Let's Talk About Just How Dumb Tennessee's Anti-Transgender Laws Are

Tennessee, we need to have a very frank conversation about all these anti-trans laws we have passed. There are not a lot of transgender people in Tennessee per capita. Or anywhere, for that matter. Transgender people are estimated to make up 0.6% of the adult population — about 1 in every 200 people. This is both so very few people as to make our state’s fixation on them baffling, and enough people that you should rest assured that you have probably used the same bathroom as a trans person without incident numerous times.

Trans activists can tell you how these laws — laws banning treatment for trans youth and mandating signs about trans people using bathrooms — are designed to make it impossible for transgender people to be out in society. If you can’t use a public bathroom, you can’t be in public very long. Let me be clear: That sucks and is wrong.

But just as a matter of math, the people most affected by these bills are going to be cis people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes, because there are more “manly” cis women or “girly” cis men, by far, in the state than there are trans people. The self-appointed bathroom police are much more likely to challenge a cis woman with short hair and no makeup than they are a trans woman with long hair and a fully done-up face, because one looks like what their idea of a woman is and the other doesn’t.

This is an excuse to make life harder for all gender nonconforming people. Which, again, maybe you as a cis person feel confident that you have nothing to worry about, but are you conforming to the standards of your gender as the leaders of this state would see it? Do you wear your hair too long? Too short? Do you not wear makeup? Do you wear guyliner? Do you have children? Are you better at sports than the boys in your school?

When people talk about someone being a “real man,” they don’t mean that he’s got XY chromosomes. They mean he fits all kinds of societal expectations for what a man is. Those are the criteria the bathroom police are going to use to decide if you’re a "real" enough man to get to pee in public.

And God forbid you’re an older woman. I’m over here trying to make my peace with slowly aging into an old German man, plucking chin hairs and browsing overalls in the men’s clothing section of Tractor Supply because they fit the most comfortably, and now I have to be worried about which bathroom people think I should be able to use? Listen, folks, if I have to pee badly enough that I have stopped at your shitty gas station, which you haven’t bothered to clean or restock since 1987, if you try to stop me for a gender quiz, I’m going to pee on your floor. That’s not a threat. That’s just a biological fact.

Amazingly — by which I mean not amazing in the least — none of the sternly worded letters our corporate “allies” wrote Gov. Bill Lee made one whit of difference, because as we’ve talked about before, their threats are empty.

So what can we do?

Y’all, the thing that we can do to make these laws ineffective is for all of us to just use whichever bathrooms are available. All of us, just normalize whoever being in whichever bathroom. And then watch out for each other while we’re in there.

If you’re a business owner, consider putting in any number of one-seaters that are just bathrooms for anyone, first-come, first-served. If you have one-seaters, take down the gender designations. If you have a friend or business associate who is trans, be available to go to the bathroom with them. You acting like this is a normal everyday occurrence that no one should think twice about will make it a normal everyday occurrence that no one should think twice about.

The truth is that, as much as anti-trans bigots want to make this about morality, it isn’t moral to make people feel bad about their bodies. It isn’t moral to contrive situations in which people feel like it’s their right to police other people’s genitals. It’s not moral to single out a tiny minority and make laws that discriminate against them.

We have to put our values into action, because the values of the ruling class in this state suck. It’s strange to think that the counterculture values of a “Christian” state would be acceptance of everyone, support for the vulnerable, and welcome to the outcasts, but here we are. Be a rebel: Be kind. 

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