the legal system will not save us -- trans women and access to public spaces
May 4, 2016
Reading another (but very good) article about bathroom laws, it occurred to me that people need to not get too bogged down by the laws themselves. Which isn’t to say that the laws are irrelevant or have no material consequences: they absolutely do. Rather this is more of a gentle reminder that the judicial system – one part of the prison industrial complex – will neither liberate us nor protect us.
I was compelled to write this post after reading about a texas man who went into a women’s restroom to try and remove a woman he thought was actually a man. Now. In this case the woman is cis. And I’m not suggesting that this somehow ameliorates the harm and trauma that might come along with being chased down and harassed by a man. But rather that she had the law and ‘common sense’ on her side. Whatever her presentation she had every right to be there.
If memory serves, Texas as a whole does not have any particular law requiring that people use the restroom that aligns with their sex at birth. So if she had been trans, it likely wouldn’t have entailed breaking the law and all that comes along with this.
I’m also reminded how Hamilton – a city in Ontario – recently settled a human rights complaint with a trans woman. This is notable because in the province of Ontario gender identity has been explicitly included in the provincial human rights code. Which means that, according to the law, the trans woman should not have been denied access to the women’s restroom. Regardless of her presentation. And yet she was. By a city employee, no less.
All of which is to say is that laws don’t always have a material impact on those its supposed to protect. This incident in Hamilton is unlikely to be the last one that ever happens in the provice (or city).
So yeah. Gentle reminder: while getting rid of oppressive laws is important, it is also important to remember that the entire judicial system needs to be dismantled.