As if this election cycle wasn’t deplorable enough, the hot political topic of the moment is public restrooms. Of all the pressing issues in the world — endless wars, out-of-control spending, waning civil liberties — our presidential candidates think the most pressing matter is where Americans relieve themselves.
Of course, I’m referring to the recent laws enacted in North Carolina and Mississippi that require transgendered individuals to use the restroom of the sex they were born with, rather than the gender they identify with. I wrote about the issue last month thinking it would be a passing story, but since then it’s somehow become a cornerstone issue in the election.
Donald Trump weighed in last week, disagreeing with the law in a rare bout of sanity. Ted Cruz has very vocally challenged The Donald’s position, using the issue to position himself as the culture warrior in the Republican race.
The Internet has seized on these new laws as well, with several viral stories about men sneaking into the women’s restroom to peep and even take photos — never mind the fact that none of these incidents involve the transgendered.
Indeed, it’s becoming increasingly clear that people don’t understand what’s at stake with the bathroom law. Let me break it down in plain English.
Today, it is the de facto norm that transgender people use the restroom of the gender they identify with. That means that men who were born women use the men’s restroom, and women who were born men use the women’s restroom.
If that disturbs you, take a second to process this fact: you have likely been in the same public restroom as a transgendered person before. A mere 0.3 percent of the population may be transgendered, but in the course of a lifetime, we share restrooms with thousands of individuals. At least one of them is likely to have been transgendered.
Perhaps you didn’t notice. That’s not surprising since people tend to mind their own business in a public restroom. Toilets and urinals are not exactly the best place to strike up a conversation. Wandering eyes or extended conversation are major faux pas. You probably didn’t notice the transgendered person because you weren’t rudely staring at your fellow poddy patrons—and also because he (or she) passed as a member of your sex. Generally, restroom users don’t take the time to play gender cop.
But now, the governments of Mississippi and North Carolina want you to do just that. That means that men who were born women must use the women’s restroom, and women who were born men must use the men’s restroom.
As a result, a trans woman wearing a dress will be forced to use the men’s restroom, and a trans man in a suit and tie will be forced to use the women’s restroom. This will inevitably cause more social disruption for very obvious reasons. Imagine the thousands of awkward conversations that parents will have to have with their children about the lady in the men’s room (and vice versa).
Instead of enforcing social norms on the transgendered, these bathroom laws disrupt them. Now, trans people will be more vulnerable to harassment in public restrooms and cis people will feel more uncomfortable sharing the restroom with those who identify with the opposite sex. It’s a lose-lose situation.
From a conservative standpoint, the fact that busybody politicians want to regulate our bowels should be enraging enough. There is nothing wrong with the status quo of bathroom usage. There is no epidemic of trans people preying on vulnerable youths. Taking photos inside a public restroom has and always will be illegal. No further laws are justified.