Bathroom Bullies

It's increasingly becoming a cultural wedge issue in the 2016 election. The GOP put it in their national platform, presidential candidates are talking about it, people are protesting Target stores, and now the Governor of Utah has decided that the most vulnerable among us don't deserve civil rights. We're talking about, of all things, the right to pee--and more specifically the right for transgender individuals to pee.

I have been watching the issue shape itself since the beginning of this election cycle and it saddens me that so much hate has been generated against a very vulnerable population in order to get a few more votes. It's why I ran for National Delegate, and will be the first openly transgender person elected by either the Utah Democratic Party or the Utah GOP to serve as anything, let alone a National Delegate.

When I get to Philadelphia, I will make it my mission to make sure that the Democratic National Platform explicitly supports nondiscrimination with regard to public accommodations, health, and insurance on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Some people believe that respect belongs to authority, and others believe that it should be earned. In reality, everyone deserves respect, not because of their position or something they have accomplished, but because they are human. This is a Utah value.

The whole question of which bathroom a transgender person uses should be moot, because they are going to use the bathroom in which they feel safest, or risk a potentially lethal kidney infection. Never in the course of history of public access based on gender-identity to public bathrooms--which goes back 10 years or more--has a transgender person tried to commit pedophilia, or someone dress up, and claim that they were transgender in order to do so. This problem doesn't exist. The rhetoric that we are hearing from people like Governor Herbert is worse than a solution looking for a problem, it is a non-solution that creates more problems. A lot of people have middle school memories of bathroom bullies who punished peers who didn't conform. By forcing transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to their original birth certificate activates that bullying system and creates a system of vigilantism, not just in the bathrooms, but in society at large. Already, the violence against anyone perceived to be transgender is on the rise, and proponents of bathroom bills like those in North Carolina, put transgender youth in bathrooms where transgender people have been known to be attacked.

It's time to stop "managing" other people, have some compassion and respect, and shut down the bathroom bullies.

Sophia Hawes-Tingey

Sophia Hawes-Tingey is the first openly transgender person to serve as a National Delegate from Utah, and who is going to the Democratic National Convention in July as a Bernie Sanders Delegate. In 2015, she was the first openly transgender person to appear on a public ballot in the state, and narrowly missed becoming the first openly transgender public official. She serves as the Communications Director of the Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, is the Secretary of the Community Council of Midvale City, and sits on the Board of Directors of the Utah Stonewall Democrats, as well as other organizations.