This past week, Judge Reed O’Connor clarified that his injunction on the Obama administration’s transgender bathroom order applied nationally. By doing so, he has solidified bathrooms as the next symbolic battleground in the fight for LGBTQ rights.
Like buses during the civil rights movement, bathrooms are physical places. They are public places, and they are places where one privileged group has a right that another group is being denied.
This denial should not be taken lightly. Cisgender people have the right to use the public restroom that adheres with their gender identity without worrying about being treated like they are committing a crime. Transgender people do not. They are denied access to public spaces based on their identity, just as Black Americans were once denied space on public transportation.
Alex Puente, public relations officer for UT’s Queer and Trans Student Alliance, explained the underlying issue. “It’s important for the safety of trans individuals. The news plays up nonsense about cis people being in danger. But in reality, statistically, trans people are more likely to be attacked [if they are forced to use the wrong bathroom.]”
The idea that somehow allowing trans people to use their bathroom of choice will open the door for predatory behavior by high school boys or men in public restrooms is a logical fallacy.
Those who claim to be worried about voyeurism or sexual assault haven’t checked the Texas Penal Code. Both acts are currently illegal in schools and public spaces, no matter what sex you are.
Some, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, claim Obama’s order overreaches the boundaries of what the federal government can do. Paxton has used Judge O’Connor’s injunction as a platform to springboard to other trans equality issues, suing the federal government — again — over protections for transgender individuals in healthcare.
The Obama administration has pointed to Title IX as the legal backing for its policy regarding schools, but there exists a long precedent in the US of the federal government standing up for equal access to public services and minority rights. Famous cases include Brown v. Board, Loving v. Virginia and Obergefell v. Hodges.
In terms of government overreach, isn’t mandating where people can and cannot go to the bathroom a lot more strenuous than allowing them the freedom to choose?
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Puente said. “The community, everyone, deserves their rights. Why is someone putting their time and effort into hurting this movement when it doesn’t hurt them?”
Since the Civil War, the South has made a practice of claiming states rights when it wants to continue discrimination. It’s the same tired argument we’ve been hearing in the face of progress for 151 years, and it’s no longer acceptable.
MacLean is an advertising sophomore from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @maclean_josie.