The Wall Street Journal recently published an eye-catching op-ed from Georgia State Senator William Lignon titled “Why Are Companies Taking Sides Against Religious Liberty?” The Senator expressed confusion and concern over the corporate backlash against his state’s “religious freedom” bill which contributed to Governor Deal’s veto. The questions Lignon raises are worthy of answers, especially in light of clashes over anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina and elsewhere. As a former Christian and conservative, I feel honest compassion for the Senator and other good people like him. As a straight, cisgender woman and a diversity and inclusion expert, I feel compelled to articulate four points to encourage curiosity in those good people and clarify the real issues.
#1 – Your fears about LGBT people aren’t based on facts. Passing an anti-LGBT law that requires people to use a restroom that corresponds to their birth gender does not protect women and girls from sexual assault. There is not one single case of a transwoman ever assaulting a woman or child in a restroom, including in the 17 states and 200 cities that allow people to use the bathroom matching their gender identity. Sexual violence against women is largely perpetrated by straight, cisgender men, one fifth of whom are married. Eighty percent are men the woman knows, and one third of women’s murderers are their current or former male partner. Child molesters are overwhelmingly straight, cisgender and one third are family members. The notion that a new law is the only thing keeping sexual predators from dressing like women to enter (unlocked!) public bathrooms to rape women is not only ridiculous it would have happened already, absent such laws.
However, there are abundant cases of trans people being harassed, assaulted, raped, murdered, and discriminated against – not just in bathrooms, but in jobs, where they live and just walking down the street. Being trans* is not a choice any more than being cisgender or Black is not a choice, and trans* people aren’t defined by their genitals and sexuality any more than non-trans people. What will happen in North Carolina when a (trans)woman goes into a man’s restroom? What will play out when a (trans)man goes into a ladies’ room? For decades and centuries, trans* people have been using restrooms that matched to their gender identity and no one even noticed. (Aren’t bathroom stalls private areas with locking doors?) Read more of my first Huffington Post blog!!