Much like military intelligence and jumbo shrimp, the idea of transgender sex offenders is generally an oxymoron. I only put the two terms together because that is what certain groups would have you believe. As battle lines are being drawn through our public bathrooms, it would be nice to have a dose of reality.
Most of us have been following the drama with the North Carolina law, but the wave is spreading. Unless you are gay or in a state bordering North Carolina you might not give their new bathroom law too much credence. On the other hand, Target Corporation has taken a position which puts the transgender bathroom issue front and center. They are instituting a policy which affirms the rights of transgender persons to use the bathroom that matches the gender they identify with. I think it’s a bold step forward, but not everyone agrees. Calls to boycott Target are stirring in many conservative religious areas. So far the American Family Association, a Tupelo, Miss.-based religious non-profit organization founded by First United Methodist pastor Donald E. Wildmon has issued a petition that has received 1.2 million signatures. So this is not an issue that is going to be resolved quietly.
Aside from the general ignorance of transgender people, the American Family Association clearly doesn’t know who sexual predators are. In their attacks on Target they argue that “Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. And with Target publicly boasting that men can enter women’s bathrooms, where do you think predators are going to go?” It’s a ludicrous argument on several levels.
Most sexual offenders are heterosexual adult males. Virtually all sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. The percentage of sexual assaults that occur in bathrooms involving strangers is not even statistically significant – but they will make the news. Transgender people are actually at higher risk of being victims of sexual abuse. Transgender and transvestite are conceptually different. The first is about creating a new reality for your gender identity. The other is more about creating a fantasy. Also, you are highly unlikely to have sex offenders who are are transgender. But you are are somewhat likely to have sex offenders who are transvestites. This is where things get a little muddy. It would be a rare situation where a potential offender will dress up for purposes of getting access to women’s restrooms. I’m sure it happens now, and it will probably happen in the future. Still these are the incidents which hate groups will use to target transgender individuals who are using the bathroom which they gender identify with.
It’s going to take a while before some people stop paying attention to chromosomes being the key for public bathroom entry. Regardless of the symbol on the door, bathrooms should be a place of privacy. It would nice if that privacy extended to the door and not just the stall.