“Mankind has always feared what it doesn’t understand,” at least according to Magento, and as much as we want to disagree sometimes the hopeless cynicism of the Master of Magentism just tends to properly illustrate the plight of humanity. In the Marvel universe mutants are feared and hated because of their differences. They are unfairly labeled as different, dangerous, and categorically stereotyped as being menaces to decent society. In that universe, mutants often face harsh discrimination, often finding themselves barred from even the most common of places, like public bathrooms. At least on that point, Cyclops, Jean, Wolverine, and all the X-Men seem to have a lot in common with the transgender population of many US States.
You Homo-Sapiens and Your Laws
The issue currently being discussed around the country is over whether transgender and other people who associate themselves with a gender identity other than their biological gender, can use bathrooms that better fit their identity as opposed to their biological gender. Perhaps, the most notable anti-non-discrimination bathroom law has taken place in North Carolina. In a special session, North Carolina legislators created a bill aimed at specifically barring transgender people from using public bathrooms that did not befit their biological parts. This bill, created in response to an anti-discrimination ordinance put in place by the city of Charlotte, was put up for vote even before some lawmakers had a chance to read it. However, it is worth noting that North Carolina is not alone. Battles over similar bills have taken off across many southern and western states including Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and others. In fairness, many of those bills were ultimately defeated. Meanwhile states like Colorado, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware already have laws that protect the members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination, though not always specifically when it comes to bathroom use.
President Obama added his voice to the argument by issuing a directive to schools for LGBTQ children to be allowed to use bathrooms that matched their gender identity rather than their biological gender. This of course, was countered by a fair share of backlash from more conservative members of the educational community, including 11 States that have now filed a lawsuit against the POTUS. Yet, the laws and legal battles are really just a reflection of something deeper. After all, the bathroom has always been a battleground for societal changes and discrimination. It’s like the Savage Land of social change. Whether it be women, African-Americans, or the differently-abled, bathrooms seem to be the places where our culture and our country go to argue over what it means to be human, and maybe there is something humbling and embarrassing about that. Or maybe it is just because, -to quote our favorite book- “Everyone poops.”
Brother(Sister)hood of Evil Mutants
In the Marvel Universe mutants are literally an offshoot of normal humans. They are the actual “other.” More to the point, an argument can also be made that they are dangerous. Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants certainly demonstrate as much. We mean, c’mon, they even have the word “evil” in their name. That would be like the if the Westboro Baptist Church called themselves the Westboro Hate Group. It’s a little on the nose. However, transgender people are 100% human and 99% not dangerous -because, unfortunately, every group has some bad eggs.
However, a minuscule percentage should never be used to represent the majority. That is why despite anecdotal evidence, there are no transgender or imposter-gender people sneaking into bathrooms to sexually assault anyone. According to FBI statistics, in 2014 there were about 84,000 reported cases of rapes in the United States. First off… Holy crap people. That is 84,000 too much… Secondly, none were committed by people exploiting gender identities to sneak into bathrooms. 0 reported cases of rape in 2014 in the USA were committed by people of a transgender identity in a bathroom or by people pretending to be of a transgender identity in a bathroom. In comparison, during that same time frame, 2 people were shot… by dogs. Rape culture in America is a huge problem -and a topic for another article- but no serious proposal for preventing rape in the US even comes close to mentioning banning transgender people from bathrooms.
That is why it is absurd to see these “preventative measure” bills cropping in so many states. They are legislation constructed from ignorance and fear. The greatest irony is that many Republican controlled state legislatures are going against their own conservative beliefs to pass sweeping laws to preempt local ordinances that would protect LGBTQ members from using a bathroom that matches their gender identity. The party who is often terrified of government laws infringing on civil liberties -especially when it comes to the right for dogs to bear arms- is using the very tactic they fear to infringe on the civil liberties of others. This is all in despite of the fact that when a person enters a bathroom to sexually harass, sexual assault or rape, it is already illegal. People who commit these crimes are going to do them anyway. It’s not like the perverts, rapists, and pedophiles of the world have been sitting back waiting for non-discrimination bathroom laws. Sexual assault and rape are always illegal, but people using a bathroom that makes them feel safe and accepted should never be.
In a way it is often easier to relate to the plight of the X-Men. We know their names and their stories. To anyone who has seen a good or bad X-Men movie over the past decade and half, you know who they are. They are not statistics in a book or nebulous unnamed bogeymen being flaunted by politicians as the “enemy of decency.” That also means we get to understand their struggles and we get a glimpse of the world from their perspective, a perspective of the persecuted and feared. In essence, that is the viewpoint of today’s transgender and cisgender people. Yet, in the real-world we don’t always know there names, or their stories. Sometimes what politicians forget is that those Americans are also their constituency, and are the people who need protecting more than any other hypothetical peeing person.
Maybe that is why biggest irony of this situation, is that it is transgender people whom face the highest threat of being harassed or physically assaulted. In fact, in 2015 the rate of murdered transgender women -especially women of color- climbed at a worrying rate. Transgender people often face discrimination even when not in a bathroom, and trans-women especially often face physical beatings. When it comes to deciding between which bathroom to use, transgender citizens must face the decision between going into the bathroom that fits their gender identity and being yelled at, or going into the bathroom that fits their biological gender and being beaten up. It’s even worse for transgender students. In fact, discrimination like this has led to a increased risk of suicide for transgender people. 46% of trans-men, 42% of trans-women, and even 41% of cross-dressers have attempted suicide according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Gender neutral bathrooms are not entirely a solution either. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 53% of 6,450 transgender people surveyed have reported being harassed or made to feel unsafe in a gender neutral bathrooms.
We as people and as a country must do better. We cannot be ruled and legislated by fear. Remember, at the end of the day, the X-Men are heroes. They are mutants that fight for a society that discriminates and hates them. The politicians and the voting public of the Marvel Universe can’t always understand that, but our society needs to be more than two-dimensional ink blots on a pulp page. After all, we are all complex individuals with thoughts, hopes, and fears, and that includes transgender people. This issue can be hard for some to understand, in part because there are only around 700,000 transgender people in the USA. In comparison, at its height the Marvel mutant population numbered at more than 33 million worldwide. However, 700,000 people -though only about .03% of the population- still have the right to be protected and feel as safe as everyone else, especially in the bathroom. Transgender people try to be true to themselves, but that struggle can be made much harder when they find themselves made out be mutant villains or a sexual predators.
So, let’s try to remember that public restrooms should be reserved for awkward urinal talk, questionable toilet hygiene, and frustratingly inefficient hand-dryers, but never hate crimes. As Charles Xavier would say, “We have it in us to be better men [women, and cisgender people]”