Mythbuster: Debunking Anti-Transgender Messages

By Shane Stahl • October 14, 2020 • 1:15 pm

For many years, opponents of LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections have attacked the transgender community in an attempt to create fear and misunderstanding among the general public, and reduce the broad public support for protections. Transgender people have been targeted in various ways, from lawmakers introducing anti-transgender legislation at the state and federal level to media that portray them as a danger to others.

It can be hard to understand what it means to be transgender, especially if you’ve never met a transgender person. And it’s common to have questions at first. But we can all agree that transgender people should be treated with dignity and respect, just like everyone else.

Transgender people are our friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers, deserving of dignity and respect. When it comes to protecting transgender people from discrimination, the truth is more boring than fiction. Here are some common (and incorrect) anti-transgender messages—and just how untrue they are.

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MYTH: Nondiscrimination protections could be used as cover for misconduct in restrooms.

FACT: In the 21 states and more than 250 cities with LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, there has been no increase in public safety incidents in restrooms.

Safety and privacy are important for everyone. That’s why we have laws in place that make it illegal to harm or harass people, or invade their privacy. It’s already illegal to enter a restroom or a locker room to harm someone, period. Anyone who does that can and should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Transgender people use restrooms and locker rooms for the same reasons everyone does. And when they do, they value safety, privacy, and modesty just like everyone else. Transgender people are part of our workplaces and our neighborhoods, and they need to be able to use the restroom just like everyone else.

Voters agree, and have upheld protections for transgender people at the ballot box. To date, 21 states have laws in place to protect transgender people from discrimination in public spaces—like restaurants, shops, hotels and yes, restrooms.

In 2018, the people of Anchorage, Alaska handily voted down a law that would have stricken these protections from existing city policy. This made Anchorage the first American jurisdiction to uphold transgender protections on a standalone ballot measure. On an even larger scale, Massachusetts voters (also in 2018) overwhelmingly voted against removing existing nondiscrimination protections at the state level.

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MYTH: Transgender women & girls have an unfair advantage in sports

FACT: Twenty-five states have successfully implemented polices that allow transgender youth athletes and their peers to successfully participate side by side, while ensuring a level playing field for all.

Additionally, two of the largest sports governing bodies in the world, the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee, have adopted fully inclusive policies.

Transgender athletes participate in sports for the same reasons as everyone else—to get and stay healthy, be part of a team, and build a sense of belonging with their peers. Our laws should protect everyone, including transgender youth, not encourage discrimination. Just ask two-time 1984 Olympic medalist Kathy Johnson Clarke, who says unequivocally, “The goal we should all strive for is for every athlete to be able to participate in sports and succeed.”

We can keep a level playing field and include transgender students in sports. No student would pretend to be transgender just to join a sports team. And no transgender child should be singled out for further bullying and discrimination.

Remember that transgender athletes—and transgender people—are people. Transgender people are all different and being transgender is only one aspect of who that person is.

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MYTH: Some people are too young to receive gender-affirming care.

FACT: This myth displays a fundamental lack of understanding about best-practice medical care for transgender youth.

Best-practice medical care for transgender youth—according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and other leading medical authorities—simply delays puberty until young people are old enough to make their own decisions about who they are. Patients and their providers—not politicians and pundits—should decide what healthcare is in the best interest of a patient.

Denying best-practice medical care and support to transgender youth can be life-threatening. It has been shown to contribute to depression, social isolation, self-hatred, risk of self-harm and suicidal behavior, and more. Research shows that transgender youth whose families support their gender identity have a 52% decrease in suicidal thoughts, a 48% decrease in suicide attempts, and significant increases in self-esteem and general health.

Transgender children, like all children, have the best chance to thrive when they are supported and can get the health care they need. Being a kid is hard enough. We don’t need it to be even harder for kids who are transgender, denying them best-practice medical care and singling them out for increased bullying and harassment.

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MYTH: There are only two genders—male and female

FACT: Most people identify as either male or female, but for some people those terms don’t fit.

First, let’s break down the difference between “gender/gender identity” and “sex.”

Most people have always known they are male or female, and have never had to think twice about it. But some people don’t feel that they neatly fit into the categories of “man” or “woman.” People whose gender is not male or female use many different terms to describe themselves, with non-binary being one of the most common. Other terms include genderqueer, agender, bigender, and more.

It can be hard to understand what this experience is like if you’ve never experienced it yourself or known someone who has. But, what’s most important to remember is that transgender people are our friends, family members, community members and fellow worshippers. We don’t need to understand everything about each other to treat each other with dignity and respect.

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FACT: We need to pass protections at the federal level to ensure that all LGBTQ Americans are protected from discrimination in all areas of life!

All hardworking people, including those who are transgender, should be treated fairly and equally. Nobody should have to live in fear of discrimination simply because of who they are. Yet in 29 states, transgender people, and all LGBTQ people, face the threat of discrimination in housing and public places (like restaurants and shops) simply because of who they are.

Federal LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections can fix that. And we’re making progress: In 2019, the U.S. House passed the Equality Act, the first time a comprehensive federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill passed through a chamber of Congress. It’s time to get the ball over the goal line and have this bill signed into law.

Sign our pledge to add your voice to the growing chorus of people across the political spectrum and all walks of life who support protecting their LGBTQ friends, family, neighbors and co-workers from discrimination.


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