The problem with anti-trans bathroom bills | Riley J. Dennis

By Grover Koelpin 66 comments

So I believe that trans people have the right to use public bathrooms and to feel safe and comfortable doing so. I also trust trans people to know which bathroom they would feel the most safe and comfortable in. I think trans people have every right to make
that decision for themselves. And because I believe these things, I have
a lot of problems with the trans bathroom bills that are being considered in State legislatures
across the country. So far, only one has passed — North Carolina’s House Bill 2 — and it was later partially repealed. So I’m going to talk mostly about this issue
in relation to HB2, since that’s the only trans bathroom bill to actually become law
yet. But, I feel like it’s only a matter of time
before other states eventually pass their own versions. And that’s really scary to me, because these
laws intentionally target trans people just to discriminate against them. So, first, let’s talk about how bathrooms
work for trans people right now. As you’re probably aware, most public bathrooms
in the US are segregated by gender. Men have one, women have another. Now, trans people have always existed, so
we have always used public bathrooms. But recently, trans people have become more
and more visible in the media. This has been kind of a double-edged sword. Like it’s great that people are recognizing
that we exist and talking about trans rights, but on the other hand, there are a lot of
people who hate trans people simply because we’re different — and our increased visibility
has unfortunately made us a target for them. As trans rights have slowly been improving,
those people have fought back against it. So despite the fact that trans people have
been using public bathrooms without hurting anyone for like ever, some people have decided that this is suddenly a problem that they have to address. HB2 tries to solve this non-existent problem
by saying that you can only enter a bathroom that matches the sex marked on your birth
certificate. And there’s more than one problem with that. First of all, lots of states allow trans people
to change the gender marker on their birth certificate. For instance, if you were born in California,
you can change the gender on your birth certificate with a note from your doctor; you don’t
have to have genital surgery. However, many states require that the trans
person first has genital surgery, which can be a huge barrier for trans people because
of the costs and risks, and the fact that some trans people just don’t want genital
surgery. It’s essentially a form of forced sterilization. Plus, some states, like Tennessee, don’t
allow for birth certificates to be changed at all. The end result of all these different laws
is that some trans people have birth certificates that say their actual gender, while some have
birth certificates that reflect the gender they were assigned at birth. So, if HB2’s goal is to keep trans women
who were assigned male at birth out of women’s bathroom, this requirement wouldn’t work. Some trans women would still be able to use
the women’s bathroom, even some trans women who never had genital surgery. HB2 fails to even completely single out the
people it’s trying to single out because it assumes that there’s a single universal
binary truth to sex and gender, when the reality is, sex and gender are much messier than that,
and they’re not something you can legislate. There’s no criteria you can choose that
will ensure only people assigned female at birth use the women’s bathroom, and only
people assigned male at birth use the men’s bathroom. But, even if there was, I don’t think proponents
of HB2 would even want that. I don’t think they fully understand how
transitioning works or what effects hormones and surgery can have on a person’s body. Like, there are some trans men who were assigned
female at birth but took testosterone as a part of their transition and now are generally
perceived as cis men. They can sometimes grow beards and have really
masculine facial structures and deep voices. I don’t think HB2 proponents would actually
want these trans guys in the women’s bathroom just because they were assigned female at
birth. I think those trans guys would probably be
uncomfortable with it, and I think the cis women in the bathroom would probably freak
out if they saw those super masculine trans guys in the bathroom. On the flip side of that, there are trans
women who transitioned and now look really feminine and are generally perceived as women,
and I know those kinds of trans women are usually flat-out scared to death at the idea
of using the men’s bathroom. And I imagine most cis men, especially proponents
of HB2, wouldn’t be comfortable with those trans women being there either. HB2 proponents think that basing everything
on gender assigned at birth would solve all their problems, but it would actually make
things a lot worse for everyone because a lot of people aren’t perceived as the gender
they were assigned at birth, and bathrooms basically just operate on perception — not
genitals. While having gender-segregated bathrooms based
on how people are perceived is not a great system, the one that HB2 proposes is even
worse. And passing laws like this would only make
people more on edge about how they’re perceived — and not just trans people. I know plenty of cis women who dress or look
more masculine or androgynous, and they’re often told they’re in the wrong bathroom
when they use the women’s bathroom. That would only get worse in a state with
a bathroom bill, because people would always be worried about how they’re being perceived and if it could get them in trouble with the law. So basically, HB2 fails at everything that
it tries to do, and it makes things worse for both cis people and trans people. But, ignoring all of that, even if any of HB2 made sense, it would still be completely unenforceable. Think about it. Does anyone carry around their birth certificate
with them? And even if you did, who would be standing
outside the bathroom to check? Would every place that has a bathroom be required to check birth certificates before allowing people to pee? Would they hire gender-checkers to verify
every person’s birth certificate first? Would people then be required to carry around
their birth certificate if they wanted to use the bathroom? The law itself doesn’t specify any sort
of enforcement, which makes no sense. What’s the point of a law that can’t even
be enforced? I just don’t understand how HB2 passed or
why other states are considering similar legislation. It’s just a mess that doesn’t make any
sense or have any plan for enforcement. I’ve read up on a lot of opinions from anti-trans
bathroom bill proponents, and overwhelmingly their arguments rely not on logic or a sound
plan, but entirely on fear-mongering. They consistently cloak their discrimination
in the same pseudo-concerned language that has always been used to oppress people. In the 1970s, those who hated gay people tried
to insist that gay people couldn’t be teachers because they were a threat to students. “Think of the children” has for a longtime
been an excuse for people to discriminate against marginalized people. And while gay rights still have a long way
to go, I think most people have by now seen through that argument, and seen that it was
never really about protecting children — it was just about discriminating against gay
people. A similar argument is used today. Proponents of anti-trans bathrooms bills often
cite a need to protect children and women. They say that if trans women gain access to
women’s bathrooms, they’ll abuse cis women. They paint trans people as predators — despite
the fact that there’s no epidemic of trans people attacking cis people in bathrooms. Like, lots of trans women do use the women’s
bathroom, every day. And there’s no evidence that trans women
are abusing that. Proponents of HB2 pretend to be solving a
problem, but that problem doesn’t actually exist. It’s just a way to make people sympathetic
to their cause — since not as many people would rally behind a “we just hate trans
people” argument. Plus, I’ve seen HB2 proponents argue that
cis men could pose as trans women to gain access to women’s bathrooms and abuse women. The problem with that argument though, is
that HB2 won’t stop abusers. It will only stop the innocent trans people
who don’t want to get in trouble with the law. If there’s a cis man who wants to harass
and abuse women, he probably doesn’t care that he’s breaking some small unenforceable
law in the process — since by abusing a woman, he’s breaking a much larger law. Not to mention that men can still abuse men
in the bathroom, and HB2 proponents aren’t fighting to protect them. If you want to end abuse in bathrooms, you
need gender-neutral single-stall bathrooms, which is something I’ll talk about more
in a second. But first, I wanna point out that trans people
are actually much more likely to be on the receiving end of abuse in a public bathroom. While there are no documented cases of a trans
woman abusing a cis woman in a public bathroom, a 2013 study by the Williams Institute found that 14% of trans women reported being physically assaulted in a bathroom. A 2003 survey that was carried out by the
National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center found that 1/3 of trans
people reported experiencing discrimination in a place of public accommodation. And a 2015 survey by the National Center for
Transgender Equality found that 60% of trans people reported that they avoided using public
restrooms for fear of confrontation. 32% said they limited their eating or drinking
to avoid using a public bathroom, and 8% reported having a kidney infection or UTI because they
avoided public restrooms out of fear. Trans people are the ones who are abused and
harassed and shamed to the point of not being able to use public bathrooms. That’s a disgrace, and it’s insulting
to then try and legislate more discrimination against us on top of that. But I think that’s exactly it. Those who support these anti-trans bathroom bills — I think they know that they don’t really make sense. I think these bills are supposed to be more
symbolic than anything. They’re just anti-trans legislation that
works to ensure trans people know that they are second-class citizens. Proponents of these bills want to stop trans people from gaining any more rights or public acceptance. Even if they can’t enforce these laws, and
they’re fighting a problem that doesn’t exist, they’re at least affecting societal
views of trans people. If anti-trans discrimination is made into
law, people feel more justified in doing and saying anti-trans things. It’s not actually about bathrooms — it’s
about hurting the public perception of trans people. And we can’t let that happen. HB2 and bills like it are blatant anti-trans
discrimination, and we should instead be passing laws that work to improve trans rights and
the perception of trans people. As of March 2017, only 19 states have laws that prevent discrimination in public accommodations based on gender. We need more laws like that that explicitly
defend trans people — not because it will fix everything overnight, but because it will
leave the door open for trans people to be more accepted in the future. We also need to fight for more single-stall
gender-neutral bathrooms, which solve pretty much all of the problems. They would help everyone feel safer because
they’re not shared with anyone, and they would be much better for non-binary people
who don’t identify strictly as men or women. It would take us a while to convert our buildings
to single-stall gender-neutral bathrooms, but it’d be worth it. In terms of legislation, infrastructure, and
social stigma, we have a long way to go when it comes to trans people and public bathrooms. But we’re at a time where we either have
to keep fighting for civil rights or allow close-minded people to drag us back into the
past. I for one would like to keep moving forward. We actually came really close to having the
Supreme Court decide this. Gavin Grimm’s court case against his school
board for not allowing him to use the guy’s bathroom was going to go to the Supreme Court. Thanks to a move in 2016 by Obama’s Department
of Education, he argued he had the right to use the guy’s bathroom. But when Trump’s Department of Education
rescinded that guidance from the past administration, the Supreme Court decided not to take the
case. So we might not see this make it to the Supreme
Court for another couple years, but when it does, I’m not super hopeful given that the
Court now leans pretty conservative since Republicans blocked Obama’s appointee, Merrick
Garland, for a year and then allowed Trump to appoint Neil Gorsuch. So, in the meantime, it’s really important
that we fight at the state and local levels for anti-discrimination laws to protect trans
people as best as we can. Anyway, that’s all I had for you today. If you’d like to help me keep making videos
like this, you can support me on Patreon by clicking over here, or you can subscribe to
my channel by clicking over here. Thanks so much for watching, and I’ll see
you next time.


Emily Elizabeth

Jan 1, 2018, 5:31 pm Reply

I clicked so fast. love you Riley ❤️

peter robin

Jan 1, 2018, 5:37 pm Reply

third? hehe


Jan 1, 2018, 5:39 pm Reply

Writing a paper on this and your sources will be so helpful!

Mia Mulder

Jan 1, 2018, 5:50 pm Reply

The lack of self awareness among people who legislate against us is heartbreaking.

Cooper Jacks

Jan 1, 2018, 5:51 pm Reply

Excellent summation of many of the logical issues in these discriminatory bills. Love you, Riley <3

Bee Franklin

Jan 1, 2018, 6:06 pm Reply

your videos make me want to be more involved and active in my own communities because you are so intelligent and your commentary is always thoughtful and well planned out. thank you for being you. <3

Roman Hall

Jan 1, 2018, 6:20 pm Reply

Very well said, thanks for the refresher and update on this important issue. 🔥🐝👍🏻

A272 943B

Jan 1, 2018, 6:29 pm Reply

Your skin looks amazing. You look prettier every day. I hope the people who attacked your appearance and how "pretend" you supposedly were are enjoying it!

Talia Turner

Jan 1, 2018, 6:41 pm Reply

Keep doing what you do Riley. Thanks for sticking up for all the lovely trans people out there!

Eugene Hardy

Jan 1, 2018, 7:04 pm Reply

I never thought that there are such problems in civilised world. PS you looks awesome <3

Morgan Magee

Jan 1, 2018, 7:24 pm Reply

You rock!

Alex Ty

Jan 1, 2018, 7:25 pm Reply

"The problem with anti-trains bathroom bills" it's right there, anti-trans.

Alex Ty

Jan 1, 2018, 7:35 pm Reply

All hail single stall bathrooms 🙌

Noah Hawk

Jan 1, 2018, 8:40 pm Reply

Though I don't agree with most of the transgender bathroom laws being passed, I don't think that they are being created to discriminate against them. I think they are being created more so because of the unproven claim that if trans people are allowed to use the bathroom of their choice there will be an increase in sexual harassment/assaults in public bathrooms by people who claim to be transgender.

Dan C.

Jan 1, 2018, 9:30 pm Reply

I love you so much Riley 💛 you’re one of my biggest inspirations, I really hope I can meet you one day -sending love from New Zealand

Katrina Bryce

Jan 1, 2018, 10:00 pm Reply

Another point. Even if you did carry your birth certificate around with you, it is not an identity document,. It doesn’t prove that you are the person named on it.

August Henry

Jan 1, 2018, 10:39 pm Reply

Thank you! I’ve been trying to explain this to so many people for a long time. This is so helpful!

Bryan Lee Williams

Jan 1, 2018, 11:07 pm Reply

This speaks to one of the big problem in our country. States rights vs Federal rights.

It's time to standardize laws at the Federal level. It's too confusing for these important issues to be decided based on the whims of local politicians. It needs to be consistent.

In other words, we shouldn't be able to discriminate based on where someone was born or currently live.

Brbh Prbh

Jan 1, 2018, 11:50 pm Reply

We'll share with you when the patriarchy has been overthrown

Sara Danelon

Jan 1, 2018, 12:39 am Reply

I'm genuinely at a loss for why it matters. Honestly, I don't get it. Do transpeople (or any people) spend a particularly long time in a public bathroom? Bathrooms are rooms in which you go to expel your waste, and leave. I'm not asking to troll, I'm asking for information, it really doesn't make sense to me.

Brian Loughran

Jan 1, 2018, 1:23 am Reply

Riley you're great, I love watching your videos! <3

Cassidy F.

Jan 1, 2018, 1:37 am Reply

You're always full of such useful information. Thanks, beautiful ❤️

Alex Lloyd

Jan 1, 2018, 2:24 am Reply

For me, it is my dream to see gender neutral multi-stall bathrooms. More people can use them at a time!


Jan 1, 2018, 3:23 am Reply

I’m glad my work has a single stall bathroom… I hate multiple stall rooms anyway, and always feel uncomfortable in them no matter which one I use. :// single stalls are a blessing thank

Al bw

Jan 1, 2018, 5:01 am Reply

I wrote a research paper on the ethics of bathroom bills and HB2 was discussed in about half of my paper. I did a presentation based off that research paper and my peers were very understanding; no one was hateful, just curious and respectful, and I live in a very conservative area. I’m glad you’re making these educational videos that can reach audiences around the world 🙂

ironman 123

Jan 1, 2018, 6:36 am Reply

The trans bathroom debacle is a distraction from the evils of government


Jan 1, 2018, 6:51 am Reply

Ayyyy you used Williams Institute ^^


Jan 1, 2018, 8:42 pm Reply

I cant believe how exhausting your job must be Riley >< thank you so much


Jan 1, 2018, 6:55 pm Reply

Can't you just use your bathroom at home before you go out?

Lyzzie K.

Jan 1, 2018, 9:15 pm Reply

You sure do complain a lot. Maybe this is why no one wants to date you. You literally let EVERYTHING offend you. Do you have a life? Do you have hobbies? All you do is complain.

N.P. R.

Jan 1, 2018, 12:21 am Reply

Wow… victim mentality 101!


Jan 1, 2018, 10:14 pm Reply

We do not need anti-trans bathroom bills, we need anti-Steven Crowder bills!

Maja –

Jan 1, 2018, 2:30 am Reply

Omg your eyeliner is so amazing ((I love your makeup?!??!!)) aHhh !! Keep up with these great videos on important videos!

Elliot Lilius

Jan 1, 2018, 9:42 am Reply

Aahhh Riley you're the best!!! <3
You have thousands of trans siblings supporting you, and all that you're doing. Never forget that! <3

David Sandrock

Jan 1, 2018, 11:43 am Reply

The Supreme Court doesn't lean anymore conservative than it did when Justice Scalia was alive. Which is four conservative votes, four liberal votes, and one swing vote.

Þórunn Lovísa

Jan 1, 2018, 10:59 pm Reply

Wow, It's been so long since I last saw your videos and I just wanted to say that you have changed so much! Your transition is going amazing!

Caleigh Dickson

Feb 2, 2018, 7:16 am Reply

Why can’t you just use a unisex or a family bathroom?


Feb 2, 2018, 11:47 pm Reply

Alien people should have Rights also

No Body

Feb 2, 2018, 10:41 pm Reply


ryan GAY

Feb 2, 2018, 1:06 am Reply

you’re so wise 😯❤️

Amara Isabella

Feb 2, 2018, 7:32 am Reply

I was born in California and I have a California birth certificate but I live in Oklahoma so how would I change the gender on my birth certificate? I went to the DMV they told me I would need a letter from my doctor saying I've had my genital surgery so can I still get it changed even though they told me I need to to have surgery first or because I was born in California can I get it changed anyway

Payman 1903

Feb 2, 2018, 11:19 am Reply

Damn I didn‘t get anything

Chloe Stone

Feb 2, 2018, 11:11 pm Reply

This is why I'm glad I was born in New York. New York makes it fairly easy for you to amend your birth certificate. The amended birth certificate makes no mention of your previous name/gender, and looks identical to a normal birth certificate.
I just wish other states would do this.

Sam Jones

Feb 2, 2018, 11:01 pm Reply

Yup, I'm part of that 8%. I once got a kidney infection because I was avoiding the gendered restrooms at work. 😕

Sam Jones

Feb 2, 2018, 11:09 pm Reply

I've heard another idea for public restrooms that I thought was pretty cool. There would still be two communal restrooms, but one would just have urinals and one would just have stalls.
So, one for sitting business/shy standing pee-ers, and one for standing.

Pure Syclone

Mar 3, 2018, 10:13 am Reply

Keep playing pretend sir.


Mar 3, 2018, 3:57 pm Reply

This seems to be a common problem among politicians and that's what makes so incompetent: they don't target the actual crime, they don't attack the abusers, they attack the easiest group to target.

Hypatia Stanhope

Apr 4, 2018, 2:19 am Reply

I've not used a mens room in 15 years , I am not going to use one now because of bigots 😠 I feel so sorry for trans and non binary people in the United States 😢

Anti Status Quo

Apr 4, 2018, 2:11 am Reply

You are loved ❤ keep it up

Amanda Suomi

May 5, 2018, 8:19 pm Reply

What is the point in separating bathrooms, again ?
In some countries there is only one type of bathrooms for everyone and they live happily.

Kelsey Brown

Jul 7, 2018, 4:05 am Reply

So sorry, I know it's irrelevant but my goodness girl! Your eyes are beautiful!

Tobi scout

Jul 7, 2018, 3:26 am Reply

Much love from your local transboy- 💗💗

Lisa Lentile

Nov 11, 2018, 2:56 am Reply

What bathroom do you use

Amie Naylor

Nov 11, 2018, 9:23 am Reply

I wouldn’t want you in the same bathroom as my daughter or my son for that matter.

Umae Chi

Dec 12, 2018, 12:58 pm Reply

You can identify as whatever you want , but when it’s about bathrooms , i think you should go to the bathroom of your (current) biological gender. There are two kinds of bathrooms for a reason . Go ahead and hate on me now .


Jan 1, 2019, 4:25 pm Reply

Not to detract from the point, but I think the Avatar banner is really cool. Not a habitual watcher, no idea if that's a normal set piece.


Jan 1, 2019, 6:38 am Reply

You're great!

Danny Groening

Jan 1, 2019, 6:26 am Reply

I used to go to teachers bathroom do I am trans teacher

Danny Groening

Jan 1, 2019, 6:27 am Reply

How can change you nuds


Jan 1, 2019, 3:18 am Reply

I live in NC and I'm non-binary, which gets me funny looks no matter which (public) bathroom I use due to my pretty androgynous appearance. I've spent a lot of time trying to not piss myself in public because I'd rather hold it until I get home than deal with the bathroom dilemma, leading to numerous bladder/UTI infections. It sucks. NC sucks in general.

Sol R

Feb 2, 2019, 12:01 am Reply

I love ur eyeliner 💕


Feb 2, 2019, 7:46 am Reply

Hopefully you Americans don't let Trump get in again!

Jinx Neacko

Mar 3, 2019, 7:09 am Reply

My school has a gender neutral washroom with stalls designed with very good locks and are very safe for all genders
It makes me happy because now I don't need to panic everyday ^^


Mar 3, 2019, 5:16 am Reply

all hail the non-binary bathrooms.

and what about schools.


Mar 3, 2019, 2:18 am Reply

Found your video through Shaun's video on Transphobia in the UK. As a CIS person who hasn't met many trans people, I very much appreciate hearing your perspective!


Aug 8, 2019, 7:13 pm Reply

Gender was a concept created by bathroom companies in the 60s’ to sell more bathrooms

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