Why do state legislators insist on proposing and passing anti-transgender legislation? On Wednesday, The Daily Show aired a segment on the anti-trans panic that has swept many state legislatures as visibility of trans issues has increased. And Jessica Williams tried to get to the bottom of just what was going on.
Williams talked to several trans people, who identify with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth, and a Colorado lawmaker, Gordon Klingenschmitt.
When Williams asked Klingenschmitt if Americans should fear the trans community, he said, "Well, they not only want to be confused about their own identity, but they want the rest of us to be confused with them."
But as trans people told Williams, all they want is for people to respect them. The trans people Williams talked to emphasized two things: They're not trying to trick anybody, and their gender identity isn't a choice. (Research backs this up: A review of the scientific evidence concluded that the available data suggests there's likely a biological link to a person's gender identity, indicating that trans people are essentially assigned genders at birth that don't match their inherent, biologically set identity.)
Yet state lawmakers have continued panicking over trans people. Here's an exchange between Williams and Klingenschmitt:
Williams: Do you, for whatever reason, associate being transgender with being a pervert?
Klingenschmitt: I mean, that is perversion. It's people who label themselves as transgender for the purpose of getting that access to violate the rights of others.
Williams: Is it fair to say that if you're a priest you're a pedophile?
Klingenschmitt: Well, of course not.
Williams: Why is it "of course not"? Why?
Klingenschmitt: Because some people are criminals, and some people are not criminals.
Williams: Could you take that logic and apply it to the transgender community?
Klingenschmitt: They're apples and oranges.
Klingenschmitt's stated concern is that allowing trans women to use the bathroom for their gender identity will enable sexual predators to go into women's bathrooms and sexually assault and harass women. This has become a hot-button issue as of late, with states like South Dakota and Tennessee recently considering bills that would prohibit trans people from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity, and North Carolina passing an anti-trans bathroom law.
But this kind of legislation is based on a myth: In the places that allow trans people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, there have been zero reported incidents of sexual assault as a result of the policy.
Experts from 12 states with legal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, which typically enable trans people to use the bathroom for their gender identity, told Media Matters that they don't know of a single reported instance of sexual assaults in bathrooms stemming from the laws.
In another investigation, Media Matters also found that 17 school districts across the country with protections for LGBTQ people, which collectively covered more than 600,000 students, had no problems with harassment in bathrooms or locker rooms after implementing their policies.
But the anti-trans panic continues. "Unfortunately, a lot of people think like Gordon [Klingenschmitt]," Williams said. "Even though [trans people] are just like the rest of us."