Transgender People Just Need to Pee

Last week, the South Dakota Senate passed a bill that would require students to only use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their assigned sex rather than their binary gender identity. If signed into law by Governor Dennis Daugaard, this would mean transgender boys could only use the girls’ restroom and locker room, and transgender girls could only use the boys’ restroom and locker room. Opponents of the bill say it would further discriminate against transgender youth who are already facing numerous social pressures and allows for more bullying to take place. Republican State Senator David Omdahl, however, says the bill is necessary to “preserve the innocence of our young people,” going even further with this comment on transgender youth: “I’m sorry if you’re so twisted you don’t know who you are. I’m telling you right now, it’s about protecting the kids, and I don’t even understand where our society is these days.”

It’s this last statement that shows how out of touch many Americans are with the realities of being transgender.

For starters, being transgender is not equivalent to “being confused.” The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) recognizes gender dysphoria disorder in adults and adolescents as a real condition:

For a person to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, there must be a marked difference between the individual’s expressed/experienced gender and the gender others would assign him or her, and it must continue for at least six months. In children, the desire to be of the other gender must be present and verbalized. This condition causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

The DSM-V also requires a diagnosis of gender dysphoria to ensure insurance companies cover medical transitioning: “The Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group was concerned that removing the condition as a psychiatric diagnosis—as some had suggested—would jeopardize access to care,” according to the DSM-V.

Most importantly, the South Dakota bill only perpetuates the myth that transgender women (those assigned male at birth who now identify as women) only want to use the women’s restroom to assault women. This is a myth often perpetuated by conservative Christians like Michelle Duggar who, in 2014, sent a robocall to voters in Fayetteville, Arizona, to vote no on a bill written to protect transgender rights, saying it would endanger young women by allowing men into “areas that are designated for females only.” This happened, of course, before the world learned that the Duggars’ oldest son, Josh, molested his sisters and his parents knew about it. Regardless of their hypocrisy, the facts are clear: transgender people are more likely to be assaulted in bathrooms by cisgender people than the other way around.

In 2013 Jody Herman of the Williams Institute surveyed ninety-three transgender people of various ages and ethnicities in Washington, DC, about their experiences with public gender-segregated restrooms. Of those surveyed, 18 percent reported being denied access to public restrooms (a quarter of this group were black). Sixty-eight percent reported being verbally harassed while trying to use a public restroom, told they were in the wrong bathroom, and threatened with violence. Even more concerning, 9 percent reported being physically assaulted in a public restroom, with actions ranging from physical removal to sexual assault. In the conclusion, Herman calls for government-level action: “Until public policy and public administration can meet the challenge to address this problem and rethink our reliance on gender segregation in our built environment, the onus will always be on the individual to try to navigate these spaces safely.”

The growing hysteria surrounding trans people using the restrooms of their choice led to the Twitter hashtag #WeJustNeedToPee. The movement began when trans woman Brae Carnes started taking selfies in men’s restrooms in response to conservative Canadian Senator Donald Plett’s proposal in 2014 to amend a transgender rights bill in order to maintain “sex-specific” public restrooms. His rationale was to stop pedophiles from taking advantage of the legislation that was in place. Several other trans people followed suit, posting bathroom selfies with the hashtag to bring awareness to the issue.

Progress has been made, though. In May 2014, then-governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley signed a bill that would allow transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Although the law was met with resistance from a conservative group, the group’s petition to allow Marylanders to vote against the bill didn’t get enough signatures by its deadline.

And progress will hopefully convince Governor Daugaard to veto this South Dakota bill. A transgender high school student in the state, Thomas Lewis, has created a petition on the ACLU’s website asking Daugaard to do just that, stating that the bill “harms South Dakota’s children, wastes taxpayer dollars, and puts schools at risk of losing millions in federal funding.” As of this writing, the petition currently has almost 24,000 signatures, which is just 6,000 signatures short of its 30,000 signature goal. According to CBS News, the governor “initially responded positively to the [bill] but said last week he’d need to study it more before making a decision.”

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  • Lisa Balestrieri

    It should say Fayetteville Arkansas, not Arizona. Arizona is guilty of a lot of things but we’re not home to the Duggars, thank goodness.

    • Thanks for pointing that out. I got the abbreviations wrong.

  • Robin Friday

    Senator David Omdahl is the one who’s twisted. It’s unfair and unjust to make a young transgender person go to the opposite gender’s bathroom. If a young person dresses as a girl, lives as a girl, presents as a girl, she belongs in the girls’ bathroom. She’s young, so she hasn’t had the operation yet, maybe never will get it until much later in life, if at all, but she’s transitioning to female. It’s entirely monstrous and discriminatory to make her go to a men’s bathroom where there are open urinals. Some of these legislators need to confront some of their own evangelical demons before they demonize others.

    • sam steel

      The senator has it right.Where are the parents in all this. What is their level of maturity. We all go through identity crises at times. And it would be nice to have good help by those who are experts in this typ of behaviour

  • sam steel

    The truth is that transgender is nothing more than 3d body modifications. Lift bruce jenner’s dress you’ll find his jewels. that goes for most of them,male and females,they keep the botom but change the top.But here is the real kicker. Non of it actually changes your sex. You are what you were when you were born. Same blood and dna. So if you were male changed to look female. You are still male same as females change to male look. They are still female. So you see it is not transgender. It is actually 3d body modifications but unlike a party dress up,the make up stays on. and not many change below. So it’s not transgender. Its 1/2 and 1/2 coffee cream.

  • sam steel

    But the solution would be to discontinue His and Hers and be done whith it. We all use the same. After all it’s the same,just as it is at home,but if the ladies could remember to leave the seat up that would be great!