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Dec 18, 2012
Many of the mainstream LGBt intelligentsia are currently celebrating yet another local victory in a very conservative part of the country:
Last night, close to 200 supporters of the Helena Non-Discrimination Ordinance showed up and spoke out for dignity, fairness, and security. The Helena Non-Discrimination Ordinance passed unanimously (5-0). As it stands after last night’s vote, our entire community is protected in housing, employment, and some public accommodations.
Now, pay attention to that last phrase “some public accommodations”. Yep, you guessed correctly, this is just another instance of throwing the transgender community under the bus, as this amendment passed along with the bill:
1-8-4: DISCRIMINATON IN PUBLIC ACCOMODATIONS PROHIBITED: It shall be unlawful for a place of public accommodation to deny, directly or indirectly, any person full and equal access or enjoyment of the goods, services, activities, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations for a discriminatory reason. However, in any place of public accommodation where users ordinarily appear in the nude, users may be required to use the facilities designated for their anatomical sex, regardless of their gender identity. Such requirement does not constitute unlawful discrimination for purposes of this Section 1-8-4.
Oh, hell no. While many advocates are claiming that incremental progress has come, there are so many other places which have passed these types of laws WITHOUT HARMFUL LANGUAGE. Discrimination against trans* people in terms of sex-segregated spaces was legal by omission before, now it is legal via code.
And it is not just bathrooms in which there is a problem. Consider dressing rooms, hospitals, institutions, homeless shelters, and even jails, will still be empowered, via this ordinance, to throw people into the facility corresponding with their anatomical gender; this practice not keeping ciswomen any more safe, while enabling the sexual assault of transwomen.
Now, people, even within the trans community ask me “Jordan, why are you so hung up on bathrooms/locker rooms/other sex segregated spaces”. Well, I’ve been homeless before, IN PITTSBURGH, IN SEVEN DEGREE WEATHER, I had to spend between $500-1,000 on motels that I will never get back due to the fact Pittsburgh has a transphobic shelter system run by religious organizations, and given my history of being sexually assaulted and knowing that going into men’s shelters may force me to go back to dressing and presenting as male for the rest of my life, and being forced into religion, and if not so, being victim blamed by shelter workers if I got gang raped by a bunch of men just for being a woman forced into men’s spaces. I didn’t want to spend all that precious money (which was disability back pay), but I had to, and this WHOLE SITUATION actually forced me to move over 300 miles away, my life uprooted due to transphobia, displaced to a city where “brotherly love and sisterly affection” is more like “smotherly hatred and p***ed off disaffection”. I will be leaving in a year for California, if I can secure funding to NOT be homeless when I go.
This is why I am so upset whenever issues of public accomodations relating to gender identity are omitted or discrimination codified. These tropes of incremental progress come from a place of privilege; while housing and employment non-discrimination are important as well, there are many people who have no home and have no job (a lot due to disability), or they may be employed, but have transphobic employers who may deny their employees use of appropriate gender setting.
Not only that, and I will admit this statement will ruffle some feathers, but this type of watering down/omission of public accomodations protections PERPETUATES RAPE CULTURE. This is not about men in women’s spaces, this is about all women being able to be in women’s spaces, and while all women in women’s spaces does not increase the likelihood of trans-on-cis rape in these spaces, it does increase the likelihood of cismale-on-transfemale rape in men’s spaces. You may claim you are preventing rape culture by forcing me into men’s spaces, but you are enabling the sexual assault of my person when you do so, and that’s just not right.
I feel that all good the bill in Helena did is overshadowed by the codification of discrimination, and it would have been better if it had died fighting. A grave injustice happened in Montana’s capital city, and it may have far reaching implications.
-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis