Friday, March 22, 2013

Who Cares About Bathrooms?

             The story of Coy Mathis that is getting attention now is one more in the long line of examples of how transphobia is so deeply rooted in our culture. Coy is a transgender first grader whose parents have come to respect and support her on her gender journey. She used the girls' restroom for a year and a half before the school district said she would have to start using the boys' restroom or the teachers' restroom. She lives in Colorado, one of the sixteen states that has anti-discrimination laws for transpeople. Yet, the school district is refusing to comply with state law and arguing that it is unclear.
            It's good that 16 states have some form of anti-discrimination laws. We're making legislative progress. But what does this progress mean when not even those states are complying with the laws? The school district is arguing that as Coy's genitalia develops she will make others in the girls' restrooms uncomfortable. As Jill Fillipovic, in her article "From school to society, the intolerance transgender people face," states, "that in 29 years of using women's bathrooms, I have never once caught a glimpse of anyone else's bare crotch, it's worth asking: why should the potential future discomfort of yet-to-be-discomfited students or parents trump the right of a six-year-old kid to be treated like everyone else?" Obviously someone is already uncomfortable. Why?
            Someone is also uncomfortable in Arizona. A bill was introduced by a Republican legislator that would associate which public bathroom someone uses with their birth certificate. Failing to follow this would result in six months in jail. What is the purpose of a bill like this? To me, it seems to have no other purpose than to enforce rigid gender roles, suffocate identity expression, force every person to conform to white-supremacist, cissexist values that are the root of so many horrible injustices of this world. It seems to me like some people are having such a difficult time with the idea of letting go of their privileges and respecting people with different life experiences as equally valuable as their own. Perhaps they see no other option than to get rid of the difference. I've wondered if people feel so insecure that they need every facet of their lives to resemble themselves so that they can feel validated.
            I really don't know how to explain someone feeling motivated to introduce a bill tying bathroom use to your birth certificate. I'm going to add a quote by Rep. John Kavanagh from the news article "Transgender Bathroom Use Debate Emerges In Arizona," who supports this bill, but I want to add a trigger warning before I include this quote. In support of the bill, he says, "This law simply restores the law of society: Men are men and women are women... For a handful of people to make everyone else uncomfortable just makes no sense." Hmm. Who is this everyone else? As a cisgender woman aspiring to be an ally to trans communities, I feel more than uncomfortable about being grouped in with people like Kavanagh. In my opinion, the handful of people who are enraging everyone else are the people that feel righteous in their transphobia, racism, sexism, homophobia. The people who try to pass laws so that some beautiful, loving, talented, amazing people go to jail for using the bathroom.
            Why can't Coy use the girls' restroom? From news article Coy Mathis, Colo. Transgender Child Banned From Using School Bathroom, Ignites Debate Over Anti-Discrimination Laws Attorney W. Kelly Dude says, "'However, I'm certain you can appreciate that as Coy grows older and his male genitals develop along with the rest of his body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls' restroom.'" No, I can't appreciate that at all. There is no time for legitimizing this type of thinking anymore. Too many people are being made to feel insecure about who they are or unable to express their needs. Too many people are being bullied, harassed, killed so that a handful of others can feel "comfortable." Transphobia is a real aspect to our society. It's woven into the fabric of our world. It's time to recognize that and do something about it.

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