The restroom debate is a central topic in both trans and gender-critical issues and one which is often portrayed in simplistic terms by those on either ‘side.’ All parties tend to paint it as a conversation about safety, one which would be easily resolved if only participants in the discussion could embrace compassion and acceptance. I do not think the restroom issue is simple at all. I think it is complex, and needs to be made even more complex. In order to accomplish any real change in society at large, I recognize the restroom as a place in which revolution must begin – those of us trans who are willing should muster our courage and take up arms against the real problem faced by all trans and by all biological women: male dominance and gender itself.
In a survey published in 2013 of 93 trans and gender non-conforming individuals in the DC area, it was found that over 70% of respondents had experienced some sort of harassment in using sex-segregated (the study calls these gender-segregated) restrooms. Compared to the demographics of DC, the study was over-representative of whites and women (unfortunately I have to state that, yes, I am talking about women, AKA adult females). However, the study was somehow representative of income-based demographics. The respondents were over-representative of higher education levels versus DC averages. Unsurprisingly, the brunt of verbal harassment and physical assault while using sex-segregated restrooms was borne by low-income PoC.
Eight of the respondents (9%) reported being physically assaulted while attempting to use the restroom of their choice. One transwoman reported being sexually assaulted in the men’s restroom. This is the only reported instance I have heard of a male-to-trans being attacked or assaulted in our biologically correct restroom.
The above study is one of the only scholarly works analyzing the phenomenon of trans harassment in the context of sex-segregated restrooms. It is, as the author herself states, merely an exploratory introduction to further studies, and itself is subject to many limitations, such as the survey method being convenience sampling, and the respondents being not statistically representative of the DC area’s demographics.
It is a testament to the transgender movement’s need for dramatization in order to accomplish its goals that this study is unanimously cited as showing that “70% of transgender people surveyed reported harassment or discrimination in trying to use a restroom” here, here, and here, while failing to mention that this was a small study conducted using unreliable survey methods, and was not representative of the larger population (vital for a study’s generalizability).
All other instances of violence, whether sexual or no, have occurred when trans attempt to use cross-sex restrooms. For example, a female-to-trans (transman) was violently attacked in the men’s restroom: this is obviously a hate crime based upon the (male) perpetrator having carved ‘it’ into the female-to-trans’ flesh. Two other instances that are popularly touted as examples – the Hercules High assault and the Chrissy Polis case – are not, in fact, examples of trans experiencing discrimination in cross-sex restrooms. In the former incident, the student admitted the entire incident was falsified, and the Chrissy Polis assault was not due to them being trans, but because she was perceived as having been flirting with the perpetrator’s boyfriend (her assaulters thought she was a woman).
No one should face violence when using a restroom. No one should face harassment. However, when the claim is made that trans are being discriminated against when prohibited from using cross-sex restrooms, I have to ask: what makes this discrimination? A male-to-trans prevented from entering, or being told to leave, the women’s restroom is not being denied access because they are trans, but rather because they are male. The individual may disagree with this assessment, and in many cases the law is on their side in terms of gender identity/expression.
But not everyone thinks only in terms of gender. In fact, I might posit that most people either conflate the two concepts or would describe their process of differentiation more in terms of biology rather than self-expression through clothing or mannerisms.
So for example, if male-to-trans AKA transwomen are male (which we are), and all other males are being denied access to the women’s restroom, then someone who perceives the male-to-trans as male is not discriminating against them for being trans but rather applying to them the same restrictions ascribed to all other males. Understandably, this is embarrassing for the trans, and I know first-hand that being trans itself can be construed as a source of embarrassment, but we must acknowledge that this does not necessarily fit the definition of discrimination.
Validation Conflated With Violence
A trans being denied access to cross-sex restrooms is not, as I posited above, necessarily about discrimination. It is representative of the refusal by many individuals (myself included) to concede that biology itself – and the social realities that have become entwined and embedded within these biological categorizations from conception – are mercurial dependent upon the individual’s internal assessment of such. An individual who has been socialized as male, has been perceived as a man throughout their entire adult life (and received the privileges inherent to this class membership), does not suddenly and retroactively rewrite their entire life history to have “always been a woman” – unless one removes all meaning from the word ‘woman’ except whatever meaning the transgender movement allows to be included. We must remind ourselves that language not only describes, but also dictates, our relationship to reality.
Validation has become conflated with violence in trans circles. ‘Misgendering’ is violence and speaking openly about male-to-trans being male is regarded as an outright attack by well-known transgender activists. When the act of recognizing biological reality is tantamount to a hate crime, no conversation is possible.
It also prevents trans from being able to distinguish, and name, the real problem: male violence. Why are male-to-trans AKA transwomen afraid of going in to the men’s restroom? Supposedly, it is out of fear of greater risk of assault. Even though this has not been shown to necessarily be the case, it does illustrate that male-to-trans are aware of the issue of male violence enough to be wary of such places. The added threat of invalidation nails in the conviction that using men’s restrooms are less safe.
This is the same reason so many women are anxious about the idea of male-to-trans using the women’s restrooms: we are male, and they do not want males – many of us with a lifetime of masculine heritage – gaining legal access to their restrooms and places of refuge from men. To reiterate: the reason that male-to-trans (transwomen) avoid the men’s restroom is the same reason that women do not want us in theirs. Or, as someone else so succinctly described the issue:
“If trans don’t feel safe being around penises in spaces segregated by biological sex, and expect special accommodation because of their need for safety, then how come they won’t allow women the exact same consideration?” (comment by Cheryl in an article about Sheila Jeffreys).
Confronting the Problem: the Restroom Revolution Vanguard
What is the Restroom Revolution Vanguard? In short, it is a front-line confrontation of masculine supremacy and male violence. It is a way to turn the conversation around, so that the real issue of male violence, and the oppressive nature of gender itself, can be addressed. Not all male-to-trans – and this is truly a front-line protestation of specifically male-to-trans against other males – will be willing or able to join the RRV. For many, if not most of us, the idea of invalidating or outing ourselves, or of deliberately putting ourselves within the scope-sights of the male Gaze and of possible male violence and harassment, is unthinkable.
Which is why this is a ‘vanguard.’
The more passing, the more feminine, the more perceived as a woman you are – this is the ideal candidate for revolution. Those who participate in the RRV would ideally have a solid understanding of gender-critical topics, and be able to effectively communicate these ideas with speed if and when they are confronted by other males or authority figures. Male-to-trans who are still legally male, and can provide documentation of such, are the most useful candidates. And last, but certainly not least, you should be willing and able to defend yourself.
The reasons for the above desired attributes are as follows:
- Witnessing a woman entering the restroom will initially cause confusion/distress and activate male-socialized paternalism. When closer inspection (or disclosure by the MtT) results in recognition of the individual as male, this will subsequently activate masculine tendencies towards homophobia and/or enforcement of social norms. The tendency towards aggression by the male in question is representative of their weakness. It is this weakness that is advantageous to the RRV.
- Being able to calmly and politely discuss gender-critical topics even in the face of emotional reactions may result in the unexpected education of individuals who would otherwise never (or rarely) be confronted by such topics. This opens the possibility of actively engaging the ambassadors of masculinity in revolutionary discussion.
- Being legally male offers a justification for being in the restroom, allows for an easy example of the distinction between sex and gender (an in-road to gender-critical discussion), and may provide recourse if accused of attempted prositution by law enforcement officials.
- The capacity to defend yourself is self-explanatory. I suspect that the risk is low considering the elements of homophobia and the discomfort most men would feel by being confronted with the specter of femininity in the man’s restroom, but as shown by the single instance reported in the study I referenced at the beginning of this post, violence can and does happen. Be careful. Confronting male violence and the reasons it occurs (masculinity) is no easy task, and not for those unsuited to its dangers. Yet I would also give an additional warning: do not allow yourself to desire such conflict or embrace its occurrence. If you participate in the RRV in hopes of ‘beating up a homophobe’ or some such, then you are part of the problem, you are part of the phenomenon of male violence. Learn how to de-escalate situations, first and foremost. The fundamental principle of the RRV is to start a conversation that is unerringly being silenced.
The truest revolutions occur within the mind. The RRV is a means to bring gender-critical conversations to the right audience: men. One of the foremost questions we of the RRV are assuredly going to be asked is why we do not use the women’s restroom. To a gender-critical trans, the answer is easy: we are not women, by virtue not only of having been identified as male at birth, but more importantly by having been subjected to male socialization.
This is a perfect opener for a conversation which needs to be had, a conversation which no one but radical feminists and gender-criticals seem to be asking for us to have. It is a way to bring to national attention the fact that people like Laverne Cox, who claim on television that they were not identified as male but rather ‘assigned’ male, are not representatives of all trans.
The RRV is an attempt to forcibly bring this conversation to a population that has ears only for those who represent the ideological dead-end of post-modern identity politics. It is a way to overcome the silencing tactics and no-platforming by the transgender movement.
Our mantra: “we do not identify as male, we are male.” Sex is a category, not an identity.
It’s about time we recognize the importance of this reality.