This post was originally posted on The Good Men Project, check it out here!
North Carolina has been making headlines lately as the newest example of blatant and legal discrimination, this time against transgender people. A new law, detailed here, will ban, “transgender people from using public bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, and bans cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT people”. This can only be added to the long list of ways in which transgender people have been, and continue to be, treated as less than.
Inevitably with national issues such as these Facebook begins to blow up from people on both sides of the issue. People were suddenly coming up with various reasons why this would directly impact them. As if they knew what this type of discrimination felt like. As if they had stopped to really think about gender identity, biological sex, and social norms. As if it were not really rooted in hate. It was only decades ago that states across the country, including North Carolina, were taking down signs segregating people of color to different bathrooms and water fountains. It was not concerns of safety and well being for all that caused this segregation then and it is not what drives it now.
The argument that jumped out at me the most was the concern over a rise in sexual assault rates. Everyone from politicians to some unfortunate Facebook friends I had suddenly seemed alarmed over the issue of sexual assault. Unless you live in a heavy state of denial you know that sexual assault is an alarming problem that affects millions of people around the world every day. Just in the United States, another person is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds. Intersecting levels of discrimination leads women of color to experience rates of sexual assault at even higher levels than the 1 in 6 women nation wide statistic we often hear.
I had to wonder if these politicians and unfortunate Facebook friends knew these statistics. Are they making changes in their everyday lives to reduce these rates? Some maybe do but I know many do not. John Rustin, president of an organization that supports the law, the North Carolina Family Policy Council, stated that, “the bill is important because it protects the privacy and dignity of woman and children,” Rustin told ABC News today. He added that by allowing transgender people to go into the bathroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender it would “allow men and potentially predators to enter into those facilities with ill intentions. It’s a common sense privacy and safety law. Men go into men’s restrooms and women go into women’s restrooms”.
This concern does not seem to be rooted in any truth. Other parts of the country have been upholding the rights of transgender people far longer than this conversation leads one to think, “New York City has banned discrimination based on gender identity for more than a decade. California has affirmed the rights of K-12 students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity for years”. Data shows that in other communities with ordinances allowing transgender people to use the bathroom they choose show no decrease in the safety of women and children. And unlike these politicians and my unfortunate Facebook friends there are people who work everyday the violence against women field who have written about how using this argument actually ends up hurting survivors, which you can check out here and here. With all of that in mind I thought it would be good to a point out a few things politicians, my unfortunate Facebook friends and all of can do if they actually were worried about protecting women and children from sexual assault:
- Create better sex education programs in middle and high school. Specifically, programs that do not focus on abstinence but are grounded in the reality that young people are going to have sex and should be safe doing it. Talk about consent with children at a young age.
- Stop making rape jokes. Seriously. It is not funny.
- Boycott music, movies, and television shows that blatantly degrade women. Do not support companies that demean women to sell their products.
- Stop blaming victims. It was not what they were wearing, if they were drinking, or that they flirted too much. The reason people are raped is because rapists choose to do so. Speak up for survivors and always stand by them.
- Call your legislators and ask them to put more funding into programming for centers and shelters. Or better rates of conviction for rapists. Or more research for rehabilitation programs for rapists. This list could continue but you get the idea.
- Volunteer your time at a local center. Become an advocate and work on a crisis line getting survivors immediate help. Volunteer your time at an event. If you are able donate money to make sure these centers can continue to run.
- Do not prescribe to gender roles. Boys can play with dolls and girls can play with trucks. Sexism and homophobia all contribute to outrageous rates of sexual assault women face across the world.
photo cred: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/24/north-carolina-anti-transgender-bathroom-law-dangerous-discrimination#img-1