By Lisa J. Keating
Being transgender in Washington State has become more and more difficult. The trans community has been under intense scrutiny and even greater marginalization. They are suffering increased harassment, online threats due to an effort by a conservative population to repeal protected rights that have been in place in Washington State since 2006. It all started with a public backlash over an inclusive locker room policy the YMCA of Pierce & Kitsap Counties implemented in April of last year, then retracted the following September. After a 90 day reviewing process, the YMCA formally implemented a policy that is in alignment with the Washington State Human Rights Commission ruling that went into effect in December 26, 2015.
As an advocate for transgender people, gender diverse youth, and their families, I have been involved in ongoing community outreach and education efforts. Some days it’s so hard to redirect questions and irrational fears about “men in the women’s locker room.” Which is what the opposition repeats ad nauseam. The toll runs deep on transgender people, of all ages, and their loved ones. It’s easier to focus on the ignorant hate because it’s the loudest voice. Depression and anxiety are on the rise in our community as a result. There is now a growth in suicide watch within transgender support groups.
Just this morning, I burst into tears sitting in my driveway overwhelmed by how much work is ahead. Our daughter keeps asking me if I’m okay. She notices my long sighs and empty stares into the distance. The biggest hurdles is inspiring our allies to take action; to move beyond just a “like” on Facebook that happens in a nanosecond. How do I inspire people to actually call their legislators? Especially those who will be affected by these bills if they are passed. I have a message for those whose gender expression is outside of the accepted binary. You WILL be targeted by this type of legislation. It empowers uneducated, uninformed, or bigoted people to question you to prove you have the “right equipment” to use a public facility. We cannot succeed without your involvement.
Both senate bills my husband and I testified against were voted out of committee by Republicans, who voted along party lines. We have heard repeatedly that these laws are not meant to discriminate against trans people. These bills have been supposedly passed because “we need to protect women and children” from potential predators who would pretend to dress up as a trans woman to attack non-trans women and children. Since there are more cisgender females their safety is perceived as a higher priority.
The solutions in the bills to install these “bathroom” protections include proof of genital reassignment surgery, DNA and chromosome testing, even physical inspection, just to be granted legal access to use public facilities. Aside from the basic misunderstanding of human biology, let’s break down the implementation of these solutions.
How would any of these bill be enforced? How will people be trained to enforce these laws? In the case of DNA and chromosome testing, where will this extremely private information be stored and who will have access to it?
Department of Licensing?
Will people be required to carry papers to enter public restrooms? Where does this end? The multiple points in human history where one group forced another group to carry papers have ended horrifically.
Finally, who is going to pay for the implementation of this legislation? Will we raise property taxes or sales tax? This legislation is coming from elected officials who campaign on fiscal responsibility. The long-term implementation of such bills seems short sighted, at best. In some states, a civil fine is attached to persons who violate the law by simply going pee.
Yesterday, I was helping a fellow parent of a trans child come up with talking points for a hearing in another state. This parent was told to make their argument in 30 seconds or less for a House committee hearing. We’re going to pause right here. What equal rights narrative was limited to a 30 second sound bite. How on earth does a complex society evolve under the limitations of a 30 second argument? We don’t. Being expected to validate human dignity in less than a minute tells us that transgender lives don’t matter.
I have a question for the men in our lives, what does this dialog say about YOU? This entire argument, happening across the country, perpetuates a false fear that men or (let’s get real) penises are to be feared. Women are unable to be self-reliant and protect ourselves, let alone our own children without the “help” of men. Is anyone else’s head spinning about now?? Misogyny is alive AND well in Washington state.
This is a ploy by those who resist the equality of human dignity; they have reframed their argument to be caged in a veil of “safety” from the unknown by blaming men’s inability to control their urges. As if all males are caveman like savages raping anything in their path. ALL humans with penises are not rapists, Peeping Toms, or predators. If they were Father’s Day would not exist.
What is problematic about this picture is it degrades husbands, brothers, fathers, uncles, neighbors, coaches, or teachers. This is not to say that violence against women, children and (YES) men does not happen. This flawed and FALSE fear of a predator in the bathroom or locker room isn’t really about men. It’s about transgender (NOT transgendered) women and girls. The opposition has yet to talk about fears of trans men in public facilities. What has been created is a greater, potentially violent, fear of US vs. THEM. People will get hurt. And it won’t be the ones trying to protect us from the bathroom boogieman.
Lives are at stake. The lives of people I know and love. People with significant others, children, sisters, brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, friends, and neighbors. They are artists, engineers, web designers, teachers, spiritual leaders, executive directors, writers, physicians, athletes, parents, children…HUMANS.