You’ve heard this meme before, that we need to block some/all transgender people from restrooms due to their inherently violent nature. It’s popular in TERF circles, in fact I’ve covered one example myself. There’s just one problem: it was invented out of thin air.
[CONTENT WARNING: anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric]
At stake in the new culture war sparked by Obergefell, many conservative evangelicals and Catholics believed, was the future of Christianity itself. “We are moving rapidly towards the criminalization of Christianity,” former Arkansas governor and then-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee warned pastors in a conference call less than two weeks before announcing his presidential run.
Facing such political headwinds, Christian-right activists desperately needed a fresh strategy. Provoking fear of infringement on religious liberty would likely only gain traction among fellow believers.
They needed an alternative approach, preferably a secular one that could earn broad support. Their answer was developed by one man in Houston, Texas, in response to a non-discrimination ordinance the city was about to pass.
The vocal opposition against HERO – largely ginned up in the city’s conservative churches – was led by Jared Woodfill, a Houston lawyer and Republican political activist, and Dr. Steven Hotze, a dietary-supplements supplier and local right-wing radio host. Together, they run the influential Conservative Republicans of Texas, whose literature habitually refers to LGBTQ people as “perverts,” “deviants” and “sodomites,” and which has been called “a cesspool of extremism and open hate” by the civil-rights group Texas Freedom Network. Conservative Republicans of Texas has called on Christians to join a “cultural battle” against the left in order to halt “the Islamization of America,” “the killing of the unborn” and “acceptance of the perverted homosexual and so-called ‘transgender’ lifestyle.” With their anti-HERO battle, they would transform what appeared to be a local dispute into a national cause célèbre for the Christian right.
Charming guy. His solution, though, was pretty diabolical.
It was Woodfill’s pivotal insight to latch onto one small aspect of the law: the question of bathroom access.
“The message was real simple,” Woodfill tells me in an interview in his law office last spring, a large framed Texas flag dominating the wall behind him. “No men in women’s bathrooms, showers or locker rooms. Period.” […] A mover in multiple Houston Christian circles, Woodfill relishes his long standing as a strategist of the conservative vanguard and, in this case, as the mastermind of the strategy of stoking a voter panic over transgender people in bathrooms. Although there were “a whole host of bad things we disagreed on” in the ordinance, he says, “if you have too many messages, you have no message.”
As homosexuality became culturally more normalized, it no longer sparked the same outrage that had propelled voters to the polls in droves a decade or more ago to pass referenda banning same-sex marriage in more than a dozen states, including Texas. But Woodfill had zeroed in on something that he believed could make even voters outside his base deeply uncomfortable – transgender bodies. By stirring up that disgust, and sparking outrage at the notion of “men” being given access to girls’ bathrooms, he gambled that he could mobilize conservative Christians and others, forming a large enough coalition to reverse HERO at the ballot box.
Spoiler alert: it worked, and the template was soon copied around the USA. I’ll leave you to read the original piece for more details, but I’d like to draw your attention to the “and others” phrase. This all happened in 2015, remember, roughly when the Christian far-right began actively reaching out to TERFs. By teaming up with them and sharing talking points, they’d meme-wash their Christian propaganda to obscure its origins and make it appear more legitimate than it is. So when you come across TERFs and transphobes saying things like …
The claim is not that all trans women will assault women in toilets every time there is a woman present to assault. The claim is that some men assault women when the conditions are right, and shared restrooms could present such conditions. The fact that one trans person used a toilet without harming anyone does nothing to address that claim. Nothing.
I tend to think of the Bathroom Issue as a tactical and convenient Trojan horse. Even if we assume (for the sake of argument, say) that every transwoman is as harmless and unthreatening as any woman, given the increasing insistence that we not “judge” who is or isn’t transgender based on appearance or clothing, there is absolutely no way to keep out any man whatsoever. Someone might be a transgender woman and: pass; not pass; be on hormones; not be on hormones; have a dick; not have a dick; wear makeup; not wear makeup; wear women’s clothing; not wear women’s clothing — and on and on. What makes someone trans is their own self-knowledge.
Any creep can put on eyeshadow and skulk around the women’s stalls peeking through the edges. Or worse. And instant deniability if anyone dares to object: “I’m just trying to pee.”
So it would be no threat to masculinity at all, because not having the say “I am a woman” leaves a man free and clear to enter the women’s bathroom, creep on the women just trying to use the bathroom, and leave again without having to worry he has feminized himself.
Turns out that fears of “bathroom stalkers” were not baseless and overblown, and that transwomen predators were not the laughable, imaginary, TERF-ish fever-dream, mythical creatures we were told they were.
All the supposedly “anti-Trans bigots” believe that transgender people should not be discriminated against in employment. The problems come when the transgender employee arrogantly demands entry to changing or bathroom facilities for the opposite sex (not gender). In addition to that intrusion, the problem is that transgender people are, in general, personality disordered. Their narcissistic, histrionic, attention-seeking, and demanding behaviors make them problem employees. They can’t just be happy being themselves and doing their work. They produce an overabundance of workplace drama and disruption.
… always remember that they’re parroting far-Right Christian propaganda that was designed to drive a wedge in the LGBTQI+ movement and roll back women’s rights.