I'd start by saying I cannot even believe this is a debate—should transgender individuals be allowed to use the bathrooms assigned to the gender to which they have transitioned—but of course, I can believe it. In the world in which we live, where "protecting family values" is code for "making sure everyone who isn't following the bible (in anyway pertaining to gonads) as [insert religious faith/church/guru] sees fit doesn't have legal rights," how did I not expect this?
Enough already. Can I just start with that? ENOUGH ALREADY.
When state politicians and public figures are leading campaigns to scare people into thinking that their precious daughters are not safe in bathrooms because men, dressed like women, could come attack them, there simply isn't enough to say to refute it.
Refusing transgender people basic dignity in the restroom is not about keeping anyone safe, it is about rejecting the validity of being transgender, based on religious beliefs. How do I know that's true? Here's the short list:
1) Chromosomes are not the only thing that make you male or female; neither is genitalia. Gender is more complex than just a binary proposition; the infinite complexity of creation, for those who are religious, isn't meant to inspire fear, but to inspire wonder. When someone says that their body and their mind don't match—they look like a boy, but they know that they are a girl—they are speaking to their own creation, and their own way of being in the world. It has nothing to do with anyone except the transgender individual, actually.
Believing that someone who is born with one gender-specific physical body will in some way be threatening if they live in a different gender-specific physical body is not backed up by any evidence, period. It's ludicrous, actually.
2) Worrying that allowing people with a set of chromosomes which doesn't match their gender identity into restrooms might open up the door for non-transgender people to pretend to be the other gender, so as to harm people of the opposite sex, is ridiculous. People who want to attack, rape, molest, fondle, or generally harm other people, male or female, are going to do so. They don't need to dress up in any particular way to do so, they don't need permission to go into a bathroom to enter that space.
3) Transgender people who receive hormones which help them to live in the gender in which they identify reap the benefits of those hormones. What does this mean? In their short-sighted attempt to make sure everyone who is born a boy is in a men's restroom, the very people who seem so afraid of a boy or man entering women's bathrooms will soon be confronted with XX individuals flooded with testosterone, who are boys/men, in women's bathrooms.
That's a bugaboo, isn't it? Does it mean that the next set of laws to be created will restrict the access of hormone therapies to transgender individuals, so as to not encounter this secondary consequence? Where does it end, and who does it hurt in the meantime?
Wishing that you didn't have to deal with transgender people, and the complexity they bring which counters your world view, won't actually make transgender people disappear.
4) Setting up an argument in which girls, in particular, need to be protected from boys is sexist and horrible, and takes our eyes off the larger issue—we need to continually teach girls and boys not to hurt each other. Notice: no one seems nearly as worried about XX individuals living as transgender men in boys' bathrooms. If you are worried about violence against women, worry about it full-stop—worry about men hurting women, and women hurting women—and you and I can have a real conversation. Focus just on transgender individuals, and I know our discussion would be pointless.
5) People of the same gender can hurt each other, and they do every day, yet we have no problem putting them all in the same restroom all the time. Have you spent time in a high school bathroom with a pack of high school girls at the mirror? I can promise you that when I was a high school girl, the most frightening people in school were other high school girls. Quite honestly, I might have felt safer in well-monitored gender-neutral bathrooms.
6) Have you seen the rates of violence against transgender people? These are God's children, too. When I am asked to protect those who need help the most, do I serve God by asking those individuals to put themselves in awkward, alienating, and potentially threatening situations?
7) At what point will it be acceptable to peak inside a stall and truly invade someone's privacy and personal safety in order to police the restroom? Because, let's be clear, if there are prohibitions on who can enter a space, there must be enforcement, right? How will this enforcement play out? Will this be another expression of loving our neighbors, or will it be a way in which we work to find and pull out "the other" from our ranks, to isolate and to humiliate them?
8) HOW MUCH TIME ARE YOU SPENDING IN THESE BATHROOMS, PEOPLE? For goodness sake, what on earth is so precious about this space that it must be defended? When it comes to public restrooms, most of us just want to get in, get out, and touch as little as possible.
If all of these points above are true, how can one justify laws to keep transgender individuals out of restrooms? To me, it must come back to this: the entire argument is primarily about making a statement against the reality of being transgender, of disavowing it and calling it out as sinful and without a place in our society.
Don't buy the hype. This isn't about staying safe. This is about staying separate and afraid.