Last week, the Trump administration officially revoked federal guidelines granting transgender students the right to use public school restrooms corresponding with their gender identities. The Obama administration previously advocated for and actively enforced these guidelines.
As a result of the Education and Justice Departments’ latest stance, we can expect states across the nation to continue to legally undermine transgender students’ dignities and civil rights and ultimately, transform public schools into sites of institutionalized bullying — all encouraged by our current president.
And while Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed the decision was made because such guidelines “lacked extensive legal analysis, did not go through a public vetting process, sowed confusion and drew legal challenges,” lawmakers who oppose trans bathroom rights are too often guided by paternalistic notions of protecting cisgender women and girls, who are cast as defenseless victims of transgender monsters, and wholly dependent on straight, cisgender male lawmakers to come to their rescue.
The root of opposition to transgender individuals using the restroom of their gender identity lies in stereotypes of transgender individuals as predatory perverts that young, cis women must be rescued from.
But that being said, if the goal of anti-trans lawmakers is, indeed, to protect young women and not merely to demonize transgender students, conservative lawmakers would pay more attention to all of the cases of campus sexual harassment and violence toward women. This includes all sexual harassment and violence toward women committed by cisgender men, who constitute the vast majority of perpetrators in cases of sexual abuse against women.
While there are virtually zero recorded cases of cisgender women and girls being preyed on by transgender women in restrooms, as a matter of public record, there exists no shortage whatsoever of cisgender women being preyed upon by cisgender men in public facilities.
Statistically speaking, if we forced transgender women to use men’s restrooms in public, it is far more likely that they would be the victimized party. According to a 2016 NPR report, trans individuals are more likely to be the victims of sexual abuse in bathrooms than their cisgender counterparts. In fact, according to national data, you’re more likely to be harassed or assaulted in a bathroom by a cis Republican man than by a transgender woman, which isn’t too difficult to believe when one considers the myriad sexual abuse allegations against our current Republican president and his notorious penchant for sneaking backstage at beauty pageants to gawk at naked young women.
Yet these plainly objective facts stay excluded from the rhetoric and policy proposals of conservatives.
If anti-trans lawmakers genuinely cared about the violence women and girls continue to face, they would devote their efforts to reforming laws governing sexual assault survivors’ rights; they would promote increased education and awareness about consent, and actively work to establish a culture of respect toward women — not infantilize them in order to promote an ignorant, transparently transphobic narrative.
The Trump administration’s decision on transgender rights in public facilities is particularly unsettling because it directly affects the millions of youths, transgender or not, attending public schools across the country. As if the everyday anxiety of being included, making friends and fitting in doesn’t impact transgender students’ academic performances enough already, I can only imagine how inability to safely use the restroom they feel most comfortable in without being bullied and harassed will further disrupt this equation.
These discriminatory policies in public schools benefit no one — least of all the young cis women lawmakers claim to be looking out for — and only serve to instill hostility and disdain for the transgender community in America’s youth at their most impressionable stage in life.
It’s frustrating that young women are being reduced to mere pawns while their rights to bodily autonomy, reproductive healthcare, workplace equality and protection from sexual abuse perpetuated by cis men are either ignored or overtly attacked by conservative lawmakers. It’s also deeply telling that conservative lawmakers exclude trans women from the bloc of women they believe are worthy of respect and protection.
At the end of the day, conservative lawmakers will continue to undermine the humanity of a whole demographic of Americans, and shame, misrepresent and humiliate trans youth. Data and research disproving the narrative that transgender people are sexual predators unfailingly fall upon deaf ears, as conservative lawmakers continue to push their agenda solely on the basis of staunch, unyielding prejudice. But at the very least, they can leave cis women and girls out of this. We never signed up to be used for, and certainly don’t stand to benefit from, transphobia.
Kylie Cheung is a freshman majoring in journalism and political science. She is also the editorial director of the Daily Trojan. Her column,“You Do Uterus,” runs every Thursday.