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Trans selfies have caught bathroom bans and lawmakers with their pants down

Trans selfies have caught bathroom bans and lawmakers with their pants down

It is always good to watch transphobia shrivel and die. Like Count Dracula, turning to dust at the first ray of sunshine, a great deal of transphobia is only waiting the light of common sense to send it on its way.

Or in this case, one photo, and two simple words – ‘trans man’ – are all that is needed to show how bills supposed to protect women will make their lives infinitely more dangerous.

Because the last few weeks have seen the ‘phobes of North America out in force, with ‘bathroom bills’ proposed in Texas, Florida and Kentucky and a trans-unfriendly bathroom amendment used in Canada to sink a bill supposed to extend trans rights in public spaces.

There is a vicious dishonesty to the arguments used. At base is the supposed danger that allowing trans women into public toilets that match their gender identity would risk predatory men – cis men, a bit like the representatives proposing these laws – to con their way into women’s spaces. Worse, pedophiles ‘might take advantage’ – and here I suspect some legislators take desperate pleasure in associating trans women with child abusers.

The logic fail is enormous. Rapists rape. Abusers abuse. And if some man wishes to commit a crime of this nature, he will not be deterred by a law that threatens to fine him $2,000 (€1,890) for being in the wrong facility. As for disguise, the easiest simplest disguise for any man to put on is that of toilet cleaner or attendant.

Unpacking these proposals further, there are other aspects worth noting: how, often, they appear to come from reactionary and privileged men, whose white knightery is little more than sexism disguised as chivalry. These same saviors of women are elsewhere to be found legislating against a woman’s right to choose, against measures that would provide women with greater independence and autonomy.

Somewhere in the mix is the ‘problem’ of stealth and the gold star trans woman: that is, the trans woman who mostly ‘passes’, and therefore is unlikely to be challenged in a female toilet.

This does create something of a dilemma for the average transphobe, since their idea of what constitutes a trans woman seems too often constructed on visions of cut-price drag.

Would they recognize a trans woman if one came up and bit them? (Don’t tempt me!) And how would they deal with the growing numbers of cisgender women who identify on the butch, dykey side of lesbian and whose daily attire is highly masculine? Would they, too, be excluded from women’s loos? Or asked to ID on the way in?

And here is where the real problem for all these bathroom bills lies. Earlier this week, a brave trans woman from Canada, Brae Carnes, 23, began posting photos of herself in men’s toilets in order to demonstrate how ridiculous it would be to require her to use them.

Point well and truly made. Still, it seems unlikely such a campaign will weigh greatly with our ‘phobe legislators. They don’t much care that their laws would make individual trans women look ridiculous – or put them at risk. Because the bottom line is: they don’t much care for trans women and if some get hurt, good! That might make others think twice about coming out.

Tonight, however, the trans men joined the game. The images produced are predictable, amusing, striking.

For – at the risk of toppling headlong into stereotype – here is what I have learnt from many trans men in my acquaintance: a lot of them like to look masculine. Hirsute. Muscular. And because hormones often work their magic so effectively on the trans man, it is far, far easier for them to transition into beefcake stealth, should they wish to.

So what have begun to appear tonight are images of trans men, pretty much indistinguishable from cis men, taking their ‘proper’ place in the ladies loos. Which was what the ‘phobes wanted all along. Wasn’t it?

And of course a culture in which highly masculine trans men wander freely in and out of the ladies’ most certainly won’t give any abusive cis man the idea that HE can wander in, too, and if challenged, pretend to be a trans man. Such a culture most certainly won’t end up making loos far less safe for all, cis or trans.

I jest, of course. Because that is exactly what it would do. The only way to prevent THAT is to police loos, checking ID on the way in – perhaps turning away the occasional desperate-to-pee because they left their papers in their other handbag at home.

I’m sure the police would love to add that to their duties. Or perhaps states that adopt this approach could consider recruiting an army of toilet attendants, Soviet-style, tasked with the twin duties of replenishing the loo roll – and spying on the users within. Was that a wipe? Or was it a guy only pretending to wipe?

These proposals will not stand. Common sense makes it inevitable they don’t. Along the way, though, they add one more thing that an already weary trans community must fight against in the uphill struggle for acceptance.

In this case, it is to be hoped, the idea is so generally ludicrous that it will not require enormous amounts of energy to return it to the dust from which it sprang. And for that, we are all much indebted to trans men and their selfies.