If there's any doubt how clueless conservative media figures are when it comes to transgender issues, the recent freak out over California's new student non-discrimination law should put it to rest.
For the past several weeks, conservative media outlets have been stoking fears about a new California law that will allow transgender students to have access to school facilities and sports teams that match their gender identity. The law has drawn criticism from outlets like Fox News, which warns that the law will allow boys to sneak into girls' bathrooms and engage in inappropriate behavior.
Case in point: Media Research Center Content Specialist Dan Joseph, who on August 15 released a video in which he poses as a transgender female and asks a woman if she would be comfortable with him using the same restroom as her:
JOSEPH: Excuse me. Are you going into the locker room?
JOSEPH: My name is Dan. I'm a transgender. So that means I have the man parts but inside I feel more like a woman. I was just wondering, is it okay if I go in there with you in there and change and shower and stuff? Just because I don't really feel, like, comfortable in the men's area. It's just weird. Is that okay with you?
Other than attempting to feminize his voice, Joseph doesn't present himself in any way as a female in the clip. He is wearing men's clothing, has a full goatee, and goes by his male name, “Dan.”
His impersonation is a perfect example of everything that's wrong with how conservative media imagine transgender people.
Unlike Joseph's character, most people who are actually transgender make efforts to present and appear in a way that matches their gender identity. Transgender women don't typically walk around in men's clothing will full faces of facial hair. They don't typically refer to themselves as “a transgender.” And they certainly don't stand outside of women's restrooms announcing themselves and asking passerbys for permission to “go in there... and change and shower and stuff.”
For most transgender people, being outed in public - and especially in bathroom settings - can frequently result in harassment, discrimination, and even violence. Being identified as transgender can invite intense transphobic mistreatment, which is why “passing” - being regarded as a member of the sex that matches your gender identity - can be so important for many transgender people.
But Joseph's goal isn't to accurately depict a transgender person; It's to gin up the myth that heterosexual men will claim to be transgender in order to sneak into women's bathrooms. As he states earlier in the video:
JOSEPH: You mean like a guy who just wants to see some naked chicks going, “oh I'm transgendered, I need to go to the girls' locker room.” I mean, that's what I would do.
Right-wing media outlets have a long history of promoting "bathroom panic" myths about transgender people, but they've never made any sense, nor have they been supported by any hard evidence.
That's because straight, cisgender men - and especially boys - just aren't that interested in dressing like women, identifying as women, and presenting themselves as women over a long period of time just to sneak a peek into a women's locker room. And if a man really is that dead set on getting into a women's locker room, a lack of protections for transgender people probably isn't going to hold him back.
Which is exactly why people like Joseph, O'Reilly, and Gutfeld have to claim that they personally would be the ones who pretend to be transgender to sneak into women's facilities.
There are no real world examples to support their horror story. They have to become the horror story in order to prove its credibility.