Transgender Selfies Depict Discrimination in Restroom Politics

Last month, a transgender woman, Brae Carnes, took a bathroom selfie. The photo of Carnes stand­ing in a men’s public restroom with urinals behind her went viral. In response, an­other transgender man went into a wom­en’s restroom and took a selfie adding the hashtag #WeJustNeedToPee. The viral selfies were inspired by waves of conser­vative legislation aimed at preventing trans individuals from using the restroom that matches their observable gender.

The photos are a stinging indictment of a conservative “majority” who think that trans individuals are making a choice to change their birth gender. Conservative pundits, like Dr. Keith Ablow on Fox News, have made it their mission to hin­der acceptance of trans individuals saying, “allowing this ‘choice’ is profoundly de­structive, psychologically, to all students, including the ones who identify them­selves as transgender.” This in response to evidence that clearly contradicts this stance.

A study published by the Williams Institute in January of 2014 found that 46 percent of trans men and 42 percent of trans women had attempted suicide at least once in their lifetime. The suicide rate was exceptionally high among re­spondents and reflects the effects of trans­phobic sentiments, like those of Ablow and others, on the mental health of trans­gender individuals.

Despite the alarming rates of suicide attempts among the transgender com­munity, ‘Bathroom Bills’ continue to make their way into legislative bodies around the country. Texas filed a bill this year which would make it a crime for a trans­gender man or woman to enter a public restroom or locker room not designated for the person’s biological sex at birth. Another bill in the Texas legislature cur­rently would make it possible for a by­stander to sue a transgender individual for using the bathroom coinciding with their observable gender. The crime? Men­tal anguish. Because watching a trans individual walk out of bathroom is truly horrifying. Members of the Texas legis­lature are taking it upon themselves to mandate which bathrooms people can use and punish those who refuse to con­form to the status quo.

In defense of this obnoxious attempt to curtail the rights of free individuals to use the restroom that best conforms to their gender identity, one Texas legislator called trans individuals “perverts” and said he must “protect” the children from a “bunch of creeps.” Aside from the glar­ing ignorance apparent in this legislator’s remarks, there is an underlying disdain for the “other.” In a country founded on freedom and tolerance, I am appalled by the current state of affairs in some areas for trans individuals.

In light of “Bathroom Bills” and clearly discriminatory and inflammatory language on the part of many on the con­servative right, the transgender bathroom selfies make a lot of sense. These pictures provide a glimpse into the life of trans­gender individuals and the struggles they face on a day to day basis. When simply using the bathroom in public becomes a problem, the very fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are in danger.