Nonfiction Societal The Word 5 minute read

Fear of the Bogeyman and Bathroom Politics:


During the potty-training period with my kids, I was obsessed with where they used the bathroom. Sometimes it was on me; a #2 in the pool (sorry); in my ficus plant in the living room (that’s why it’s dying!); or sometimes even in the toilet (hallelujah)! Since that time, I haven’t thought too much about it where people take care of their most personal of needs.

North Carolina’s new anti-LGBTQI law HB2, including the controversial denial of bathroom access to transgender people based upon their gender identity has forced me to again think about where people use the bathroom.

inclusive bathrooms

Frankly, I’m uncomfortable thinking and talking about where people dispose of their bodily waste. I’m Southern and from a family that taught me to say urinate and bowel movement if I had to talk about it — instead of how my children’s generation will breezily announce, “I gotta pee.” I still excuse myself to the ladies room (and what I do in there should remain my business).

Even more mouth-paralyzing is that this bathroom issue is a religious issue for many. Religion is personal and sacred, making it immune to logic. Religion disarms the opposing debater because how do you counter someone’s core beliefs (when beliefs aren’t typically rooted in rationality.) It’s akin to when someone is trying to argue with a mother about something that she should or shouldn’t do with one of her kids. Friend: “Girl, you should let your son get evicted. He’s 26 years old. You shouldn’t pay his rent.” Responding Friend: “But that’s my son.” Debate over.

So, I will only say two things about religion. I don’t have Bible verses to prove my point or religious fables to share. I just believe that religion has been used to justify the massacre of many and discrimination against more. And I have to believe that love (in thought and action) should be at the root of any religion and at the core of any religious movement.

This does not mean I have a full understanding or comfort with transgender issues. I haven’t been exposed enough; but I have a full understanding and comfort for who I am. I am Black; I am a woman. Who and what I am has faced extreme discrimination. My mother (my mother, not my grandmother) could not use the same bathroom as her White peers, could not apply to most colleges as an undergraduate, could not try on a hat in the one department store who allowed Blacks in, could not use the public pool. Now, in 2016, though we are the highest educated group, a Black woman makes—– cents compared to a White man. Black women are turned away from nightclubs during the evening and Sororities and country clubs during the day. Being shut out; being told that you are dirty; being told that you aren’t good enough, aren’t human enough places your heart in your throat. I can’t participate in doing that to another group. I can’t be on the other side of that—not when I am so intimate with the pain.

black bathrooms only

I am also sensitive to people’s assertion that having transgender people in certain bathrooms will cause rapes. Black people, are our memories that short? 14-year-old Emmitt Till taken from his home, lynched, beaten, mutilated and then drowned for looking at a White woman because it was believed that Black men were over-sexualized perverts, who would rape any White woman provided the chance. Emmitt Till is merely one example among 100s or 1000s (no way to truly know). Is anything starting to sound familiar?

HB2 2

Additionally, the fear that transgender access to particular bathrooms will cause rapes implicitly suggests that we are comfortable with the current status quo and the same gender rapes it presumptively allows for. In other words, the denial of bathroom access to transgender people based upon their gender identity clearly asserts that there is a greater risk of a little girl being molested by a transgendered man using the women’s bathroom than of a little boy being molested by another man in a male bathroom.

The fact is that, over 200 municipalities and 18 states have nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender people’s access to facilities consistent with the gender they live every day. Not one of these jurisdictions has experienced a rise in sexual crimes or other safety issues.
Lastly, I’ve oftentimes wondered why naysayers are so confident that transgendered people have not been using their bathrooms of choice for years? My guess is they have and we’ve all survived. Moreover, how do you propose we regulate everyone’s “correct” gender/bathroom? Quite honestly, I’ve met some beautiful women, who were born biologically male; some women who were born biologically female who have beards; men who were born with the physical characteristics of a female who have a more muscular build than most men. So what do you naysayers propose?

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Perhaps we should leave this type of personal business—personal. Perhaps, we should treat people respectfully and from a place of love and not irrational fear (because when has that ever been a good thing)?

My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more


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