A transgender high school student in Kokomo, Ind., has debunked the oft-cited myth that allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity will somehow endanger other occupants.
Speaking before the Kokomo Common Council as it considered an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance Monday, Alexander Dean tackled that unfounded fear in a personal, powerful way.
"In regards to people saying that transgender people will be predators to [cisgender] people,” Dean began. “I just want to know why you guys think we're going to be predators, seeing as how the bathroom is our worst nightmare?” He continued:
“We go in there feeling as if we’ll be attacked, and we know that people don’t want us there. Why do you guys want us to be hurt more? It’s not right for you to be denying us. I go to sports competitions. I go and change with the guys, because the girls would think that it was weird for a guy to be in there. Why would you want the girls to be freaked out by having a guy in the changing room?"
Dean's personal plea is backed up by empirical data. The implication that transgender people have nefarious motives for using the restroom has been soundly, repeatedly debunked by experts and law enforcement officials, who note that there has never been a single verified report of a transgender person assaulting a cisgender (nontrans) person or student in a restroom. In fact, trans people are more likely to be the victims of such harassment, which often prompts them to avoid relieving themselves for long periods of time, which can have serious health consequences.
Furthermore, restricting trans students to bathrooms based on "biological sex" puts such youth at risk for increased harassment and stigmatization, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality. Providing a faculty or single-stall bathroom as an alternative singles trans students out and over time may increase a trans student's likelihood of disengaging from school or dropping out altogether, notes the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.
Despite the fact that a majority of residents in the standing-room-only crowd rose in opposition to the ordinance, council members nonetheless voted 5-4 to approve the LGBT protections on first reading, according to the Kokomo Tribune. Voting in favor of the amendment were council president Bob Hayes, vice president Mike Kennedy, Steve Whikehart, Donnie Haworth, and Janie Young, according to the Tribune. Democrats Mike Wyant and Bob Cameron joined two Republican colleagues, Cindy Sanders and Tom Miklik, in opposing the ordinance.
The amendment would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics to the city’s existing human rights code. The ordinance is set for a second reading next Monday, which will be accompanied by another round of public comment. If it passes that hurdle, it will go to the desk of the city’s Democratic mayor, Greg Goodnight, for final approval. The Tribune notes that Kokomo would join roughly 30 other cities in Indiana that proactively offer protections to LGBT residents, and framed the Kokomo ordinance as a response to the state legislature’s decision to kill a statewide LGBT rights bill in February.
Watch the entire evening of testimony below, with Dean’s remarks beginning at the 40:15 mark.