Why Your Arguments For HB2 Are Ridiculous

Given that women have been sexually harassed and assaulted by their male coworkers and bosses, why don’t we pass a law against men in management positions?

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a Role Reboot article called “Stop Using Women’s Safety To Justify Transphobia.” Since then, an unprecedented number of people have taken it upon themselves to explain to me why I’m wrong and trans people are a threat to my safety as a cis woman, a courtesy for which I will be eternally grateful, because at least that meant they weren’t hassling trans people about it. These HB2 apologists claim that the justification for such bills is not the nonexistent problem of predatory trans women in bathrooms; it’s cis men who will stop at nothing to make women feel unsafe, including pretending to be transgender so they can sneak into the women’s bathroom.

I’m still not convinced that the kind of man who would harass and assault women (despite the fact that assault and harassment are, you know, illegal) and sees a public bathroom as a great venue to do so will be deterred by HB2, but fine, let’s assume this person exists somewhere. It’s fair to ask what we can do to protect women (including trans women) from cis men. Members of that group have been responsible for a lot of abhorrent shit in the history of this species, and although “pretending to be a trans woman in order to assault women” hasn’t yet made the list (at least in the United States), it’s not unthinkable. So if women are conceivably in danger from cis men posing as trans women, why shouldn’t we take all possible precautions to eliminate that danger?

While you’re pondering that, a few follow-up questions:

Given that women have been sexually harassed and assaulted by their cab drivers, why don’t we pass a law against men driving taxis?

Given that women have been sexually harassed and assaulted by their male coworkers and bosses, why don’t we pass a law against men in management positions?

Given that women have been sexually harassed and assaulted by their male teachers and professors, why don’t we pass a law against men working in education?

Given that countless women experience sexual harassment in bars, why don’t we ban men from establishments that serve alcohol?

Given that countless women experience sexual harassment while riding the bus or subway, why don’t we pass a law against men using public transportation?

Before anyone comes at me for being a man-hater, let me make it clear that I am not actually advocating any of the above pieces of legislation. (I prefer to do my man-hating one-on-one.) I do believe they would probably make women safer. However, the cost is too high. Each of those hypothetical laws would drastically restrict men’s participation in public life. It wouldn’t be fair or reasonable to curtail all men’s freedom because some men take advantage of that freedom and use it to hurt others.

So why doesn’t that same logic apply to trans women in public bathrooms—especially since even HB2 supporters have to acknowledge that trans women do not, themselves, pose a safety hazard.

Let’s dispense immediately with the red herring that there’s something different about bathrooms, that we should go to extreme lengths to protect women, but only in this one specific instance. Yes, women deserve to be safe when they’re peeing, but they also deserve to be safe on the bus, at school, at work, and on the town. Bathrooms are not a unique case.

So why are so many seemingly reasonable people—people who would never, for instance, advocate banning men from institutions of higher learning because some male college students assault their classmates—totally comfortable saying that all designated-male-at-birth people should be banned from women’s restrooms, regardless of their gender identity, presentation, or whether they have any other safe options? Restricting trans women’s access to gender-appropriate restrooms forces them into an impossible choice between risking violence by using the men’s room or simply never going out anywhere they might need to use a public restroom. Why have some of us decided this is a reasonable trade-off to prevent a hypothetical attack on women’s privacy that, as of yet, has never demonstrably happened?

It’s simple. It’s because, as I’ve said over and over, this is not about women’s safety.

No one beginning with the question “how can we make women and girls safer?” would arrive at the conclusion “What we need is transphobic and unenforceable bathroom legislation!” Women’s safety is a red herring. It’s the excuse slapped onto these harmful laws to try to make their naked bigotry more palatable.

You can tell how much we as a society value women’s safety based on what we’re willing to sacrifice for it. When we talk about anything that might inconvenience men, the cost of women’s safety is always too high. But when it comes to infringing on trans women’s security and freedom, all of a sudden we’re told we should be willing to pay any price.

Limiting trans people’s participation in public life isn’t an unfortunate but necessary side effect of bills like HB2. It’s the entire point. Women’s safety is not the prize to be bought at the expense of trans inclusion. Trans exclusion was always the goal.

Lindsay King-Miller is a queer femme who does not have an indoor voice. Her writing has appeared in Bitch Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, Buzzfeed, The Hairpin, and numerous other publications. She lives in Denver with her partner, a really cute baby, and two very spoiled cats. She is the author of Ask A Queer Chick (Plume, 2016).

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