NYC Makes Transgender-Friendly Bathrooms A Reality
For transgender people, the simple act of choosing which bathroom to go to can be a great source of anxiety. Even as transgender rights and representation takes the national stage, violence against transgender communities continues to be a major issue. As recently as 2013, the majority of hate crimes in the U.S. were committed against transgender women. Men’s and women’s bathrooms present a moment of vulnerability to the transgender community, a place where people can demean or attack them for their gender identity.
Bianey Garcia, a transgender woman and local activist, told PIX11, “I feel like a woman. I dress like a woman. So you have to respect that.” But that wish hasn’t always been respected, such as when she was disallowed from using the women’s bathroom by a restaurant owner. “That day I felt humiliated, but like so many others, I didn’t think of making a complaint or telling anyone because of fear, frustration and disbelief,” she said.
Thankfully, NYC mayor Bill de Blasio flushed that source of tension down the drain yesterday by mandating that all municipal buildings feature transgender-friendly bathrooms. The move may be just a small plop in a bigger pond, but it’s one that we hope resonates nationwide.
Change has to come from somewhere, as legally, things aren’t going great. The ACLU reports that 18 states and over 200 cities have anti-transgender bills in motion. The issue became a firestarter when pundits managed to convince their listeners that the words “predator” and “transgender” were, in some way, interchangeable. According to this “trans panic,” bathrooms would no longer be safe from sexual predators. Besides passing a baseless accusation as fact, the argument shifts the focus away from transgender people and back onto the majority. It’s dismissive hate speech that shows that the anti-LGBTQ front is incapable of focusing on anyone other than themselves.
De Blasio’s action allows people to go to the bathroom of their choosing, no questions asked. It codifies something so natural—the act of going to the bathroom you feel comfortable in–that it seems absurd that it needed to be written down in the first place. Contrary to bigots, De Blasio’s bill and other transgender bills nationwide do not affect anti-harassment or sexual deviancy laws that already exist. Privacy laws are still in place. Harassment is still very, very illegal. Unless you’re transgender, this law doesn’t impact you in any meaningful way. Sorry, not sorry.
This landmark move by De Blasio reaffirms the forward-thinking “NYC values” that Ted Cruz so maligns, and puts what should be an uncontroversial issue to bed—at least in NYC. Hopefully, the precedent set here will reverberate nationwide, so that we can all get back to resting our buttocks on our porcelain thrones, marveling at the magic of Airblade hand dryers.
Stay tuned to Milk for more on transgender rights.
Images via Telegraph, The Observer, EW. Original imagery by Kathryn Chadason.