The president of a North Carolina women's advocacy organization and a long-time advocate for victims of sexual assault has dismantled the right-wing “bathroom predator” myth about LGBT nondiscrimination protections, calling out the “ignorance” behind the talking point and explaining the truth about sexual violence.
Tara Romano, president of the North Carolina women's advocacy group NC Women United, denounced the anti-LGBT myth that nondiscrimination protections for transgender people allow male predators to sneak into women's bathrooms and commit sexual assault. Right-wing activists in North Carolina have peddled the “bathroom predator” talking point to oppose an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council in February.
In a March 3 article for NC Policy Watch, Romano detailed why the “bathroom predator” myth bears no “real connection to what we know about sexual violence in our society.” Adding to the voices of other experts, Romano explained that peddling the myth that nondiscrimination ordinances embolden sexual predators “isn't doing anything” to stop sexual violence:
“Sexually deviant men are just waiting to pretend they are women so they can finally get into women's bathrooms to commit assault against women and children” is the mantra of the opposition. This is certainly a scary prospect, and one that needs to be prevented. However, since the new ordinance does not in any way supersede existing assault laws, the protections we have on the books to stop people who do attempt to assault others in public bathrooms remain in full force.
I understand that sexual violence is frightening, and we all want to do what we can to prevent it. But stoking fears based on inaccurate stereotypes and myths -- such as the belief that transgender women can easily be impersonated by heterosexual men, or that all men are rapists just waiting for an opportunity to attack to women -- isn't doing anything to curb this epidemic.
We have to face the reality of what sexual violence really looks like. This means grasping:
- the reality that such violence already occurs in gender-segregated spaces like bathrooms, dormitories and locker rooms; because predators aren't waiting for a formal invitation,
- the reality that lots of sexual violence is already perpetrated in gender-segregated spaces by people who are the same gender as their victims, because women and girls can be perpetrators of sexual violence, and men and boys can be victims,
- the truth that sexual violence is not driven by gender differences but by power imbalances -- between men and women, between adults and children, between cisgendered and transgendered [sic] people, and
- the truth that the majority of sexual violence -- what drives our societal epidemic -- is perpetrated by someone the victim knows and perhaps trusts, in a place with which the victim is very familiar.
History has long taught us that sexual violence doesn't happen because the men and women are sharing a space. Sexual violence happens when people see others as nothing more than a prop to satisfy their desires, with no respect to boundaries of the other person and an insistence and belief that one has a right to anybody else's body but their own. That attitude, particularly of men towards women and girls, is prevalent in our society, and it is one that is taught to us from an early age.
Policies like the one just passed in Charlotte that prohibit discrimination based on one's deeply personal sexual expression and gender presentation are part of what teaches that respect. It declares that we all have the expectation that no one has a right to know what goes on in our bedroom or what is under our clothes if we are just going about our business in public. And setting that boundary is a step towards confronting the many issues at the heart of the sexual violence epidemic in our culture.