal knee-jerk revulsion against cruel violence will shut down your critical thinking abilities. They hope that instead of thinking of rapists as being the threat, you’ll instead see crossdressers, non-op and pre-op people as being a threat. Because, if they can get you to do that, the process of dehumanization will begin so that you’ll easily conflate rapists (a behavior) with crossdressers, non-op and pre-op people (an identity) and crossdressers, non-op and pre-op people will naturally become possible rapists who should be treated with suspicion. If they can get you to do this mental gymnastic, there will never be any need for them to produce objective evidence explaining exactly how equality laws nullifies existing laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance. No, with the anti-equality blinders on, the risk crossdressers, non-op and pre-op people pose will seem self-evident.

[Non-discrimination protections based upon gender identity] would allow all males – including registered sex offenders or males subject to a domestic violence order of protection – to assert “gender identity” as a means to invade female-only space. Indeed, these laws provide a legal basis for males to be in sex-segrigated space. It is well-documented that males as a class have a demonstrated history of harming females as a class by exploiting bemale biology (ie, rape, sexual violance, unwanted pregnancy).
- Cathy Brennan and Elizabeth Hungerford United Nations letter in which they use Dana Lane Taylor’s Separatist propaganda to support defeating a UN trans-equality initiative.

Why do Fundamentalists and Separatists do it? Well, they do it because that tactic works! Not only did the bathroom meme defeat a constitutional amendment that passed the congress and the senate with the support of presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon and even the likes of George Wallace 40 years ago, it’s the only rhetorical tool that seems to gain traction when arguing against trans equality. Whether it’s arguing against the equality of  trans and cis people, trans folk and transsexual separatists, trans folk and radical feminists, the bloody mantle of the bathroom meme serves as their foundational argument from which all other hyperbole is launched.

Now that I’ve touched on the fantasy, here’s the reality…

Trans woman being beaten by a cis woman

I have spent so many hours avoiding public multi-stall bathrooms  that I have damaged my bladder and put pressure on my kidneys. The problem was a daily one. I’d think about where I was going what bathrooms I’d have access to, how much I drank during the day, whether I’d be with people who could help stand guard…
-  Response to a 2002 survey conducted by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission which found that nearly 50% of transgender respondents reported harassment or assault in a public bathroom

We live under the constant threat of horrifying violence. We have  to worry about what bathroom to use when our bladders are aching.  We are forced to consider whether we’ll be dragged out of a bathroom and arrested or face a fist fight while our bladders are still aching .  It’s an everyday reality for us. Human beings must use toilets… If I go into the women’s bathroom, am I prepared for the shouting and shaming? Will someone call security or the cops? If I use the men’s room, am I willing to fight my way out? Am I really ready for the violence that could ensue?
- Leslie Feinberg, Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue, p 68 – 69

Police officers often harass or abuse transgender and gender nonconforming people regardless of which sex-segregated bathroom they use. This harassment intensifies when coupled with the stereotyping of trans people as sexual predators. As such, the use of the  ‘wrong’ bathroom . . . often results in arrests for crimes such as public lewdness, public obscenity, or public indecency. Refusing to  comply with or simply questioning a police officer’s direction as to  which bathroom the individual must use can often lead to charges  such as resisting arrest or disorderly conduct.

- Pooja Gehi, Struggles from the Margins: Anti-Immigrant Legislation and the Impact on  Low-Income Transgender People of Color, 30 WOMEN’S RTS. L. REP. 315, 326 (2009)

And it doesn’t stop with bathrooms. This level of violence is something trans folk must consider when buying cloths too. Here’s what State Rep. Richard Floyd (R) said he’d do to a trans person if they dared to buy clothes like anyone else might:

I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.

Again, to hit home just how longstanding this meme is, consider the following quote from a 1970 anti-trans equality legal decision:

There are numerous subjects who would want to change their sex identity in order to perpetrate crimes of homicide, tape, robbery, assault, etc.”

- Columbus v. Zanders, 266 N.E.2d 602, 604–06 (Ohio Mun. Ct. 1970)

The time to end this intellectual barbarism has come!

Don’t surrender your critical thinking faculties to the likes of Separatists and Fundamentalists. Don’t fall for their blood-drenched games of rhetoric! The idea the various anti-equality forces seek to set loose within your mind is the same: bigotry. And a bigot is a bigot is a bigot:

Ku Klux Klan Propaganda in favor of separatism and anti-equality

Notice how the KKK uses the same rhetorical tool Fundamentalists and TS Separatists use. They hope that the normal knee-jerk revulsion against cruel violence will shut down your critical thinking abilities. They hope that instead of thinking of rapists as being the threat, you’ll instead see the African-American community as being a threat. Because, if they can get you to do that, the process of dehumanization will begin so that you’ll easily conflate rapists (a behavior) with African-American community (an identity) and the African-American community will naturally become possible rapists who should be treated with suspicion. If they can get you to do this mental gymnastic, there will never be any need for them to produce objective evidence explaining exactly how racial equality laws  nullifies existing laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance. No, with the anti-equality blinders on, the risk the African-American community poses will seem self-evident.

GET IT?!?

Oh, yah… and please don’t post replies to this post linking to sites where TS Separatists claim to not hate non-transsexual transgender people and assert that it’s self-evident that all separate trans people need to work on behalf of their own  instead of trying to “force” everyone under some “collective”…  because the KKK engages in the same slimy posturing too:

From the Ku Klux Klan website: "We are NOT bigots or haters"

“[The the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan] was concerned about securing a future for his people…  He wasn’t consumed by hatred for the black man and woman… We believe in self-determination for all people. We believe that the best minds of all people should work together for the advancement and development of their own people without being hindered by another racial group… No, we are not the enemies of the black man, the brown man, the red man, or the yellow man. Rather it is those who attempt to artificially force the different races together who are the enemies…”

Separatists are all too happy to pick up the very same butcher’s tools that everyone from those who would seek to bar Muslims from holding office to the likes of  Dr. Ruth Jacobs would use in their anti-equality efforts and it’s as perverse as it is sickening. Whether it’s a racist separatist, a misogynist separatist, a philogynist separatist, a homophobic separatist or a transphobic separatist, they all trade in the same rhetorical mind games. Separatists (whatever their flavor) have the blood of very real suffering on their hands.

Now, as a preemption to the strawman argument I can already see coming… Don’t assert that I’m claiming that TS Separatists are racists or that they’re part of the KKK. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t use the same rhetorical tools the KKK does when making their case for separatism. I think membership in the Klan requires more than simply repurposing their playbook.

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