By Amanda Rohdenburg – she/her, Director of Advocacy, Outright Vermont
There has been a lot of talk about bathrooms lately. In the Outright office, in our state, and across the country. If you haven’t been following: North Carolina—along with some other states—have proposed or passed legislation that forbids transgender people from using public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. On a local level, a similar conversation has been going on at Green Mountain Union High School. Then the federal Departments of Justice and Education published a statement of support for transgender youth to use facilities that correspond to their gender identity in accordance with Title IX.
With transgender rights and bathroom debates gaining such broad attention, a lot of questions have been coming up for folks. So let’s have a bit of a Q&A!
Q: What does transgender even mean?
A: Transgender describes a person who does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. If a person still identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth, that person is called cisgender. It’s okay to shorten those words to ‘trans’ and ‘cis,’ so I’ll do that from here on out.
Q: So someone with a different body than mine could be using the same bathroom??
A: Yes! And they do, all the time! All bodies are different, encompass such a huge variety—in size, shape, color, and genitalia. In fact, the reasons for gender segregated bathrooms (which have only existed in the past century or so), have much more to do with anxiety over women gaining access to public spaces and maintaining Victorian-era rules of propriety for wealthy white women than anything else.
Q: Some people are saying that bathroom bills are important to protect women and girls from predators. Is that true?
A: Nope. Trans people are not more likely to be violent, predatory, or assaultive than anyone else. In fact, they often are the targets of violence—especially when they don’t have access to safe public facilities including self-determined bathrooms. As we move toward ending violence, it is so, so important to make sure that the movement is not co-opted and used to perpetuate violence against marginalized people.
That’s it for this Q&A! I hope it was helpful, and that together we can work toward a future where everyone can use a bathroom, wash their hands, and go about their day in peace and safety.