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On the Mississippi Transgender Bathroom Ban and the Fraudulence of its Defense

Updated: May 28

On May 13, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed a bill prohibiting transgender people from using public bathrooms and locker rooms that reflect their gender identity. The bill is part of a wider trend of government-level anti-trans action—2024 has already seen 32 anti-trans bills passed across 12 states. Furthermore, the state of Mississippi is one of more than 20 states suing the Biden administration for their expansion of Title IX protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity. 


The Mississippi bathroom bill, called the Securing Areas for Females Effective and Responsibly Act, or the SAFER Act, mandates that all public schools in the state provide bathrooms, locker rooms and dormitories separated by sex, which the bill defines as “the biological indication of male and female as observed or clinically verified at birth, without regard to a person’s psychological, chosen or subjective experience, feelings, actions or sense of self.” The bill, as suggested by the name, is presented as a protective measure for women. Reeves wrote on X that the passage of the bill will “protect women in bathrooms, sororities, locker rooms, dressing rooms, shower rooms and more.” 


Politicians often invoke concern for women’s safety when legislating against transgender people’s ability to use public spaces in adherence to their gender identity. They assert that maintaining single-sex restrooms and changing rooms is an important barrier to sexual assault and harassment and is generally a protection of privacy. While scholars dispute the historical and ideological origin of gender-separated bathrooms, some theories point to a historical basis for this reasoning. One such theory posits that American legislation dictating the existence of gendered bathrooms dates back to the 19th century when women entered the workplace.


However, there has been no evidence to suggest that allowing people to use restrooms and dressing rooms in adherence to their gender identity endangers women at all (and the ideas about women this theory refers to are antiquated and misogynistic). In fact, research shows that legislation protecting transgender people’s access to public restrooms corresponding with their gender identity does not correlate with any uptick in privacy or safety violations. The data indicates that these kinds of incidents are generally rare. Besides, sexual assault and harassment in bathrooms and all other spaces are illegal, regardless of whether or not transgender people are permitted inside. 


With the above data in mind, the reasoning given for transgender bathroom bans rings hollow. These bills are not addressing a long-standing, pre-existing issue regarding the safety of cisgender women in their bathrooms and locker rooms. They are not pragmatically solving any problem at all, given the rarity of safety and privacy violations in these facilities. Instead, these bills are symbolic gestures meant to invalidate non-cisgender identities and bar them from public spaces.


There is also the issue of safety as it concerns LGBTQ individuals as a result of these laws. One study found that transgender and nonbinary students are more likely to experience sexual assault or harassment if their school bars them from using bathrooms and locker rooms that reflect their gender identity. Research also indicates that anti-transgender legislation results in higher levels of anxiety, depression and suicide risk among impacted transgender individuals. The true danger, it seems, lies in the SAFER Act and others like it.


If people’s safety is the priority, then the legislation that protects the most people in these public spaces, given the evidence, would be legislation that defends transgender people’s right to use the bathroom, dressing room or dormitory that adheres to their gender identity. However, as evidenced by Mississippi’s SAFER Act, the rhetoric about safety is meaningless, and the priority is discrimination over well-being. This kind of legislation is not a form of public service, but instead a kind of oppression.


Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the individual author. 

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3 則留言


Mame Thiam
Mame Thiam
6月03日

This article is quite intriguing and necessitates examining perspectives from both sides. I understand the viewpoints and main arguments each side presents in their defense. My question is: at what point does it become uncomfortable or concerning for the affected gender, and what potential solutions can be implemented to address this issue? How can we ensure a safe and comfortable environment for both transgender people and cisgendered people?

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Ethan Freeman
Ethan Freeman
5月27日

Really glad someone is writing about this. Trans issues are such an underreported concern in this country and it is important to elevate them as much as possible. The hypocrisy and grandstanding behind such actions is really disgusting coming from elected officials. Great job calling them out!

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Connor Chung
Connor Chung
5月22日

Interesting and thought provoking piece, Ella. No doubt, identity politics is a very touchy subject right now, and perhaps one of the biggest issues that Americans remain firmly divided on. The conservative consensus seems to emphasize the right to freedom of expression and private life within a liberal democracy, but not at the cost of forcibly altering the social fabric of wider society to suit minority groups. On the other hand, the liberal consensus seems to concern itself with ensuring that minority identities are recognized and actively incorporated into that mainstream fabric through the use of corporate, academic and political institutions as as a vehicle for the restructuring of society.

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