Fear, Religion and Gender Neutral Bathrooms

Bias and Restrooms

I recently saw a Tweet that had a picture of a gender-neutral restroom sign along with the caption, “would you let your child use this?” At first, I didn’t understand the question. Gender-neutral bathrooms are usually single-user. They’re generally cleaner. I personally prefer them over the men’s room. Of course I would let my kids use them! But as I thought more, that wasn’t what the person who posted the Tweet was thinking about. The Tweet was coming from a place of deep religious bias, fear and misunderstanding. So, I did some research and this is what I came up with.

Why Are There Gender Neutral Bathrooms?

Not everyone is born male or female and stays that way. .6% of Americans identify as transgendered, meaning their sense of self does not correspond with their gender. That’s just over two million Americans. About 2% of the US population (7 million Americans) are born intersexed meaning they are somewhere between male and female and often have ambiguous genitalia.

9 million is a LOT of people. That’s roughly the total amount of people living in the New York area. Transgendered and intersexed people are spread out all over the country. But what if they weren’t? What if they took over New York City? They would have public restrooms, right? Do you think those restrooms would be for males and females only? Of course not! Nobody would be able to use the bathroom in public!

Well, there isn’t a pocket 9 million transgendered and intersexed people living in the US. They live everywhere. Imagine for a second that you are one of these 9 million Americans and you need to use a public bathroom. Which one do you use? Should you be forced to dress and act and certain way so that you can pass as one gender or the other? Should you just hold it until you get home?

Most Americans have said ‘no’ to these questions. As a country, we believe in equal rights, equal protections, and equal access.  It’s written in our constitution. Even though transgendered and intersexed people make up a small percentage of the population, we believe they should still have a restroom they can use. The solution: gender-neutral restrooms.

Prevalence of Gender Neutral Bathrooms

Over 200,000 businesses in the US now have gender-neutral bathrooms. They are either single-user or shared. For most of us, this solves the problem. Everyone now has a bathroom. BUT, many conservative people, like the author of the Tweet I read, are not happy about this. In fact, they have been so loud about it that last year 9 states attempted to pass laws to keep bathrooms segregated for males and females. These states included Kentucky, Texas, Wisconsin, Nevada, and North Carolina. None of these laws passed, but that’s not the point. They tried, and they’re still trying. This is a BIG issue for them and a rallying point for many conservative politicians.

For the record, there are currently no states that have successfully enforced this segregation. In fact, 24 states have already passed non-discrimination laws like Maryland, Washington, Oregon, Vermont, Florida and Washington D.C. making it illegal segregate or discriminate based on gender identification. This is in line with our constitution.

But why are there at least 9 states with people, including the author of the Tweet, who want to keep bathrooms segregated? My opinion is religious bias and fear.

Are Gender-Neutral Bathrooms Unsafe?

I believe the author of the Tweet is fearful that her children will be attacked if they use a gender-neutral bathroom. I believe this stems from the stereotype that anyone who does not identify as man or woman, who is non-binary, transgendered or intersexed must be a deviant and therefore a threat to children. Does research back this up?

No! In 2018 researchers at the Willamette Institute, a think tank focused on gender identity at the UCLA School of Law, examined restroom crime reports and found NO increase of crime at gender-neutral bathrooms. This was based on two years of data!

Also, transgendered, intersexed, gay, lesbian, and queer Americans are LESS LIKELY to commit ANY crime compared to other Americans!

So, realistically, there isn’t an increased risk to children by using gender-neutral restrooms. That means that, rationally, there is no reason for this fear. So, now let’s look at the bias.

Irrational Bias and Religious Influence

The stereotype that transgender, intersex, non-binary, gay, lesbian or otherwise queer people are deviants and predators has been around for a long time. One example of hate-speech I’ve heard is, “they can’t reproduce on their own so they have to recruit. Protect your children!” In 1977 Anita Bryant launched the “Save Our Children” campaign to fight anti-discrimination laws in Florida. She claimed that “Biblical Morality” gave Americans the authority to discriminate against anyone gay or lesbian or queer or really anything else she didn’t like.

Her campaign didn’t succeed. One reason is that Christians fought back against her! Those Christians knew that the Bible does not, in fact, condone discrimination. Without getting too religious, in the Gospels the second most important command given by Jesus is to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” That comes right after loving God with all your heart. All his other teachings come after. The Bible also states that man does not get to judge other men. Only God does the judging.

So, with Anita Bryant, common sense and love won!

BUT, even today, the Christian bias remains. These biased Christians keep electing officials who pander to their prejudices and judgments and you end up with 9 states trying to legislate bathroom segregation.

Let Love and the Constitution Rule

My message to any Christian who thinks that it is okay to judge others and legislate discrimination is that you’re wrong. If you believe that the Bible is the ultimate source of authority in your life, then read it! I have. I’m not religious. But I understand its message of love very clearly.

I believe that, if Jesus was real and I was transgendered or intersexed, he would definitely let me use his bathroom! He seemed like a nice guy!

For everyone else, let love rule. Or at least let the constitution rule. If we really let love and the constitution guide us in our beliefs and law-making, I don’t think anyone would oppose gender neutral bathrooms. I don’t think anyone would vote for Donald Trump, either, but’s that’s a whole other post!