Equal Access to Bathrooms for Transgender People: the Myths & Truths

Wonder why an issue such as the right for transgender persons to use the bathroom that matches their true gender identity requires an ongoing discussion on this blog?

Look no further than recent “headline news.”


These are clips from Fox News’ response to California governor Jerry Brown signing a bill on August 12th that allows students to use the restroom that matches their gender identity, as well as allow them to participate in whichever gender-specific sports team they align with as well:

“Parents will have to start worrying about boys showering with girls and vice versa…”

“Anarchy and madness…”

“Can you imagine now the boys are going to want to go into the girls bathroom and the girls wanted to go into the boys bathroom they can just say ‘Oh, I was just transgender for the moment.’”

“I would tell girls that I am a girl trapped in a boy’s body just so I could sneak into the girls bathroom…”

“When I was five or six I wanted to be a flower, so I don’t know how well these kids know about their sexual identity and transgender and all of that…”

Other comments included a criminal defense attorney stating on CNN that the measure “might ‘infring[e] on the privacy of other children,’ asserting – without evidence or explanation – that the mere presence of a transgender student would be enough to violate other students’ privacy rights.”

I understand this is a concept that is new for a lot of folks and they’ll need some time to wrap their minds around it.

But it is misleading and unprofessional for these commentators and analysts to choose to remain ignorant to the truth of what it means to be transgender. To use that ignorance as an excuse to be disrespectful, dehumanizing, and scare-tactic-promoting is not only cruel but also dangerous to the safety of transgender students and adults.

For those of you who are reading this blog post in order to become more educated on the transgender experience, allow me to take this opportunity to clear up the myths that continue to be brought up by opponents to these sorts of laws.

Myth #1 about Equal Access to Public Restrooms for Transgender People

“This means Boys/Men can now be in the same bathrooms and showering facilities as Girls/Women. They will use this opportunity to spy on them, grope them, assault them, etc.”

Truth #1 about Equal Access to Public Restrooms for Transgender People

When someone is transgender, they do not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. They were assigned that gender based on their genitalia. Their true gender is based on a feeling and a knowing that they are not that gender. Therefore if someone identifies as a transgender female, when she steps into a restroom she is a woman. If she walks into a men’s restroom, it feels wrong, weird, like she doesn’t belong there. Step into the restroom that doesn’t match your gender identity, you’ll see what I mean.

Myth #2 about Equal Access to Public Restrooms for Transgender People

“It’s going to be uncomfortable/an invasion of privacy/offensive to have to see people who aren’t my gender in my restroom.”

Truth #2 about Equal Access to Public Restrooms for Transgender People

First of all, you have probably been in the restroom plenty of times with someone who is transgender and didn’t know it. That’s because they really don’t want attention. They just want to use the bathroom.

Do you plan on staring down every person who comes into the restroom to be sure they are “really” the gender they’re supposed to be? How do you know if someone is transgender or not? Will you ask them for proof? Sounds more like the uncomfortable/invasion of privacy feeling would come from you creating that atmosphere, not them.

Lastly, most people who are transgender don’t try to use the restroom of their true gender identity until they feel like they can do so without an issue. Do you think they want your stares and glares? They aren’t there to cause you a problem, or to challenge you, or to spy on you. The people who are out there who want to do that will find ways to do so without having to use transgender civil rights laws passed to allow them to do so.

Myth #3 about Equal Access to Public Restrooms for Transgender People

“Now anybody can say they are transgender and be able to use whichever restroom and shower they want!”

Truth #3 about Equal Access to Public Restrooms for Transgender People

As I’ve heard from several of my transgender clients, “Why would anyone want to say they are transgender just so they can do that!” This notion of a boy bolting into school on Monday insisting he is a girl, ransacking the girls restroom for the week and then on Friday saying, “Just kidding, I’m not transgender” is, frankly, silly and is being used just to get a reaction.

It’s actually amusing how many of the Fox News commentators state that if they were boys or girls in California, that they would have taken advantage of the law to do these sorts of devious things. That’s nice, thanks for sharing, but that’s you, not people who are transgender.

“It’s Not Okay”

It’s true that I’m sharing only the Fox News perspective of this debate – a perspective that is extreme and yes, “worse case scenario” when it comes to those who are against transgender equality.

However, millions of people watch Fox News. And there are a certain number of those viewers who take what the commentators say about transgender issues as truth. They then carry that belief with them into the world, possibly telling others what they’ve “learned.” Eventually they may even interact with someone who is transgender, be it a child, teenager, or adult. They may then feel it’s okay to treat this person with rudeness and suspicion, to embarrass them publicly, or to even hurt them.

The fact is there is a tremendous degree of fear and misunderstanding around what it means to be transgender. And that means certain people believe they have the right to treat people who are transgender as “lesser than” and to dehumanize them.

It’s hard to hear these kinds of stories of judgment and degradation from my transgender clients. But I see it as a much needed reminder to for us not become complacent when it comes to getting education out there and more protections passed for this community.

Homework Assignment

“What you just said is not okay.” When it comes to what you can say to someone who is speaking unkindly or ignorantly about people who are transgender, this is a simple yet direct place to start.

I have a friend who was recently in a business meeting and this guy began to say how awful the California law was and what else he thought about people who are transgender. She informed him that she has a close friend who works with transgender clients and that what he was saying was nonsense (she’s especially aware as to when someone is exuding “majority status” privilege because she herself experiences criticism for having an interracial marriage).

Of course this isn’t always easy to do, especially if you aren’t comfortable with confrontation. I like the advice given in Five Tips for Calling Out Transphobia by Samantha Allen. Take a moment to read through this article.

In summary the tips are:

  1. Prevent and Prepare
  2. Gather courage to speak out.
  3. Be firm.
  4. Keep the focus on what they said, not who they are.
  5. Demand responsibility but know when to bow out.


Additional Reading:

The Transgender Right to Equal Access to Public Restrooms by Dara Hoffman-Fox


Spread the word- share this post
  • Gina Fuquea

    August 25, 2013 at 9:58 AM Reply

    I have been full time in my correct gender for 2 years now. When I first came out I would go out of my way to “NOT” use a public restroom because I didn’t want any trouble with anyone. Then as I became more aware of Transgender issues and discrimination. I gathered my courage and began to use the public facilities for women. It was very uncomfortable for “ME” at first, but later became comfortable by the simple act of using the correct restroom. I have encountered only one problem in two years. I was exiting the restroom at the largest discount chain in the US. The manager was standing there and ask me to accompany him to the office, an that the police were on the way. I politely followed him and sat in the office. I waited……..The officer arrived and ask me if I was in the womens room. I proudly said yes that I had to pee. Then I proceeded to retrieve from my bag a letter from my therapist, a letter from my medical Dr. that changed my gender marker, AND my female drivers license. I handed then to the officer. I then cited the 2008 law that Gov Ritter signed and exactly what it meant. The officer glanced at my papers, mainly at my DL. Handed them all back to me. I asked if I was free to go, he said yes, an I left. Not after giving the WM manager a glowing look of triumph. Wrong of me but I did ! It all boils down to the fact that truly Transgendered individuals could care less about seeing another person in the bathroom for petes sake. We just want to do our business and get out. So girls and boys know your rights, carry proof if you need it, and just live your life and stand up for yourself !!!!!!

    • Dara Hoffman-Fox

      August 26, 2013 at 10:49 AM Reply

      What a great story Gina, and your advice is solid – I’ll be sure to pass it on!

    • Ashley

      May 15, 2016 at 6:11 PM Reply

      I can understand why you did that. I am glad it worked out the way you planned.

      Sad, that we have to carry ‘our papers’ just to use the restroom.

      I don’t take my papers with me for fear of too much trouble replacing them if I
      lose them. I don’t leave personal items in my purse because of my items get
      stolen alot.

  • […] Equal Access to Bathrooms for Transgender People: the Myths & Truths by Dara Hoffman-Fox, LPC […]

  • Caryn Kohls

    November 23, 2013 at 9:43 AM Reply

    Some people are so strange, It not like we are standing there peeing in a trough.
    I just want to go, check my makeup, (heaven knows I need it) and get out.

    • Dara Hoffman-Fox

      December 4, 2013 at 7:50 PM Reply

      Great point that you make, and how very frustrating that it is such a big issue with these folks.

  • Jsmith

    December 14, 2013 at 8:45 AM Reply

    ‘Truth 1’- Simply identifying as a gender-says nothing about sexual desire… Are you implying that it is impossible for a born male, who identifies as a female, to also be attracted to girls? You are either being deceptive, or wilfully ignorant to not mention the risk of a born male- who identifies as a lesbian/bisexual female to be given free reign of a female bathroom, filled with people he(she) sexually desires. Because THAT is the violation of right/privacy- Males are not allowed into areas of female public/partial nudity because of the violation of consent to be seen/exposed to someone with a sexual desire to witness that. (And the inherent risk of violence/harassment be side of that.).
    Why do we not allow gay men into female bathrooms (wouldn’t THEY “just want to use the bathroom”?). Because A) that allows people to lie, and B) it’s a violation of every females rights- they did not consent to have someone view them exposed- and should not be FORCED to worry about sexual violence

    -‘truth 2’. Just because someone identifies as the opposite of their biological sex says NOTHiNG about their sexual desires- They might be bi- they might be straight or gay- They might just be really perverted. Yes they MIGHT only have an interest in using the washroom, but what if there is also a sexual desire being met? That violates the privacy me safety of everyone else.

    ‘Truth 3’. Ummmm… Ok, So how exactly can that be prevented? ANY one can claim to be transgender. The fear is very valid- sexual segregation is done for real and important purposes- safety, public well-being… Rape sexual violence and harassment among mixed gender/sexual oriented people DO dramatically increase- That’s why bathrooms jaihouses and change rooms are segregated.

    • Dara Hoffman-Fox

      December 20, 2013 at 1:05 PM Reply

      I am curious as to what you believe the solution should be? For instance, I am a lesbian. I use the women’s restroom, changing rooms, etc. Which facilities should I use, based on your fear that I too would then prey upon the other women in there?

      • Ashley

        May 15, 2016 at 6:47 PM Reply

        Absolutely good questions. The solution in older days was to tell gay women
        and gay men to use the ‘other’ third bathroom Following that logic, gay men
        and gay women would be forced to use the SAME bathroom. This would not
        solve the issue either.

        So, the same argument is being applied for transgender people. They are told
        to use the third bathroom. So again that is men and women using the same
        bathroom and not solving the issue

        Oh, the absurdity. Lets see, so far that is 4 bathrooms for each issue so that
        makes it a total of eight bathrooms to ‘solve it fairly in their eyes’.

        That of course makes it 9 bathrooms. Some people are born with both
        genitals and where do these poor people go to?


    • danah gaz

      April 19, 2014 at 9:09 PM Reply

      Since when are restrooms segregated based on sexual orientation? If that’s the hill you choose to die on fine,but it seems rather silly. Are you proposing banning gay men and lesbian women from using public restrooms? Too funny!

    • Ashley

      May 15, 2016 at 6:00 PM Reply

      It is impossible for you regulate somone’s sexual desires.
      If someone breaks the law to pursue the desires, we have laws in place already to handle that.

      People tried to segregate gay people because they would be getting ‘free’ glances in the bathroom.
      Where do these people use the restroom now, the same place they were given the right to do so.
      They were told to use the ‘other’ bathroom too.

      Its absurd to then take less than 1.5 percent of the population who identify as ‘transgender’
      and tell them they can not have the same rights that everyone else enjoys. For the record,
      gender identiy and sexual desires are separate issues. The news media did not differentiate
      that when gay people need to use the restroom, they want the same protections. They were
      demonized as already guilty as if the ‘people’ were waiting for deliberation of their sentencing.

      Somehow the same rights are being infringed on yet another people using the same old ‘fear’

  • Ashley

    May 15, 2016 at 6:32 PM Reply

    Dara, it is all the media confusing the issue. Your picture of Fox news
    clearly shows that they are discussing is it right or wrong. You can
    see that critics are saying it is invasion of privacy.

    It is not paramount to calling Fox news ‘haters’ or scare mongers.
    I understand that you did not say so, but the hate in the air is that only
    one particular media is the entire source of America’s problems. That
    is absurd and the messenger should not be chastised for trying to stay
    out of the argument and report what others are saying.

    CNN as you noticed is just as bad and should be singled out just as much.

    The reason is that the media doesn’t differentiate from ‘human rights’
    and other basic laws; when reporting. Neither do those that argue for
    or against. The media is still unclear what precedent of law allowed us to win
    the gay marriage debate.

    No matter what, all media, governing bodies, and critics will get
    more understanding of their view points once basic rights are not negotiated.
    This allows room for real debate and put all parties responsible for confusion
    or deception.

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