Transgender rights in state legislation
In America, many of us take our rights for granted, including the right to use the bathroom of our choice. Surprisingly, however, not everyone has that liberty.
The conversation about transgender bathroom rights has exploded into a heated debate over the past year. Controversy erupted when states like North Carolina insisted they should be able to pass laws that force transgender individuals to use the public restroom that corresponds to the gender they were assigned at birth. Currently, only 18 states ban discrimination in public restrooms based on gender identity, which means transgender people still face major opposition in other states. But why should they be denied such a basic right, simply due to their gender identity?
Transgender people identify with a gender that differs from the one they were assigned at birth. Being transgender has nothing to do with sexual orientation (who they are attracted to) and everything to do with whether they view themselves as male, female or other. They face some of the harshest discrimination of any minority group because of the lack of understanding surrounding the transgender community. According to National Transgender Discrimination Survey, conducted in 2013, 41 percent of transgender citizens committed suicide in the past year, many of whom were students that took their own lives due to bullying. When even simple places like bathrooms become unsafe for transgender teens, suicide can appear to be the only escape.
Kentucky and Florida lawmakers have suggested that transgender people be given their own, separate bathrooms to prevent harassment, but this does not solve the problem either; it only avoids it. To do so would be segregation, casting a minority group aside as people who don’t belong and don’t deserve our acceptance. These suggestions should not be taken seriously. Instead, lawmakers should attempt to educate the public about these individuals, since many of those who oppose transgender bathroom equality are merely afraid of people they consider possible predators.
“Our culture has taught us that transgender people aren’t just sexual aliens; they’re also predatory liars,” said Cord Jefferson of Good Magazine, in an article titled, “How I Learned to Hate Transgender People.”
A campaign to inform people about what it means to be transgender and how important their rights are would hopefully generate more support, and at the very least decrease opposition. Yes, a male or female using a gender-opposite bathroom may seem a bit unorthodox, but we have to understand that transgender people are going to the bathroom for the same reason you and I do: to use it. Nothing more, nothing less.
The right to use a bathroom of choice should be a given human right, and it is shocking that some transgender people still do not have that option. It is even more ridiculous, however, that transgender people that try to exercise that right are punished for doing so. We must give them the freedom to choose, because when we make a stand for their basic freedoms, we will send a message that even in country led by someone who opposes the LGBT community, there is still a majority who will fight to defend their rights and accept them into our society with open arms. The choice is in our hands. All it takes is one person opening a bathroom door for a trapped transgender individual for millions to be opened for transgender people across the country.
Photo credit: ADA Sign Depot.