Is that the solution to the pressing problem of transsexuals using public bathrooms? Perhaps first we should ask whether there is a problem. Many of the “religious freedom” bills being pushed through in several states address this very issue, whether needed or not. Mississippi’s HB 1523 does indeed preserve the right of religious organizations and most private businesses to discriminate against classes of people, based on the organization’s “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” For instance, an organization could try to prevent a transgender person from using the restroom that the person feels comfortable in.
A Bathroom of Their Own
So why not just provide everybody their own bathroom? In more practical terms, why not provide unisex bathrooms: one toilet per bathroom and a door that locks? That may be hard to do in some settings, logistically. More importantly, is there any solid reason to do it? The goal of the legislation is not to provide extra privacy, nice as that might be. Ostensibly, the goal is to protect religious liberty. In my opinion, it does do that by allowing persons to practice church-based bigotry against gays and transsexuals.
I would suppose there will be difficulty in administering the law. Will there be restroom police checking birth certificates for gender assignment? Will they direct individuals who look like this to the men’s room?
And will they direct former females like this to the women’s? Wouldn’t that preserve the letter of the law while violating its spirit? When considering bathroom privileges, what is more important, how many x chromosomes you have, or whether you have a penis?
The excuse for the bill I generally hear is that we need to protect women (as determined at birth) from being exposed to men (as determined at birth) who identify as women, while such women (as determined at birth) are dressing or using the restroom. It seems to me that women would be as likely to be assaulted by other women (as determined at birth) as by transgender women. Violence against transgender persons far exceeds violence by them against others.
The Yuck Factor
Of course, there are other aspects of this bill, and the others that have passed or are being proposed, things like whether persons can deny services to people they believe to be LGBT. For example, the Mississippi bill allows persons (including businesses) to refuse to make a customized wedding cake for a same-sex marriage. That is annoying, but most people aren’t aware that it is “already legal in Mississippi to deny an unmarried couple housing because of a moral objection.” (NPR) There is no statute in Mississippi to prevent discrimination of any kind against the LGBT community.
Although these laws are promoted as protecting free speech and religious liberty, my impression is that they are based on our natural discomfort with lifestyles and individual traits we don’t understand. We tend to be homophobic, in other words, and trans-phobic, and so on. Even those who are gay or transgender have trouble accepting themselves, as witnessed by their suicide statistics. Something needs to change in our society, and not in the direction Mississippi is trying to go.
It is comforting that this bill will be found unconstitutional and relegated to our sad history of discrimination, if the state doesn’t repeal it first. Unfortunately for the state, it will likely cost them a great deal of money in the mean time. I hope it doesn’t also lead to even more hatred and violence against our fellow citizens.