Let’s Talk About the Real Issue with Bathroom Safety

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The backlash to the latest spate of anti-transgender “bathroom laws” has begun, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is right at the forefront:

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed an executive order Monday banning travel to North Carolina for official business by City of Seattle employees. It is a response to that state’s passage of a bill that revoked civil rights protections for the LGBTQ community.

Mayor Murray is absolutely doing the right thing here. (So is the governor of Georgia, who announced he would veto a similar law in his state.) These bathroom laws are not only hateful and anti-civil-liberty—they’re also likely unenforceable. What they do is they target and single out trangender individuals, who are already at grave risk for violence, and they give business owners the right to confirm anyone’s gender at any time. (How? Unclear. Very unclear.) And by forcing trans people to use the opposite gender bathrooms, the law is creating some very uncomfortable situations:

These are the kind of exclusionary tactics that bring damage upon economies like North Carolina. (Nick Hanauer wrote about this last year.) Boycotts like Mayor Murray’s are a great way to get the attention of a governor who puts hate before inclusion, and I expect North Carolina will find itself to be the recipient of a whole lot of boycotts by the time this story ends.

And besides, there are plenty other pressing issues of bathroom safety to address than the fallacious concern of LGBT-on-straight-person violence that anti-trans groups have been peddling to the media. I’m talking, of course, about guns.

Today, NRA Family published a blog post by Brad Fitzpatrick titled “Concealed-Carry Safety…In the Bathroom.” It’s all about what to do when you’re out on the town with your gun and nature calls. Fitzpatrick’s first suggestion? Put the gun on the bathroom floor in front of you while you’re doing your business. He acknowledges there are some problems with this scenario:

As simple as it is to place the gun on the floor of the stall, there are also several compelling reasons not to do so. If the bathroom is clean, the gun is pointed in what you know to be a safe direction, and no one else is going to come in and see a gun on the floor of the stall, then this is a fine option. But if you’re like most, the thought of putting the gun on the floor of a public restroom and then handling it and putting back into your holster is enough to make you cringe.

So instead of getting icky germs all over your instrument of death, Fitzpatrick offers a “better” solution:

There is a better option for securing the firearm in the bathroom, and that is to place the gun in your dropped pants. That’s a secure position and you’re almost certain not to forget it is there after you have completed your duty. In addition, the pants work well to hide the firearm from others who happen to glance under the stall to see if it is occupied. Again, be sure to place the firearm so that the barrel is pointed in a safe position.

This is advice from the National Rifle Association: put your gun on the trousers around your ankles while you poop. Never mind that if someone in the next stall over wanted to grab your gun, they’d probably get to it before you. Never mind that if you forget the gun’s there and pull your pants up, you’ve just dropped a gun on the ground, possibly pointed at your crotch.

I don’t know what the Venn Diagram of NRA supporters who also support anti-LGBT bathroom laws looks like, but I suspect the overlap is significant. How many of those gun-loving Americans are fine with the pants-on-the-ground method of bathroom gun safety but against the idea of trans people using the proper bathroom? Because I know which side I’d rather share a bathroom with, and it’s sure not the guy in the NRA t-shirt who’s feverishly rubbing hand sanitizer all over his Smith & Wesson.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.