Internet Meme Demolition Derby: The Restroom Wars Part One…
(CN: Anti-Trans bigotry and threats of violence and just general horrible people being horrible, proceed with caution)
According to prominent experts, Everyone Poops. They also pee. Or need to adjust their makeup, or change a tampon or maxi pad, or wash their hands or change a diaper on a screaming baby while a toddler throws toilet paper everywhere. As a society we have traditionally understood that people don’t always have the luxury of doing the above things from the comfort of their own homes, thus is born the concept of the “public restroom”.
Also according to prominent experts, Transgender persons exist. And since trans folk are definitely a subset of everyone, we can assume therefore that they too need to poop, etc. In a just and civil society one would assume that public accommodations would be used in the least inconvenient fashion possible, and therefore in places where public restrooms are segregated by gender everyone would be least inconvenienced by allowing persons to use the restroom that syncs with their gender identity. Ladies in the ladies room, Gents in the gentleman’s room, no need to check whats in your pants because that would be really creepy.
The great state of North Carolina has decided to instead do this the hard way. This spring the Republican controlled legislature of North Carolina made history, becoming the first state to attempt to legally require persons to use the public restroom that matches the gender assigned at birth and thus on your birth certificate. Well actually the law in question does a hell of a lot more than that, it also overturns any existing anti-discrimination ordinances meant to protect LGBTQ citizens and bans any future such laws being enacted anywhere in the state. It also overturns any local minimum wage laws, because fuck poor people while we’re here I guess. Mississippi followed suit shortly thereafter, but fewer people cared because its Mississippi.
There have been certain predictable reactions to this legislation. Prominent celebrities and entertainers, from Bruce Springsteen to Cirque du Soliel cancelled performances scheduled in the state. Great Britain issued a travel advisory, warning their LGBTQ citizens about the hazards of visiting US States with statutes of this kind. Target stores were quick to announce that their official company policy was to allow their customers and employees to use whichever restroom matched their gender identity. Conservative groups immediately called for a boycott of Target, at least until they need to pick up paper towels. Irrespective of this chaos, conservative legislatures across the country are considering similar bills.
All of this leads us to today’s meme… Stop the Madness. Parked in front of a door marked “Women” is a muscular young white male identified person, with his arms crossed and a menacing scowl directed at the viewer. his text bubble reads…
Hey Dude, I don’t care how you “self identify”. And I don’t care if Target says it’s OK. I don’t even care if the Supreme Court says it’s OK. If you follow my wife, my mother, my grandmother, my aunt, my sister, my daughter or my granddaughter into the women’s restroom, you’ll leave with more than just hurt feelings. As the husband, son, grandson, nephew, brother, father, or grandfather it is my responsibility to protect them from people like you.
Well okay then.
We found this at a lovely Facebook group that I will not link to called “Conservatives Against Obama’s Liberal Agenda”. They are a friendly bunch, many of whom are convinced that transgender people routinely follow women into the restroom for nefarious purposes. And many seemed to enthusiastically cheer on the implied violence towards trans women indicated by our glowering restroom guardian. I found no evidence of any similar meme showing any concern for little boys being followed into the can by trans men. But that’s likely explained by the fact that many conservatives don’t understand that trans men exist.
Entertaining the existence of trans men and the other various complexities of human gender expression would also interfere with the simplistic appeal to chivalry embedded in this meme. It is his responsibility to protect his womenfolk from people like you. People like you being transgender people. The conflation of LGBTQ persons with sexual criminals is an age old trope, trotted out whenever civil rights protections for queer folks are debated. It’s complete nonsense of course. As it’s been reported in several places, you are much more likely to encounter restroom misconduct from a GOP lawmaker than a transgender person.
The impression that the GOP may be projecting a bit when it comes to the panic about trans persons peeing is certainly reinforced when Republican luminaries like former Arkansas Governor and professional Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee say things like this from 2015…
“Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE.”
That’s right, someone who was once elected Governor of a state, who has run for President as some sort of strange hobby for the last twelve years, admits that he would essentially lie to his friends family and teachers in order to sneak into the girls shower to peek at boobs. Don’t these people have access to the internet? Or at least a VHS copy of Porky’s?
Of course these kinds of laws and these kinds of memes aren’t really about bathrooms or even about preventing sexual assault, anymore than whites only water fountains or lynching were about protecting white women from predatory black men during the Jim Crow era. These laws are certainly sold that way, and a glance at the responses to this meme in the above mentioned Facebook group shows that they are certainly being bought that way by the conservative public. What these laws are is the newest wedge issue designed to energize conservatives and harvest their votes. Because it turns out their are a lot of ignorant, intolerant bigots out there and we haven’t found a way to make it illegal to pander for their votes. Voters like this guy who shall remain nameless…
News flash since the court system can’t handle pedophiles , perverts , weirdo’s we can be judge , jury and executioner see that was easy ! Miss (sic) with our women and children I promise you won’t like the free trip to the emergency room . It will be the last time you go into the ladies room with our females.
That’s right, this guy, this Ferengi here… he has no problem threatening potentially lethal violence against his fellow citizens in an open forum with his real name and everything. Guys like that are being openly encouraged by conservative legislators to commit hate crimes in the name of protecting all of his female relatives from sick disgusting sexual deviants. And the GOP thinks it is just fine and dandy to cater to this guy because his vote counts just as much as a regular non-evil persons vote.
Which is completely backwards of course. According to Think Progress, 2015 saw a record number of documented murders of trans persons. Transgender persons are subject to shockingly high numbers of sexual assaults. Transgender women of color are particularly at risk of violent assault or murder. Laws like the ones in North Carolina and Mississippi, as well as the national conservative figures and politicians who support them are actively contributing to a hostile environment that makes these kinds of crimes more common. In fact they can rightly be seen as propaganda tools meant to encourage the creation of a hostile environment.
Luckily there is hope. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a similar bill after protests from the film industry. Chris Christie took a break from his job of standing shellshocked behind Donald Trump to say that he probably won’t sign any similar legislation in his state of New Jersey , which is about all we can probably expect from a politician who is just waiting around to be used in the creation of a Horcrux at this point.
Laws like this are pernicious and hateful, but they aren’t all powerful. They can be stopped, they can be resisted, and they can be repealed. My own beloved city of Cincinnati was once infamous for being the only city to enshrine the right to discriminate against LGBTQ citizens in our city charter with the passage of Issue 3 in 1993…
The battle over Issue 3 began in November 1992, when Cincinnati City Council adopted the Human Rights Ordinance. It banned, among other things, private discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodation because of sexual orientation.
A coalition of individuals and groups formed Equal Rights Not Special Rights to oppose the human-rights ordinance. They succeeded in placing Issue 3 on the November 1993 ballot, and voters approved it, 62 percent to 38 percent.
Supporters argued the city ordinance gave unfair protection to people based on sexual orientation.
“The gay-rights movement is not on the same level as the civil-rights movement,” said the Rev. K.Z. Smith, pastor of Corinthian Baptist Church in Avondale and a spokesman for Equal Rights. “Although gays and bisexuals deserve protection under the law like any other citizen, they don’t have the right to demand protection based on sexual preference.”
Gay-rights groups, on the other hand, said the amendment simply raised a historically persecuted group to the status of other persecuted groups. No one challenged the sections of the ordinance that banned discrimination based on sex, race, religion or Appalachian heritage.
Issue 3 made us a national disgrace. And it took a decade of hard work by activists to finally repeal the odious amendment and begin the work of making our city safer for our LGBT friends and neighbors. Now we are considered one of the most LGBTQ friendly cities in the nation.
Opponents of this North Carolina law have already gone to court to have it declared unconstitutional. Good for them. There also may be a Title IX case to be made against the law. There is no reason at all that a state like North Carolina (a really beautiful place full of great friends) can’t follow the path to freedom from bigotry and ignorance. I hope they do, because people’s lives are at stake.
As indicated by the title I have more to say on this one… watch this space.
Featured Image Credit: Troy on Flickr