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    Potty Talk

    rebeccaRecently, the forces that have fought for years against equal rights for LGBT people, changing their focus away from marriage, have been talking a lot about bathrooms. This potty talk is the latest attempt to smear queer people.

    As a result, recent laws and campaigns have focused on making life harder for trans people and gender non-conforming people by insisting that everyone must use the bathroom of their “birth sex,” which isn’t actually a binary determination for everyone anyway. They seem to believe that heterosexual, gender-conforming people need to be terrified of LGBT people–especially trans people–in bathrooms. They have further stated that letting people of all genders have safe access to bathrooms would lead to straight people being assaulted.

    This claim is entirely unfounded. There is no connection whatsoever between assaults and equal rights for trans people. The overwhelming majority of assaults in the United States are committed by straight, usually gender-conforming men. Queer people, however, and especially those who do not appear to conform to traditional heterosexual gender norms, do experience high and disproportionate levels of violence, assaults, and harassment, including in bathrooms and elsewhere.

    In other words, the claims of those who oppose equal rights are not only untrue, but they are also the exact opposite of reality. There is no risk of assault to straight people caused by LGBT-rights laws, but there is, in fact, a significant and disproportionate risk of assault of LGBT people. Laws requiring people to use the bathroom of their “birth sex” actually increase these risks of harassment and assault, committed against LGBT people.

    Even without such laws, trans and gender-non-conforming people already can face problems using bathrooms, such as when bathrooms are labeled as giving the two choices of “ladies” and “gentlemen,” etc. Many of us cannot be certain that we won’t be harassed no matter which of those two choices we pick. We should work to expand the availability of bathrooms that provide for all genders, and whenever there are only the options of “women” and “men,” people should not be forced to use the one that is most wrong for them, or where they are most likely to be assaulted or harassed.

    If someone actually cares about minimizing the risk that people will suffer harassment or assault in bathrooms, they should support, not oppose, safe bathrooms being provided for people of all genders, and the right to use the “right one” for each person.

    Additionally, if what they are worried about is heterosexual men assaulting women in the women’s bathroom, then they could decide to support work to end rape, rather than pretend that making life worse for LGBT people would solve that problem. Yes, there is a real problem of women being raped by (straight) men in this country, and it deserves more serious attention to solve. Those who are claiming that the reason they are spending time, money, and resources fighting trans bathroom access is to reduce the rape of straight women should instead put those resources into programs and organizations that actually work to prevent rape.

    To pretend that making life less safe for trans people would somehow reduce the incidence of straight women being raped is an insult to trans and queer people, and also shows they don’t really care about stopping the rape of straight women either. It turns out, the way to reduce the suffering of some is not by increasing the suffering of others. A world in which more trans people get harassed and assaulted because they are denied safe bathroom access is not something that anyone who claims to care about a better, safer society should be supporting.

    Oakland City Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan was elected in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012. She is working for safe neighborhoods, for local jobs and for a fresh start for Oakland. Councilmember Kaplan graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, obtained a master’s degree from Tufts University and a Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School.