Don't pretend your bathroom laws are for protecting me

The most common argument I see for keeping transgender people out of the bathrooms of their choosing is protecting women and children from sexual assault. The argument goes "It's not necessarily that transgender people are more likely to commit sex crimes, but that abusers will take advantage of the law to do so." 

That is honestly some scary shit to think about. That walking around as a woman now could come with even more risk. Except that we know how this story plays out and it certainly isn't with great concern for victims. 

I am a woman who was once a child victim of sexual assault. I am the person those seeking to make any public venture more difficult/impossible for transgender people say they are hoping to protect. I see this uprising in chants, uplifting me! My right to be safe!

And yet I have never felt myself the benefactor of said protection. 

"Protect the women and children" seems to be a sentiment we continue to roll out in an effort to cover bigotry. To pretend that ignorance and hatred isn't just that. We are here to protect these "innocents." 

The protection I received from assault was the education that I had somehow caused it. That I should keep it to myself because of how it might damage both our reputations. That the problem wasn't grown men (who knew how old I was) making passes at me at 13, not whatever causes someone to disregard a no and become violent, not even predators sneaking into bathrooms cause assault. I learned early that if I was abused, that I was to blame. What I wore, where I chose to be, what I did there, my brand new breasts, my very existence-- all potential causes of assault. 

Of course I've learned not to agree with that anymore. To let go of that unfairly placed shame. Though I still have to remind myself when the wave of old ass PTSD shows up in my body and I shake my fist at the sky at these on-going consequences of violence. We have a lot of work to do to undo the way we actually treat victims of assault. 

But for the love of all things good, stop pretending that bathrooms laws are for my protection. Men with power arguing doesn't ever strike me as supportive of me. Especially when I am now being asked to look to my transgender friends and say, "Sorry, your right to pee is too risky for me." 

Don't ask me to look at someone even further oppressed than myself and ask me (again) to see an enemy. I've lived long enough to know better. This guise of protection is a scam at best and a total slap in the face for those of us who these "protectors" failed in every way. 

As for the possibility of an attacker in a bathroom? These days I walk with a weapon across my knuckles. I've learned how to fight as an act of survival and of great healing. I am constantly aware of who is around me and if I've any feeling someone might pose a threat. Certainly if I'm walking into a private space in public, I'm paying attention.

Because ever since I grew breasts, I came to understand that the grown men who leered at me were not my protectors. And as a grown ass woman I'm prepared to fight back. For myself or anyone else being abused.

And I know that who is most likely to help me is someone who has ever felt or been unsafe. Transgender women specifically are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted. 72% of hate crimes resulting in murder were transgender women in 2013 (source). It is actually most often transgender people who are unsafe in bathrooms. More on that here. If we really want to help victims of violent crimes, we should be allowing the primary victims of them to use the bathrooms of their choosing. You want me to tell those women they can't pee next to me because I'm not safe? Sisters, brothers, gender nonconforming folks, I have your back.

Don't use me as your special cause to mask bigotry. 

You can't tell me you are on my side, that you will stand with those abused and not those who abuse them, when you never have been. 

Erin Brown