Nobody should care about transgender people in bathrooms.

Let me be clear from the outset: This is a non-issue which has been inflated by typical American puritanism. Of course there are security issues in public bathrooms, but those security issues are not exacerbated by the existence of transgender people, and they can’t be mitigated by a sign on the door.

Only about 0.6% of the population is transgendered. Lack of exposure contributes to widespread ignorance, but nothing excuses the breakdown of all sense and reason when it comes to people’s perception of them as a threat. It’s especially concerning that some people think rapists will break any number of other laws, but for some reason, they’ll respect the ones concerning bathrooms.

If a rapist wants to exploit crossdressing as a means to enter public bathrooms, nothing prevents him from doing so. I can see how that might be a little bit scary, so how do we stop these crossdressing rapists? There’s very little evidence that crossdressing bathroom rapists exist at all, but that’s beside the point. What if they did? How could we stop them?

The sleepy mall security guy in the surveillance room isn’t much use. From that angle, and while playing Candy Crush, he’s unlikely to be able to spot even a thickly-bearded crossdresser. It’s going to come down to the people nearby to say something, which is why these anti-discrimination laws are as important as they are.

Public fear and ignorance means trans women will be harassed by pearl-clutching bathroom vigilantes who have until now apparently just been letting crossdressed men go anywhere they want. This wasn’t a major public problem before there were discrimination protections, so presumably those bathroom signs were keeping out all the cross dressing rapists.

The well-meaning god-fearing vigilantes are on the job now, so security will be called. Explanations will be given. Transgender people will be forced to justify themselves. It’s at that point that a civilised society really needs some legal protection for genuinely trans people. It’s a fairly simple matter to establish a public history of identifying as a different gender. It’s easy to find someone who supports your claim, and it should be just as simple under the law to exercise your anti-discrimination protection. When challenged and falsely accused of intending to harm someone, it’s important that the law treats you fairly. This protection exists so that innocent people aren’t mistreated if the situation escalates. As far as I can see it’s only applicable if someone is confronted. If nobody confronts a potential rapist, transgender or otherwise, then what difference could a discrimination law possibly make?

Nobody is patting down masculine-looking women and checking for bulges now, are they? Why not? They could be crossdressing rapists who have built up some kind of immunity to the power of bathroom signs. You don’t know!

Why even bother?

Having discrimination protection doesn’t mean every transgender person will be brave enough to risk confrontation with a screechy finger-pointing busy-body. Given the potential for confrontation, you may wonder why trans women would even bother. Surely fewer people would complain if a stubbled linebacker in a dress went into the men’s room, even if she had female genitalia.

If I’m honest with myself I have to admit that transgendered people make me a bit uncomfortable. The sight of feminine-looking men and butch-looking women is nothing more than a passing curiosity. It’s the successful ones that I struggle to process. On rare occasion I’ve found transgendered women attractive, and that’s really creeped me out. Some people rush to call that homophobia, but it’s not. Heterosexuality isn’t just a preference for one gender, it’s an aversion to the other. My response (and yours too) is healthy and normal.

However, I think anyone who ventures an opinion on this issue should probably spend a minute thinking about how it feels. If you choose to empathise before criticising, you might find a few practical considerations like differences in clothing, and more sinks with mirrors. A transgender woman in a dress wearing feminine underwear needs to use a stall, all men know the horrors of men’s room stalls. That floor is no place for your underwear to accidentally fall, or your dress to drag around on. A visit to this circle of hell really shouldn’t be necessary just to urinate. Women’s bathrooms aren’t perfect, but as far as I can tell, they’re mostly used by civilised people who aren’t relying on marksmanship.

Of course the main issue isn’t practical, it’s a matter of human dignity. Transgender people want to be understood and treated with respect. It’s easy to do if you look at that square-jawed lipsticked construction worker in a padded bra and realise that she just wants to feel like a woman.

Prior to sex reassignment surgery, physicians require their patients to live as their target gender for at least a year. A key part of that process is immersion in the fantasy that the rest of the world sees them as they wish to be seen. The rest of the community plays a role in this exercise by not pointing or referring to the ‘bloke in a dress.’ I imagine it would be extraordinarily difficult to determine if you’d be happy as a woman, if everyone refuses to treat you like one.

It’s only 0.6% of people, so it makes a lot more sense for us to educate ourselves and show some kindness than it does to build additional bathrooms for so few, especially since it wouldn’t even adequately address people’s concerns. Bathroom signs don’t stop predators.