The politics of peeing
In an unsurprising turn of events last week, Donald Trump rescinded truly basic federal guidance which protected the most rudimentary needs of transgender youth. This guidance was issued only last year by Obama, and required trans students in American schools to be allowed access to the locker rooms and bathrooms that matched their gender identity. While this may not sound like a huge deal to those for whom bathrooms are readily available and unfalteringly accommodating, this active undermining of the basic rights of young trans people has huge implications for trans and LGBT people across the US.
To start off with an obvious point, a school day is long, and the need to go to the bathroom is unavoidable. While it might be argued by some that trans students are not actually being denied the right to go to the toilet, what these people don’t understand is that using a public bathroom when you are transgender can be a truly terrifying, or at least uncomfortable, experience. To subject vulnerable youth to that fear on a daily basis, without protection from the institution in which they have to remain, is not simply unjust, but also unbelievably cruel.
Plus, in a broader sense, bathroom politics are generally not actually intended to get trans people to use the toilet which is supposedly most appropriate for them, or to protect other bathroom users. Don’t for a second believe that that is the case. The purpose of anti-trans bathroom legislation is to force trans people out of the public eye as much as possible, while still being able to proclaim that the laws are for the greater good.
These are laws which instil and justify fear on a wide scale, by instilling the idea into the national consciousness that trans people are subhuman, dangerous individuals. However, in actuality, there have been zero recorded cases of trans people assaulting anyone in public bathrooms. Yet still, there is a constant push to deny trans people access to the bathrooms which match their true gender, despite many not conforming to standards which would allow them access to alternative facilities.
Here, what I would like to point out, is that what trans advocacy really boils down to is that trans men are the same gender as cis men, and trans women really are just women, and we deserve to be viewed and treated as such. Bathroom politics ensure that we are not.
So, by reinforcing fears of trans people, and ensuring that openly transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals are unwelcome in either male or female bathroom facilities, the Trump administration seems to be aiming to force trans people to conform to transphobic standards, and behave and dress in the way a cisnormative society believes that they should. In other words, he wants to make it that bit more difficult for trans people to exist in the US, in the hope that they will disappear, become invisible, or never feel safe coming out at all.
Unfortunately, I do not doubt that this is just the beginning, and that this is only the first nail Trump is going to hammer into the coffin of LGBT legislative rights. He has started off by empowering transphobic schools and undermining transgender youth; what lies in store is not difficult to guess. And, if there’s one thing you can rely on Trump for, it is his ability to keep his momentum going once he’s got the ball rolling. I see a heart-breaking future for transgender Americans, and it’s all started in a public bathroom.
Aiden Alexander Wynn
(Image courtesy of Patheos)