Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Letter to Those Who Support Restroom Discrimination

I participate in several online support groups for parents with transgender children. As the “bathroom wars” wage on in social media, we have clung to each other’s words of encouragement, listened to stories of hope and helped each other move forward, even though all of us are so very tired, so very weary. Obama’s declaration of a commitment to equality offered hope for our youth, our LGBT community. But along came insults, accusations, threats, disgust. And just when we all felt as low as we thought we could, one of the moms our group shared that her transgender daughter committed suicide.

Of course, I support bathroom equality (honestly, typing that phrase is almost embarrassing….bathroom equality!? Is this Jim Crow all over again!? Why are we even talking about bathrooms!? Why are we talking about pee!? We’re adults!) 

I have tried to see this from another side. I have tried to see this from a side that wants to protect your child just as much as I want to protect mine. I've tried to think that if only one of us got our way that it would be to the detriment of the other child’s safety.

But here's the truth...I CAN'T understand your side. And here's why:

Your bogeyman isn't real. Mine is. MY bogeyman comes in the form of suicide. Transgender suicide where the risk is real and the statistics are staggering. Most people who have been touched by our family don't see this side because Allie is happy. Supported. Thriving. 

She is protected from the idea that she isn't allowed in a bathroom in North Carolina. But what about the transgender people who live there? The sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, friends who have been cast off, thrown out, demonized...What happens to them?

Sure. I’ve heard the whole argument “Well, its not transgender people I have a problem with. It’s men creeping into women’s bathroom because now they can.” As if they couldn’t before.

Your bathroom bogeyman is a creation of your own fears, an imagined side effect, a histrionic manifestation that is ravaged by the media. How do I know? Because the media isn’t sharing that across the country there have already been non-discrimination protections in place when it comes to facilities usage.

Colorado has a state law that has been in place since 2008 that has prohibited discrimination in public facilities based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Alex M. Priddy of the Coalition Against Sexual Assault has said there are no reported problems as a result of Colorado’s non-discrimination law.

Hawaii, in 2006, passed a state law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in public accommodations. In 2014, William Hoshijo, the executive director of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission indicated that that the Non-Discrimination Law hasn’t resulted in an increase of sexual assault or rape.

The state of Iowa has been prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations since 2007. In 2014, a spokesperson for the Des Moines Police Department, Jason Halifax, indicated that the department had not seen an increase of cases of sexual assault related to the state’s non-discrimination policy.

Maine has protections in place for individuals using public accommodations based on gender identity and sexual orientation and has since 2005. Amy Snierson, Executive Director of the Maine Human Rights Commission said that there has not been an increase in sexual assault or rape after the legislation was adopted.

In 1997, the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts expanded their non-discrimination ordinance to prohibit discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations. The Cambridge Police Superintendent Christopher Burke shared the following statement:

“Back in 1984 Cambridge enacted an ordinance that established the Human Rights Commission. The purpose of the ordinance was to protect the human rights of all citizens of the City. In 1997 this ordinance was amended to specifically include gender identity and expression. Much like the Transgender Equal Rights Bill proposal, the City of Cambridge sought to offer protection to transgender individuals from being harassed, fired from a job, denied access to a public place, or denied or evicted from housing. Since this 1997 amendment there have been no incidents or issues regarding persons abusing this ordinance or using them as a defense to commit crimes. Specifically, as was raised as a concern if the bill were to be passed, there have been no incidents of men dressing up as women to commit crimes in female bathrooms and using the city ordinance as a defense. 

In as early as 1993, Minnesota adopted a state law that prohibits gender identity discrimination in public facilities. A spokesperson for the Minneapolis Police Department confirmed that there have not been any cases of men dressing as women to commit crimes in the bathrooms, nor have there been increases in restroom related crimes.

Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont…all have had similar non-discrimination laws in place as early as 2001. All have reported that there has been no increase in crimes in restrooms and that there are NO reports of men dressing as women to commit crimes in bathrooms.

The media isn’t sharing these stories because nothing has happened as a result of these protections. It’s a boring story, so it’s not newsworthy. And it shouldn’t be newsworthy. People peeing isn’t news. It’s nature.

So for all the outrage that has been exhibited over the last few weeks (thanks, North Carolina), it seems there is evidence that what could happen in theory isn’t what is happening in practice.

But you know what it IS happening? You know what is worthy of outrage? Transgender adults and children are trying to kill themselves. At an alarming rate. Georgia State University conducted a study that revealed a strong link between gender identity discrimination in public facilities and suicide. The study included over 6,000 transgender individuals. Of those 6,000 individuals almost 2,800 of them had attempted suicide. That’s almost half. That is startling. The study also found that the rate of suicide attempts increased to over 60% when denied access to appropriate facilities such as bathroom use and university housing. SIXTY PERCENT. My daughter is one of those children who does not currently have full access to a gender appropriate bathroom at school. Which means I have a forty percent chance of her not attempting suicide. Lord, please help us.

That scares the shit out of me. And it should make people feel ashamed of the idea that they care where she pees.

You don’t want someone looking at you in the bathroom? Then go in the stall, lock door and mind your own business. Just like the rest of us do.

Your bathroom bogeyman isn’t real.

Mine is.



  1. Jen, you have my absolute, unlimited support. This is appalling. Please hug both the kiddos for me.

  2. Unfortunately, some people think the world would be better if transgenders killed themselves. So much for the Golden Rule from people who consider themselves Christians. God is serious about the Golden Rule. It exists in 21 religions, 5 philosophies, and 2 moral/ethical systems. Too bad most people aren't paying attention. I wish the best for you and your family.

  3. Yes. Perfectly said, thank you!

  4. Yes. Perfectly said, thank you!

  5. This appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. Beautiful done--thank you so much.

  6. I saw your article in the AJC and wanted to reach out to you in support. I transitioned 18 years ago so I am quite disturbed by all that is happening now. For persons to speak of this gender dysphoria as if there was a choice is sad for there is no choice rather it is a matter of surviving. A person who is truly dealing with this condition has only one major desire and that is to have it fixed so that they can live a normal life ASAP. Until one deals with this, one does not fit among friends and peers.

    Yes there are weird folks doing and behaving all kinds of ways under the premise that they feel..... This has always been the case but now they are in the spotlight.

    For a true transgendered person dealing with dysphoria, you want to be normal just like everyone else including correcting the anatomical issues.

    Your daughter is so fortunate to have parents such as you and as bad as things seemingly are for the moment, she is so fortunate to live in a time when the medical community finally understands and options are readily available. Many years ago it was much more difficult.

    I am a leader in our community in West Cobb. I do not speak of it very often as it is old news for me, I just live my "normal" life but stand ready to support you and others and answer any questions or just share and listen.

    Yes life is normal as will be your daughter's life, just take it one step at a time. There will be a day when is was just a memory. I know a number of folks who have traveled this road with me and they are all doing well. It is a non-issue in my life now and it is a non-issue for my friends and business associates who watched me make the journey. Yes there have been casualties by persons who did not have the support they needed but now is a different time. I assure you the future is bright and y'all will be all the more stronger for this journey.

    I hope you will reach out to me so I can answer questions and share the experience. I read a few of your other blogs which you wrote and I hear your fright and.... I can assure you, all will be just fine!

    As far as the stuff that is on the news daily, somehow you must unhook from those stories and stay focused on your daughter's journey. Now the news folks are driving this attention as it sells and the weirds are playing it as well. This too will pass.

  7. Jen, I first heard your daughter's story on NPR and immediately rushed home to read the article, which, in turn, led me here. I am also in Cobb and have a son who is ready to live as a girl. I am reading all I can online and in books but we need to know recommendations for support in our local community. Having already travelled this road, I'm hoping you can be a valuable resource for our family. Please consider getting in touch with me when you can.

  8. Your daughter is so fortunate to have parents such as you

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