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Anchorage, Alaska, voters reject anti-transgender bathroom bill

A big victory for transgender rights in Alaska’s most populous city.

The LGBTQ flag, with the transgender flag in the background. Samuel Kubani/AFP via Getty Images

Voters in Anchorage, Alaska, have defeated an anti-transgender bathroom measure.

Proposition 1 would have required everyone in Anchorage public spaces to use the locker room and bathroom that aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth — effectively barring trans people from using the facility that matches their gender identity.

Anchorage voted 53-47 against Proposition 1 with nearly all ballots counted, according to Anchorage Daily News.

With the measure’s defeat, existing nondiscrimination protections for trans people that were approved by the Anchorage Assembly in 2015 will remain in place.

These types of measures entered the national spotlight in 2016, when North Carolina passed a sweeping anti-LGBTQ law that included an anti-trans bathroom measure. The state’s law led to a huge nationwide backlash from both the general public and business community, contributing to the defeat of then-Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in his reelection bid against now-Gov. Roy Cooper (D). With Cooper in office, the anti-LGBTQ law was partially repealed.

The national backlash led to huge resistance against measures similar to North Carolina’s across the country, including in Texas, which failed to pass a similar bill last year. And now Anchorage voters have rejected a bathroom measure.

Anti-trans bathroom laws are based on a huge myth

Supporters claim that letting trans people use the bathroom or locker room for their gender identity will allow men to disguise themselves as trans women to go into women’s bathrooms or locker rooms and sexually assault and harass women.

But even if trans people are allowed to use the bathroom or locker room that aligns with their gender identity, sexual assault remains illegal.

There’s also no evidence that nondiscrimination laws — and other policies that let trans people use the bathroom for their gender identity — lead to sexual assault in bathrooms and locker rooms. In two investigations, left-leaning media watchdog organization Media Matters confirmed with experts and officials in 12 states and 17 school districts with protections for trans people that they had no increases in sex crimes after they enacted their policies.

Experts say LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws do not lead to sexual crimes in bathrooms. Media Matters

Conservatives usually counter that there are examples of men sneaking into women’s bathrooms to attack women. But as PolitiFact reported, none of the examples cited in the US happened after a city or state passed a nondiscrimination law or otherwise let trans people use the bathroom or locker room for their gender identity. Instead, these seem to be examples of men doing awful things regardless of the law — which has, unfortunately, happened since the beginning of civilization.

One example is a case in Toronto, Canada, which now has a nondiscrimination law, in which a man disguised himself as a woman and attacked women in shelters. But the attacks happened months before Ontario (Toronto’s province) protected trans people in a nondiscrimination law. So the law couldn’t have been the cause.

While the issue is now being used primarily against trans people, historically bathroom fears have been regularly deployed against civil rights causes. It was used against black people to justify segregation — by invoking fears that black men would attack white women in bathrooms. And it was used to stop the Equal Rights Amendment, which tried to establish legal equality between men and women, because opponents claimed it would lead to the abolition of bathrooms for different genders, potentially putting women in danger.

Some people are also, frankly, just bothered by the idea that someone in the same bathroom or locker room won’t share the same genitalia as them.

This gets to the heart of the issue: Bathrooms are places where really private things happen, and that makes people feel vulnerable in all sorts of ways. “People are afraid because they’re exposed,” Kathryn Anthony, author of Designing for Diversity: Gender, Race and Ethnicity in the Architectural Profession, told the Guardian. “There’s a vulnerability we feel in public restrooms we don’t feel in other places.”

But a lot of things happen in public bathrooms that people aren’t comfortable with — and people have managed to deal with it to accommodate others’ rights and needs.

So if it’s not harming anyone, perhaps it’s best, LGBTQ advocates argue, to let trans people use the facility for their gender identity without making them feel ostracized and discriminated against. (Discrimination is a huge contributor to gender dysphoria, a medical condition that some trans people experience that can cause depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation.)

But conservative lawmakers have latched on to the insecurity over bathrooms to propagate myths about the power of discriminatory laws to stop horrible attacks in bathrooms and protect people’s privacy. And although these are plainly myths with no evidence behind them, they’ve been used in attempts to perpetuate discrimination since the Jim Crow era.

For more on anti-transgender bathroom bills, read Vox’s explainer.