The Transgender Bathroom

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"We don't get ourselves dry cleaned." That was former Congressman Barney Frank's infamous quip a few years back when asked about the potential consequences of repealing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, and whether gay and straight male soldiers could ever shower together without turning into pillars of bath salt.

Of course, gay men and straight men have been sharing their nakedness for a very long time, not only in the military, but in the smelly locker rooms of schools and gyms across the country. The idea that this would be a novel experience for military personnel that would expose them to lurking sexual predators was so baseless it invited the "dry cleaned" comeback. And, sure enough, several years after the Don't Ask repeal, none of the dire predictions have come to pass.

Undeterred, social conservatives are working to push another LGBT group back into the water closet. Fresh from their failed effort in California, they've introduced bills in several states aimed at keeping transgender people from sharing public restroom and locker room space with non-transgender people, so that, for example, a trans woman -- identified as male at birth -- can't use the same powder room as women identified as female at birth.

As before, the bills' supporters ignore the fact that trans and non-trans people have been sharing bathrooms, usually unknowingly and without incident, for a very long time. And as before, they advance a similar false claim that trans people, especially trans women, are predators that threaten the safety of others in public restrooms and locker rooms.

The irony, of course, is that a trans woman, unlikely even to be noticed in a women's room, is much more likely to be harassed or physically attacked if she uses the men's room -- which is what these new bills would require.


But privacy and public safety are not what these papers-to-potty bills are all about.  They're just the latest form of naked politics.

With a Perspective, I'm Clyde Wadsworth.

Clyde Wadsworth is an attorney practicing business and civil rights law.