So much of the publicity the unsuspecting general public sees is about bathrooms. Bathroom bills, toilet troubles. New words and phrases are bandied about as though they have always had meaning: Gender Identity; transgender; intersex. An abundance of “facts” are quoted by both sides in every argument and rarely investigated, proven or debunked.
I admit to being sucked into the bathroom debate early on. Not because I have a personal objection to finding a post-operative transsexual woman washing her hands next to me in the Ladies’ toilets at the cinema. Far from it. My worries run much deeper than that. I see it as the thin end of the wedge. I’ve actually read Maria Miller’s Transgender Equality Report which is going in front of parliament this year and could well become enshrined in law. Currently there is no law that says transsexual women can’t use the Ladies’ toilet. Or a Ladies’ gym. They can even be incarcerated in a women’s prison. In order to do so unchallenged, however, they are expected to get a Gender Reassignment Certificate which costs £140 and requires the support of two medical professionals to assert that the applicant does indeed live as the sex they wish to be recognised as and has done for at least two years. There isn’t currently a requirement for hormonal or surgical treatment, however it is presumed if not by the lawmakers and medical professionals, certainly by the majority of the general public, that those changing sex / reassigning their gender are planning to undergo genital surgery, if they haven’t already.
My realisation, from reading said report, that up to 80% of men who describe themselves as transgender have not had and have no intention of having sex reassignment surgery left me somewhat taken aback. I know my language is hopelessly outdated but until then I would have thought men who want to present as female or dress in female clothes were called transvestites or cross-dressers. Until recently those I had met or come across in the media were happy to call themselves men but just enjoyed wearing women’s clothes. Why, suddenly, were they calling themselves women? And why on earth should I be expected to share sex-segregated spaces with them?
Hence the bathroom troubles. I observed many online arguments. In many cases both sides had unsupportable and unforgiveable stances but what struck me was the prevalance of “facts” bandied around with no supporting evidence. I have no grudge against transgender people but I honestly do not understand the reasoning behind seeking to enter women’s spaces which can be sex-segregated for reasons of anatomy, privacy, comfort and safety. In the case of toilets it is simple anatomy. Men have penises, they stand to pee at urinals. They only have a small number of stalls for defecation so their toilets can accommodate more men and the process is usually quicker. Women sit for both bodily functions, take longer about them and need sanitary vending machines and bins to deal with menstruation. There is no need for a male-bodied transgender person to use the Ladies’ loo other than validation of their presentation as female. They want to go where the women go because they want to be seen to be and to feel like one of the women. That’s fine in principle but in practice the women don’t really want them there – mainly for reasons of privacy and comfort but also because women’s toilet facilities are often woefully under-resourced and our queues are long enough without men joining in!
Looking at the arguments online, often the women cite safety “Men carry out most sexual attacks so we don’t want men in our restrooms” they say. The transwomen then argue back “but we are at risk in the men’s room – we might get beaten up or raped so we want to come into your safe space where we are safe from the men. We won’t hurt you, transwomen don’t do that”. It becomes a circular argument that gets more heated. The women assert that although they don’t think all transwomen are a threat, dangerous men could use it as an excuse to get in. The transwomen say “no-one would go to those lengths and, anyway, if they want to attack you they could just do it now, they don’t need to pretend to be us”. Oh, and the best one “It’s against the law to assault you in the toilets, letting us in won’t change that”. When of course it’s against the law for men to attack transwomen in the men’s room currently but they are still running scared, or so they say.
I was in my usual state when reading up on this subject. Baffled. Logic seems to go out of the window in favour of feelings and confirmation bias in these online arguments. I desperately wanted to be able to wade in and debunk both sides’ more ridiculous points. I kept seeing the assertions that no transwomen have ever attacked a woman. That transwomen get beaten up and raped in the men’s room all the time. Apparently Transwomen have been going to the Ladies’ for ever and a day and no-one noticed never mind got hurt. So I hit Google to find out for myself what actually goes on, I was searching for assaults on transwomen in toilets/bathrooms/restrooms but that’s not what I found. I stuck to the UK and Eire initially and looked purely for local news sources – relatively unbiased reporting.
Not all of the criminals listed identify as women/are described as transgender but all went to great lengths to present as female in order to access women’s spaces with criminal intent.
Men dressed as women committing offences in toilets UK and ROI
Serial offender changed into women’s clothes to commit multiple offences – attempted rape in public toilet.
Disguised as a woman in order to peep. Expressed gratitude he was caught as felt his offending could have escalated.
Shouldn’t have been in Ladies – accidentally exposed himself to a child. 6 month suspended sentence “A very unsavoury offence”
Then I extended my search beyond the UK, still looking for incidences of transwomen being attacked in the men’s room:
Transgender sex offender wearing women’s clothes to watch children changing
Man dresses as a woman “I wanted to see women naked”
Man dressed as woman peeping in toilets
Woman punched in face for questioning cross-dresser’s presence in a toilet
Man in Barbie costume attacks woman in toilet
Man dresses as woman to video women in toilet
Man just wearing women’s knickers attacks girl, 8
Voyeur dresses as woman to tape women in toilet
Man in bra and wig arrested in bathroom. Admits took a shower in girls’ locker room “for sexual gratification”
I looked and looked. I spent hours at it, using various different search terms. We are often told that transwomen are at “huge risk of rape, assault and murder” if they use the men’s toilets. I persisted with this one search as it would bring up US incidents but I still couldn’t find one single report in 10 pages of Google search (Feb 2016) for “transgender woman attacked in bathroom” of a trans person attacked for using the toilet that matched their birth sex. By contrast all of the above examples were easily found within the top results of my Google searches.
This recent incident in a unisex single cubicle at the Stonewall bar is really horrible and unfortunate. It does show that these incidents do receive press coverage so if attacks in male toilets were as common as we are led to believe there would be more evidence online.
There were a few reports of trans people being attacked for trying to use the toilet for their chosen gender including one horrible attack on a transwoman trying to use the Ladies in a US McDonalds in 2011. Two teenagers, a boy and a girl, beat her up outside the toilets.
Transman harassed using the men’s toilet
Transwoman punched by man for being in the ladies
Also this which I am leaving in as it is a report of a FtM transgender bullying victim reported being beaten and sexually assaulted while using the toilet of his chosen gender… i.e. biological female attacked in boys’ toilets. He later admitted he had made it all up.
This is not intended to be the list which proves transwomen are the bogeyman. As stated at the start, many of the attackers are not described as transgender but did dress as women in order to gain access to women’s spaces which disproves the “no-one would go to the lengths of pretending to be trans just to get access to women” narrative. For some attackers, cross-dressing and peeping on or assaulting women in their safe spaces formed part of their criminality, however, and although rare it doesn’t seem sensible to make it any easier for people like that to carry out their crimes.
The bigger point here though, is if transwomen are currently using the men’s toilets (because they do not have the right to use the women’s unchallenged) and are at such great risk of male violence in there, where are the reports of this happening? If it’s not happening, why do they need to use the women’s toilets at all, particularly if it causes women discomfort. If there are no reports of attacks in the men’s, is it because they are already using the women’s unnoticed? In which case, why do we need any changes to the laws currently in place, which give women the right to challenge men in their safe spaces?
If self-determination allows anyone to claim to be trans no matter how they present so Danielle Muscato has the right to wander into the Ladies’ toilet/changing room/rape crisis centre despite the fact that he presents as male and has a male body, how are women supposed to know whether he is a threat or not? If he can walk in unchallenged surely any man can too. It doesn’t matter how likely that is, the fact is women spend their whole lives on the alert to stranger danger and the threat of male violence. We are conditioned to avoid finding ourselves alone with strange men (despite the fact it is usually men we know who take advantage of our bodies when the opportunity arises, committing the majority of rapes and sexual assaults on women they already know).
Forcing us to share sex-segregated spaces with male-bodied people, no matter how they identify, puts us on the defensive, makes us uncomfortable and if, as it appears, it is purely for their personal validation rather than anatomical or safety reasons then it is not really a fair or acceptable outcome.