Imagine you’re a guy in a restroom at, say, Safeco Field, and a well-dressed woman walks in, goes to a stall, and closes the door. Or imagine you’re a woman in the women’s restroom, and a bald guy with a full beard strolls in and does the same. You might be startled, to say the least.
But if both those people are transgender, this is what they would be required to do if Initiative 1515 becomes law. The initiative, sponsored by a group called We Just Want Privacy, would repeal a Human Rights Commission decision that affirms the right of transgender people to use the restroom or locker room consistent with their gender identity.
The initiative would require people to use the restroom that matches their sex at birth, as determined “biologically or genetically.”
At best, this represents a very thorough misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender. Gender identity isn’t about biology, genetics, or chromosomes; it’s about identity — that is, how people experience themselves and how they relate to maleness, femaleness, or something in between.
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It’s also about how they look. We may know people who are transgender, but who don’t disclose this fact. Hormones, and sometimes surgery, help people look like the gender they identify with. The “trans” in transgender can be transformation.
While surgery and hormone treatments are relatively new, people who are transgender have been around for as long as people have been around. Nonetheless, in our society at least, they’ve generally been forced to live in the shadows. While the LGBT movement has come a long way, transgender people are the last in that line of abbreviation, and last to realize the benefits of a gradually more accepting culture. Today they remain the most frequently victimized, the most frequently rejected by their families, and the most likely to live in extreme poverty.
Initiative 1515 claims to be about privacy, but its effect is simply to promote totally unfounded fear of our fellow citizens. It truly protects no one, and by promoting fear, it makes the world less safe for anyone who may be perceived — rightly or wrongly — as transgender.
The initiative is sponsored by the conservative Family Policy Institute and the Women’s Network. Chris Plant, their interim campaign manager, declined to say how many signatures they have gathered so far, but says the number is “more than 100,000.” They must come up with about 300,000 signatures by July 8 to qualify for this fall’s ballot.
A coalition calling itself “Washington Won’t Discriminate,” which includes religious leaders, businesses, parents, elected leaders, a former sheriff and women’s safety advocates, is working to oppose the initiative.
We hope people in our community will decline to sign and help keep this divisive, discriminatory measure off our fall ballot.