My name is Samantha Carter Kneeland and I am a transgender woman. I am 21 years old. I make music and enjoy watching horror movies. I own two dogs that I take on walks every day through my neighborhood. Usually, while I’m on my walks, people stop to say hello. A woman working at the local Panini restaurant knows my favorite order. My fashion idol is Wednesday Addams. Sometimes, I need to use the bathroom.
For a moment earlier in this month, I was terrified I may not be able to use a public bathroom ever again.
My fears, luckily, were proved ill-founded when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed an executive order protecting transgender anti-discrimination policies in the State of Connecticut on February 23. The executive order came as a reply to the Trump administration’s repeal of federal ordinances in place protecting transgender students’ right to use the bathroom correlating to their gender identity. In the words of Press Secretary Sean Spicer, this particular civil rights legislation was best left to state governments to decide. Our state government decided, and they decided in favor of me. This is a good thing, because sometimes I have to use the bathroom.
I felt so strongly about my state government giving me permission to use the bathroom that I felt the need to say something publicly. I’m proud of my state government and yet most of my friends outside of Connecticut still feel unsafe going into public restrooms. The Trump Administration’s efforts to repeal critical legal protections for people like me are incredibly frightening because the loss of those protections can and will lead to the harassment of many of my friends, and possibly myself.
This is an interesting reality to be living in, especially considering that most supporters of the repeals paradoxically claim that they were for the protection of our young people. This could not be farther from the truth. For starters, there is next to no statistical evidence that proves the correlation between legal protections for transgender people and crimes committed in restrooms. The protections do nothing to enable these crimes in the first place. Anyone who commits a crime in a public bathroom, regardless of whether or not these protections are in place, is still entirely legally accountable for their actions. So where is the protection? Who is being protected, and more importantly, who is being put at risk as a result?
Keeping these protections in place, as Gov. Malloy has done, does nothing to legally protect any abusive or sexually predatory behavior. They do nothing to excuse these actions or enable them. Repealing these protections gives direct legal ease of access to anyone who would intend to forcibly remove a young trans person from a restroom.
According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, one in every eight transgender person has reported being physically, verbally, or sexually harassed in a public restroom. These repeals give direct legal leeway to those intent on harming that one eighth population. Already we see nearly one third of the transgender youth population purposefully limiting their food and drink intake so they have to use the bathroom less, a statistic that has only been rising since the repeals. To those who ask for firsthand accounts of the harassment we so fear, I ask only that they research the case of Gavin Grimm.
So I ask again: when proponents of the repeals insist that it will protect our youth, who do they mean to be protecting? Is it worth it to ensure that an entire percentage of the youth population becomes unsafe in a public bathroom just to protect the remaining percentage from an entirely unsubstantiated hypothetical crime? It is not. Do those protections, even if these hypothetical abuses were an issue, do anything to directly excuse them? They do not.
If the people who are against these legal protections for transgender students are really against them in the name of the safety of our children, they need to take a closer look at who their actions are really protecting; and more importantly, who they are putting at risk. I urge other state governors to follow Gov. Malloy’s lead by protecting the rights of transgender students.
Samantha Carter Kneeland is a student and musician from Connecticut.
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