Last week, Donald Trump broke his promises to the LGBTQ community by rescinding Obama's protections for trans students in public schools. Republicans have long stood against allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms that align with their gender identity. They often claim that these permissive policies endanger children who could become victims of sexual predators. The reality is much different: trans people are quite often victims of assaults in bathrooms, not perpetrators — and Trump's anti-LGBTQ gesture could be putting a lot of trans people in danger.
Despite the narrative put forth by the GOP, statistics are rather clear on this: there is not a single case of a trans person assaulting someone in a bathroom. Repeat: there is not a single case of a trans person assaulting someone in a bathroom. Vincent Villano, the director of communications for the National Center for Transgender Equality, has iterated that there isn't any data to corroborate Republican lawmakers' assertions. NCTE has "not heard of a single instance of a transgender person harassing a non-transgender person in a public restroom. Those who claim otherwise have no evidence that this is true and use this notion to prey on the public's stereotypes and fears about transgender people."
The Advocate agrees: "There has never been a verifiable reported instance of a trans person harassing a cisgender person, nor have there been any confirmed reports of male predators 'pretending' to be transgender to gain access to women's spaces and commit crimes against them."
Let's put that statistic in perspective: Donald Trump himself, according to NPR, has been accused of sexual assault by 12 women—although he has strongly denied each accusation. That's way, way more than any transgender perpetrators reported (which, just to iterate again, is zero).
In our conversations with trans women, a very different story emerges about bathroom usage compared to the fearmongering right. "I grew up in the south where being different is a not okay," said Kyrmson Scholar, a transgender woman and local New York drag performer. "I had been verbally assaulted when I was in the school restroom."
"We trans people have been targets of abuse and exploitation forever," added Andi Keeley, a trans woman and LGBTQ activist living in Boston. "People have wanted, and tried, to ignore, isolate, assimilate, and eliminate us. They have failed. We will keep fighting as long as we must."
Unfortunately, data on transgender people and violence in bathrooms corroborates this testimony. The percentage of trans people who themselves have been attacked in bathrooms is rather staggering. "About 70 percent of the sample reported experiencing being denied access to restrooms, being harassed while using restrooms and even experiencing some forms of physical assault," says Jody Herman, a public policy scholar who conducted a series of surveys in 2008 and 2009. In a 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 63 percent of respondents "had experienced a serious act of discrimination" in their lifetime.
"Transgender youth face extremely high rates of discrimination and bullying," said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement responding to Trump's announcement last week. "By rescinding the Department of Education guidance recommending trans students be treated equally under Title IX, the administration is sending an alarming message that it will no longer defend their rights. While this action does not and cannot take away any rights trans students currently have, it undermines the progress we have made towards equality and acceptance.”
Said Scholar, "I think Trump had no right doing what he did. I transitioned in high school and was scared to death to use the restroom every day."
"Unfortunately, we're in damage control mode," added Keeley. "Massachusetts for example has a ballot referendum in 2018 that could rescind the public accommodations protections for transgender people that only came into effect in 2016. For the next four years, I expect to fight more to protect the progress that we've made previously, rather than to make new progress."
As if the experiences of victimization weren't terrible enough, seeing a younger generation of kids have to face discrimination is horrifying for those who grew up in less-than-accepting communities themselves. Krymson offered some words of encouragement to queer children: "[If I could tell trans kids today anything] I would tell them that they are amazing, that they have someone who loves them and cares for them, that one day it will get better, and that no matter what — you're beautiful and don't be ashamed of who you are cause there is nothing wrong with you."
[Photo: Getty Images]