As an Oklahoman, living in a state that shares a border with Texas is sometimes like sitting next to a loud drunk in a bar. You can count on Texas to be loud, boisterous, obnoxious, and often insufferable. When they finally rub someone the wrong way, or they say or do something really awful, and things get heated, you find yourself caught between the riled mob and the rowdy drunk. You can manage to get out of the way, but still you worry that someone will think you’re with them. Thank God, this time it’s all Texas when it comes to stirring up the bathroom issue and revealing it for what it’s really all about.
Already being prepped for next year’s legislative session is Senate Bill 6, another bathroom bill, though this one comes with a really fun twist; it only targets trans women in women’s restrooms. They call it the Women’s Privacy and Business Protection Act, and it’s being pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. You might remember Patrick from such hits as blaming Black Lives Matter for a radicalized black man shooting four Dallas police officers in June and wanting to permanently station the National Guard on the border to keep immigrants out. Yes, Patrick has decided to keep the hits rolling by attempting to pass a bill that didn’t even make it out of committee last year. But instead of covering both bathrooms, he’s just focusing on the women’s room. Probably because white conservative men want to legislate everything involving women’s private parts. Why only women’s rooms and transgender women? Because, and I quote, “Men can defend themselves.” They say everything is bigger in Texas, and apparently that includes the misogyny and transphobia.
In one sentence, Patrick has managed to not only belittle women as helpless creatures in need of a big strong Texas lieutenant governor who can totally still do the same number of pushups he could in high school, but also present trans women as sexual predators more focused on sexual attacks in public restrooms and less on peeing. The whole bathroom issue has always been about misogyny and gender normativity anyway. God knows how many passable trans people have gone in and out of bathrooms for decades with barely an eyebrow raised, but the minute it became an issue, suddenly trans people were being called out for it.
Wait, I’m sorry, I meant women who don’t fit certain stereotypes of what women are supposed to look like. No one ever stopped a trans man from entering a bathroom — because they all look like men. Sure, some were short and a little light on the beard hair, but hey, lots of guys look like that. Now, that tall lady with the buzz haircut, Doc Martens shoes, and cargo shorts who dared to leave the house without makeup but with the genitals she was born with gets stopped a lot. They just didn’t look right, ya know? Where were their skirts, purses, painted face, and other various things you can find in an issue of Woman’s Day? It always seemed to be that if you didn’t "look right" — as in being the ideal of femininity — you had problems. They would probably not even care if the super-passable kept at it. Maybe because if they said anything, trans women would show where they sent them unsolicited dick pics on Twitter.
The other issue that’s clearly in play is the misogynistic idea that women need protecting. For a lot of conservative men, women are precious little darlings and sweethearts, as sweet as sugar. It doesn’t compute in their world that women can entirely function on their own and don’t need a man to protect them. When I served in the Army, I was surrounded by women who could outrun me, outshoot me, outdrink me, and outfight me — and I was incredibly attracted to them, because badass women are really sexy. Women do not need men to defend them, and one would think as lieutenant governor of Texas Patrick would know about those hard-core frontier women like Jane W. Long, who survived during the winter of 1822 after the men abandoned the fort where she lived. Or maybe Emily West, the legendary Yellow Rose of Texas, who helped defeat Santa Anna. Maybe Bessie Coleman, the first black woman to become a licensed pilot, or Margaret Borland, who was the only woman to lead a cattle drive? The outlaws Etta Place and Laura Bullion, who ran with the Wild Bunch? Not to mention the thousands of women who ran their farms, ranches, and businesses when the men went off to war or on a sheriff’s posse. If there is one thing Texas women will tell you, six-shooter in hand, it's that they don’t need a man to stay safe. I think the only thing threatened here is the lieutenant governor’s masculinity.
Patrick’s choice of legislation and rhetoric finally show what these bathroom bills are all about. Not the myth of transgender sexual predators lurking in Walmart bathrooms; not the pearl-clutching "thinking of the children"; not the threat to a religion that’s lasted 2,000 years. It’s about the threat transgender people pose to outdated, oppressive ideas of masculinity, gender identity, and male privilege that are used as a fallout shelter for insecure, weak men. And like a loud drunken Texan in a bar, they’re more about talking and acting big than putting their money where their mouth is.
AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian living in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @eternalkerri.