CNN’s iReport featured a piece by Richard Lucas about California’s School Success and Opportunity Act. Lucas, who doesn’t appear to have any first-hand knowledge of transgender issues, demonstrates some of the worst misconceptions the general public have about trans issues, especially those about “the bathroom.”
Hi Richard –
Thanks for taking a few minutes to chat with me about AB1266. I’ve written fairly extensively about the law, right from the start (articles in Rolling Stone, Huffington Post, The Advocate). I understand the concerns you have regarding this law, but I feel as though you’re slightly misrepresenting both the intent and the likely outcome.
[blockquote source=”CNN iReport”]You heard it right folks, should a boy show up to public school on Monday and decide that he suddenly feels like a girl, he can now wander freely into the girls locker room, hop in the shower and allow all to see his true colors. And there is nothing school officials can do about it.[/blockquote]
Well, that’s not necessarily true. For one, it’s pretty rare that K-12 students take showers in school, let alone open showers where there’s the possibility of seeing other students naked. Also, it’s not as though a student can just bounce back and forth between the restrooms/locker rooms. “Gender identity” is a static item. One can’t just go, “today I ‘feel like a girl'” and use the girl’s room, then the next, say “yeah, i’m back to being a guy.” That’s just not how it works, and the law, while possibly too loosely worded, still prevents bouncing back and forth.
[blockquote source=”CNN iReport”]Let’s say fictional little boy/girl Todd wanders into the girls bathroom. He acknowledges that by birth he’s a boy, but he identifies as a girl, so he has a right to be there. He’s not dressed as a girl, because he or she feels like a tomboy, so he dresses like a male. Though he feels like a girl, he’s also a lesbian, so he’s attracted to girls. Now he is free and protected to peruse the locker room uninhibited because he’s just being little boy/girl Todd. Does anyone else see a problem with this?[/blockquote]
This is another issue. I, myself, am transgender (Hi!).
I acknowledge that I was assigned male at birth, sure. I identify as a woman (I’m 27, so “girl” certainly isn’t the right word), and I use women’s restroom facilities. Also, I’m solely attracted to women. Do you know how often I’ve seen naked women, women in their underwear, anyone’s genitals in a restroom? Never. By your logic here, gay boys and lesbian girls should be banned from the boys and girls’ locker rooms/restrooms, respectively, for fear of them getting some sort of sexual thrill from being around other people of the gender they’re attracted to.
[blockquote source=”CNN iReport”]Supporters say that it’s preposterous that we should think that people will use this new freedom for evil, and scoff at the idea that it may encourage sex offenders to explore unchartered territory. I say, if you don’t foresee that happening, you have lost your mind.[/blockquote]
1.) Is it still illegal to assault someone in a restroom? Yes.
2.) Is it still sexual harassment/assault to spy on people in restrooms (whether in secret or standing next to them)? Yes.
You act as though this has created some sort of loop hole that makes assault and leering legal and acceptable. It’s not. If someone assaults another person in a restroom (as you suggest will happen with the “sex offenders” portion of your comment), the question of whether or not they were allowed in the restroom in the first place is the leastserious of charges. Do you honestly envision a world where someone goes, “yes, I’m fine with going to jail for 5 years for raping someone, but that class A misdemeanor associated with going in the wrong restroom… that’s just too much?”
No, because that’s ridiculous. (and before you respond with “but I never said anything about rape, what about just looking at people,” fine, replace “rape” with “voyeurism” and whatever its punishment is. Point being: if someone is going to do something lewd, something creepy, whether or not they’re cleared to go in a restroom or not is unlikely to sway them.)
And how do I know this? How do I know that this law will cause little or no harm? Simple: look at the places that have similar laws in place regarding public accommodations. In California, the following school districts have had a policy in place, many for nearly a decade: Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento. Together, these districts account for more than half of all students in the state. Do you know how many times these policies have been abused? 0. No school in any of those districts (more than 200 schools!) has ever had a report of someone saying they’re the opposite gender just for access to a locker room/restroom.
Nor has there ever been a case of a boy wanting to play on a girl’s team, just because he thinks he’d have an advantage (this is actually the plot of the awful 90’s movie “Ladybugs,” starring Rodney Dangerfield). Turns out that high school kids are really image-conscious, and public cross-dressing isn’t really the way to be cool.
[blockquote source=”CNN iReport”]This law is a guise, a cover pretending to promote equality. It is not promoting equality. It is forcing society to conform, and expose its children to concepts that a developing adolescent mind can’t possibly comprehend, and should not have to.[/blockquote]
This is maybe the most disappointing item in your article. What you’re saying is that children shouldn’t be exposed to transgender individuals, for fear of “exposing” children to concepts these children “shouldn’t have to” comprehend. Richard. That really hurts. I love kids. I am great with kids. I’m not some monster. Really, that part of your article was just out of line.
[blockquote source=”CNN iReport”]There are some people that will be thrilled by this new design:Derek Robert Bathgate, who likes to put hidden cameras in bathroom clocks, is probably ecstatic. No longer will he have to sneakily install his spy gear, he can just choose to be a girl and head to the Y changing rooms and go nuts with his iPhone.[/blockquote]
This would still be illegal (voyeurism/sexual assault)
[blockquote source=”CNN iReport”]How about Joel Hardman, who went as far as to dress up as a woman to gain entry to the other halves dressing quarters. Don’t worry Joel, if this keeps going you can leave the dress at home, now you’ll only need to claim that you identify as a girl.[/blockquote]
This would still be illegal (voyeurism)
[blockquote source=”CNN iReport”]There’s also that fella in Colorado who likes to peak under porta-potties. Well sir, stand up and brush yourself off. Call yourself Sally and you’re in business.[/blockquote]
This would still be illegal (voyeurism)
You chose 3 scenarios that don’t have anything to do with this law, which deals with K-12 students. And even if it were an all-encompassing law that just made every bathroom gender neutral, none of the examples you cited would be legal. At all.
[blockquote source=”CNN iReport”]I am being slightly facetious. I don’t want any of those things to happen. But the reality is we are creating an environment that can make these atrocities not only easy to do, but probable.[/blockquote]
No, Richard, we are not creating an environment that will make this “probable.” Again, please look to the schools that have had this policy in place for a decade, and look to the states that allow transgender people equal access to public accommodations (you’re in DC? *gasp* you’re in one).
[blockquote source=”CNN iReport”]So congratulations California, you have just given every curious hormonal teenager a free pass to ogle whatever they damn well please.[/blockquote]
This is not true. The law does not give anyone the free-and-clear to “ogle whatever they damn well please.”
[blockquote source=”CNN iReport”]We really didn’t need this legislation; there was already a law in place. It’s the law of Mother Nature. It says:
Assume the airplane crash position. With your head between your legs, lift up your skirt and have a look. Based on what you discover, go to the corresponding bathroom. End of discussion.[/blockquote]
Your final point, which really worries me, explicitly targets trans people (I know you’ve said, “but I’m not talking about ACTUAL transgender people…”, but you are here). Let’s say that I haven’t had “that” surgery just yet. Still, I’ve been on hormones for years. Still, by all appearances, I look like a woman. You really believe I should go into a men’s restroom? This is how transgender people get assaulted and/or murdered. Conversely, would you like a transgender man (assigned female at birth, transitioned to male) to use the women’s room? Here’s a picture of Buck Angel, a transgender man. You really want HIM in the ladies room?
I really feel as though you didn’t do your homework on this article. You seem to be basing your views off of misinformation and fear-mongering. Transgender people don’t want “special treatment,” they just want to be able to live. They want to be able to use a restroom without getting beaten up. I didn’t choose to be transgender. It’s not a “lifestyle” that I’m taking part in. I’m just being me. This law basically said, “we think kids should be able to be themselves without undue hardship by other students and adults.” What’s wrong with that?
Here are the links to some articles I’ve written on the topic:
Edit: It’s been brought to my attention that some of the language/wording used in this post might read as erasing non-binary and genderfluid identities. That certainly wasn’t my intent, and I am sorry for wording things the way I did. I plan on writing something about non-binary and genderfluid identities and the concepts surrounding them in the next few weeks.
Edit #2: I e-mailed Rachel Rodriguez (email@example.com), Lucas’ producer at CNN, asking her to either pull Lucas’ piece from the site, or allow me to publish an Op-Ed to counter his wildly inaccurate piece. My e-mail to her is below:
Hi Rachel –
I’m writing you about Richard Lucas’ iReport editorial about AB1266, California’s School Success and Opportunity Act.
My name is Parker. I’m a transgender woman, and I’m a freelance journalist. I’ve written extensively on the topic of this piece of legislation, and I feel as though Mr. Lucas’ editorial was both uninformed and dangerous in nature.
Reading through his writing, he seems to be unaware what transgender people even are. In a discussion I had with him on Twitter, he told me that his experience with transgender people was that he goes to see drag queens perform every once in a while. This is scary, since drag queens are not transgender people (or, at least, not the type of people this law will benefit), meaning that the entire premise of his writing is off.
I’ve gotten a number of messages from people concerned about the anti-transgender hate blogs like Mr. Lucas’ may cause, and I’m asking you to please remove it from the site. His writing depicts transgender people as inherently predatory in nature. This public perception fuels anti-transgender hate, and, in effect, murders.
I would also be willing to pen an op-ed for CNN on the subject to try to bring some clarity to the issue. For my past writing, I’ve interviewed the legislator who penned the bill, transgender children, staffers at the Transgender Law Center, and someone from the Pacific Justice Institute (an organization leading the charge to repeal the bill).
I’ve included links to my past articles (Rolling Stone, Huffington Post, the Advocate) on the topic below.
Is it possible to write something to counter Mr. Lucas’ piece? Please let me know, and I’ll be happy to put it together within 24 hours.