EDITORIAL | The big stink over transgender bathrooms

Washington lawmakers have put basic education funding on the back burner this legislative session because there is now a seemingly more pressing issue facing the state: a new rule that allows transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice.

The Legislature convened its latest session this week, but conservative lawmakers began making a stink much earlier about the Human Rights Commission’s enacting a rule that allows transgender individuals to use public and private restrooms and locker room facilities that correlate with their gender identity.

The prevalent — and wrong — argument is that this law will allow men to enter women’s restrooms and begin committing sexual assaults left and right. First of all, this rule is not meant to give any gent on the street the right to enter a women’s restroom; they must truly identify as a woman. Someone with female anatomy identifying as a man can also use the men’s room, but conservatives haven’t made many complaints about that.

Secondly, the women’s icon on an unlocked public restroom hasn’t discouraged sexual deviants from entering in the past, so this new rule isn’t an invitation for sex criminals. The rule also gives entities or proprietors the right to remove people over their behavior.

Schools have the right to assess the use of locker rooms by students on a “case-by-case basis, with the goals of maximizing the student’s social integration and equal opportunity, ensuring the student’s safety and comfort and minimizing the stigmatization of the student,” according to the rule. Locker rooms are uncomfortable for most teenagers, regardless of sexual identity, so why not let students feel awkward in the shower of their preference?

By the way, transgender people have already been taking advantage of a 2006 anti-discrimination law in the state that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to use facilities they prefer.

Family Policy Institute of Washington executive director Joseph Backholm wrote in a blog post that this is a “mandate that forces businesses to cooperate with a customer’s confusion about his or her gender.” People entering a restroom for the opposite gender, risking potential persecution by its occupants, are usually very aware of who they are.

Rep. Graham Hunt (R-Orting) said he would submit legislation this week requiring people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their anatomy. However, House Judiciary Committee chairperson Laurie Jinkins, a Democrat who is openly gay, said she won’t hear any such bills, and Gov. Jay Inslee said he would veto any such law that somehow managed to hit his desk.

The issue once again comes down to religious right-wing legislators taking a stand against what they believe to be deviant behavior, which before this was gay marriage. Common sense prevailed there, as it should with this so-called debate.

Transgender people represent a small population in this state, yet they are one of the most discriminated against groups out there. Seattle shouldn’t have any problem — for the most part — embracing this rule, but there is an even smaller population of transgender Washingtonians outside these city limits who will likely be criticized when they attempt to exercise their clarified right.

Transgender people in this country already put up with enough crap — we shouldn’t restrict where they put theirs.