GLAAD Urges Journalists To Debunk Anti-LGBT “Bathroom Predator” Myth

In response to the growing prominence of myths surrounding bathroom access in coverage of LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances, GLAAD has released a media guide to aid journalists in accurately reporting on transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination laws.

On February 25, the national LGBT media advocacy organization GLAAD released a media guide for journalists reporting on LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances. Opponents of public accommodations protections falsely claim laws protecting transgender people from discrimination will allow men to sneak into women's restrooms to commit sexual assault. Debunking the “Bathroom Bill” Myth focuses on the need for journalists to refute the anti-LGBT “bathroom predator” talking point:

If journalists repeat the characterization of LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws as “bathroom bills,” or overly focus on the application of these far-reaching policies to the narrow issue of bathrooms, they impair the public's understanding of how these laws protect people from discrimination, harassment, unfair treatment, and more. While these laws often allow transgender people to use the restroom which matches the gender they live every day, the benefits of nondiscrimination laws are much more extensive, typically covering employment, housing, education, jury service, credit, and more.

Advocates for victims of sexual assault, law enforcement and government officials, a Pulitzer-prize winning columnist, and experts in 15 states have all debunked the “bathroom predator” talking point, calling it “beyond specious.” Yet media coverage of nondiscrimination battles continues to perpetuate the myth. Last November, voters in Houston repealed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) after local television media uncritically repeated the “bathroom predator” myth, essentially providing free airtime to HERO opponents:

Emboldened by the success of the bathroom predator talking point in Houston, anti-LGBT activists have seized on the strategy to oppose nondiscrimination measures across the country. Recently, the bathroom myth has dominated the debate over a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance in Jacksonville, FL, and a measure that was passed in Charlotte, NC.

GLAAD's media guide includes best practices journalists can follow in reporting on LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances, including:

  • Avoid using bathroom images and B-roll when discussing nondiscrimination policies
  • Challenge politicians and pundits with accurate information about transgender people
  • Mention the many places that have trans-inclusive nondiscrimination protections
  • Interview transgender people themselves

With 32 states lacking comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, the “bathroom predator” myth isn't going away anytime soon. As journalists cover nondiscrimination debates in the future, they should heed GLAAD's guidelines to ensure accurate reporting and to avoid providing free advertising for anti-LGBT activists.