Dumb arguments against legal protections for transgender people, part 2
Continuing from earlier this week, the people who argue against anti-discrimination laws for transgender people make some incredibly nonsensical arguments. And the worst of these come up around the issue of transgender protection policies or laws in schools which include allowing transgender students at schools to use the restrooms and similar facilities according to their gender identity:
You’re worrying about the .00001 percent while forgetting about other students! Transphobic bully is not a big problem!
This argument is a favorite of bigots of all kinds: the group in question is such a small fraction of the population, that this isn’t really a problem. That isn’t how society makes a decision about whether or not the legal protections of society extend to them. For instance, no one is arguing that Jewish people don’t deserve the full protection of the law merely because they make up only 1.4% of the population. Similarly, the murder rate in the U.S. is only about 15 per 100,000, which translates to 0.015%. No one is arguing that we don’t need laws against murder anymore.
Before arguing that transgender protection is hardly the same thing as murder, you might want to google Transgender Day of Remembrance and read some stories of things that have happened to real trans people. Furthermore, things like the “safe schools for trans kids” policies mention restrooms and locker rooms precisely because it is around this issue more than anything else that harassment, bullying, and assault take place in schools. The policy is about allowing these kids to use the appropriate facilities without facing all of that. Yes, that means educating some kids that it isn’t acceptable to harass, tease, bully, or assault their trans classmates, but why would a just society allow one group of kids to harass, tease, bully, or assault another, period?
Which leads us to the other big flaw in this argument. This argument is a variant of the moldy old “more important things” argument. They are claiming that it isn’t possible to pursue the goal of allowing trans kids to be safe in schools without diverting valuable resources from other things. As if we won’t have the money to buy text books because allowing these kids to use the bathroom costs so much. But, allowing kids to go to one bathroom as opposed to the other doesn’t cost the school district extra. Dealing with kids bullying other kids is something we already expect schools to do, so again, this isn’t a new expense.
And contrary to what the organizations currently trying to repeal California’s law on this has been saying: there have been zero cases of transgender kids harassing the other kids in the bathroom. Furthermore, the physical genitalia of one kid in a bathroom stall has no effect, one way or the other, on any other kids in the same bathroom. Preventing a kid who claims to have a deep religious belief about another kid’s gender or sexuality from bullying that kid is not itself bullying.
It would make students uncomfortable by forcing them to be naked in front of someone that they might want to ask out!
In both the “news” videos where I saw a person make this argument, he said this about restrooms. And my first thought was, “who is forced to be naked in a restroom, and when is it in front of everyone?” I don’t know of anyone who has to get completely naked to use a restroom (although if you’re in a particularly complicated Halloween costume or similar, taking it completely off might be required, I don’t see that as a daily occurrence).
And if your sensibilities are so delicate that you don’t want anyone you don’t approve of possibly catching a glimpse at the urinal, you probably have a lot more to worry about from the closeted gay and bi guys around you (and there are a whole lot more than you think), than any transgender people.
I suspect that even though the spokesman used this example twice in referring to restrooms, that he actually was thinking of locker rooms. Using a locker room usually involves being seen naked by other people using the locker room. It’s quite difficult to change from street clothes to a basketball uniform, for instance, and then afterward change out of the uniform, take a shower, and then put your street clothes on without getting naked and being seen naked.
And since gym class is often mandatory, an argument can be made that one is forced to be naked in front of people in that circumstance.
But here’s the thing. The people most likely to be upset about this are religious conservatives. And the thing I’ve always wondered about particularly the ones who claim to take the bible literally is: why are you willing to be naked at all? Think about it, in the story of Adam and Eve, after they eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, what does it say? It says that they realized that they were naked, and that it was wrong to be naked, so they fashioned clothing from fig leaves to cover themselves. That is how god knows they’ve eaten the fruit, according to the story. Not because he was omniscient, but rather because they were hiding from him and had covered their nakedness.
Now think about that for a minute. The Bible doesn’t say, “they suddenly realized that they could see each other naked.” It says they realized they were naked. And not only did the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil tell them that being naked is a sin, but it revealed to them that allowing god to see you naked is a sin! The people up in arms about restroom and locker room policies should not be worrying about one transgender classmate seeing them naked, they should be upset about the fact that anyone at all can see them naked, and especially that god is seeing them naked!
And don’t tell me that what the story really means is that boys are allowed to see boys naked and girls are allowed to see girls naked and that hiding from god was an overreaction and that god not knowing until they came out of hiding was just a metaphor. If you’ve ever claimed to take the bible literally, then you need to take all of it literally and are not allowed to say the things you don’t want to worry about are metaphors, while the things I don’t want to worry about are horrible abominations that will spell the destruction of this country.
But I digress. Again, if the issue is worrying about people lusting after your naked body in the locker room, there’s a few things you really need to know. Regardless of which estimate of the percentage of the population which you believe to be gay is (and it’s definitely not zero), there are going to be at least a few gay people in that locker room. And a lot more bisexual people. And I mean a whole lot more.
In the 1990s the CDC did a bunch of studies about sexual activity to try to better predict how new sexually transmitted diseases would spread. In addition to concluding that “Americans would rather admit to being heroin addicts than bisexual” the study found that about 45% of the population engaged in bisexual activities for a significant number of years during their adult life. Please look at that number again: 45%.
Now, add whichever of the statistics you believe represent the percentage of gay people (I happen to think, for complicated mathematical reasons I won’t bore you with now, that the actual number is between 5% and 6%, less than the oft-quoted 10%, but significantly more than the low ball numbers it has become fashionable to toss around), and you’re in the neighborhood of half. So, any time you’re naked in front of a crowd that consists only of people of your gender, close to half of them are in the pool of people who might be attracted to you.
But the stated argument isn’t about the desires of the people looking at you. That’s part of what makes this argument so very intriguing: “naked in front of someone they might want to ask out on a date.”
Now, seriously, I want you to picture the kind of teenager who is most likely to be uncomfortable sharing a locker room with a transgender student. Is that kid really interested in dating a transgender classmate? Maybe my sample size is skewed, but all of the trans people that I have known before and after transitioning were gender non-conforming to an extent long before they started talking publicly of transitioning. I don’t mean that they were dressing like members of the other gender, I mean they had certain personality characteristics and mannerisms. People often assumed they were gay or lesbian.
So I just don’t see it. It doesn’t seem as if it ought to be a common occurrence. Is the guy projecting, here? Is perhaps this spokesman himself attract only to women who are masculine? Is he hot for a transman? Or is he just completely clueless.
Given all the research that shows that the most phobic acting people are also the ones who are most strongly aroused by the very thing they’re always hating on… maybe a bit of all three, you think?
(To be continued…)