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#Occupotty Campaign Spotlights Unjust Bathroom Legislation in US and Canada

Trans people take to social media to combat, ahem, crappy bathroom laws.

Michael Hughes

Michael Hughes, a trans man in Minnesota, only wants to pee safely in the bathroom of his choice. Yet recent proposed legislation in his home state threatens Hughes’ ability to do that. This proposed legislation dictates that high school students will be forced to use locker rooms and bathrooms based on the genders they were assigned at birth, which would clearly be problematic for (and unfairly targets) transgender students, and would set a dangerous precedent for public facilities elsewhere.

To spotlight the ridiculousness of this law, Hughes has taken to social media. Using hashtags like #Occupotty and #wejustneedtopee, Hughes has taken selfies in women’s restrooms in order to show what a law like this would actually look like in practice.


Sadly, this isn’t just a problem in Minnesota. Florida and Texas have also proposed similar laws. 

And it isn’t just the US, either. The Canadian senate has also proposed similar bathroom legislation. What’s funny is that in the Canadian legislation, it’s part of a trans rights bill – but would give private facilities the right to decide whether or not to allow people to use restrooms according to their gender identity. Why? According to Times Colonist, it’s “to protect vulnerable people such as women who have experienced abuse from the trauma of sharing a space with anyone who is “biologically male.””

A Canadian trans woman from Victoria, Brae Carnes, has taken to social media activism similar to Hughes’ to protest the proposed legislation. Her hashtag, #PlettPutMeHere, references conservative Canadian senator, Donald Plett, who authored the offending amendment.  Carnes also makes an important point. This law, which is supposedly about “protecting women’s safety” does so by putting an already at-risk population – trans people – at even greater risk. She hasn’t experienced anything too horrific, but after using a men’s room at a local mall, she was followed by a man to her car. He knocked on her window, trying to pick her up. Says Carnes:  

Why would you put, for lack of a better word, an ‘endangered’ person into situations where they’re going to be even more are risk? I think [the amendment] is actually giving predators a chance and an opportunity. People think, ‘Why’s this girl in the washroom? She must be looking for a guy.’

Indeed.  This is an awesome campaign, and you should check out #Occupotty and #PlettPutMeHere for more inspiring photos. It’s amazing the awareness that can be raised via social media.  However, while this campaign is a great way to bring attention to this issue, it also leaves out some things that are important to keep in mind. Namely, that trans people don’t always look the way they identify. Both Hughes and Carnes seem to have no problem presenting as the genders with which they identify, according to cis-centric standards. But there are trans people who have only just acknowledged that they are trans. Transitioning affects people in different ways physically, and sometimes – despite all the hormones in the world – people don’t or can’t present as “male” or “female” as they would like.

I would hate for people to get the wrong idea from a campaign like this – that gender identity is all about presentation. It isn’t that simple. There are people who look “male,” but are actually female – and vice versa – and those people also have the right to use the bathroom of their choosing. There are trans people who don’t adhere to a gender binary at all, and those people should have the right to use the bathroom of their choice.  The bottom line is, gender is about more than just appearance and presentation. It’s about identity. It’s as fundamental as knowing deep down inside that you’re a human being.

What I hope is that campaigns like this are a starting point for further education about the gender spectrum, because that’s the real key – education. The more people know about what being transgender not only is, but feels like, the more people will understand that transgender folks aren’t looking to use “the wrong” bathroom “for fun” or “to get away with” something. They just need to freaking pee like everybody else, and would like to do so without being harassed. 

And by the way, instead of trying to “protect women” by infringing on the rights of trans people, Senates and Other Governments of the World, perhaps you should, I don’t know, look into things like better enforcing rape laws, or putting more resources into examining the thousands of backlogged rape kits that sit gathering dust worldwide. We women would really appreciate that. Kthxbye. 

(via The Daily Dot)  

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