Q: If we allow trans women into bathrooms, locker rooms, rape shelters, and prisons reserved for women, aren’t we just opening the door to predatory men?

A: Claims like this are anti-trans propaganda: The “bathroom debate” in the media is a relatively recent political tactic, and these claims falsely assume that trans women haven’t already been using women’s bathrooms the whole time. 

Trans women are not men, and there is no evidence to support the claim that trans women are likely to be sexual predators. The idea that being trans is a sexual fetish or perversion is a harmful and completely inaccurate stereotype. Trans women just want to pee in peace. 

But if we allow trans women to use women’s bathrooms, wouldn’t predatory cis men take advantage of the situation by pretending to be trans women? 

Why would they need to? There’s no good reason to think predatory cis men would be discouraged by laws or rules prohibiting trans women from women’s bathrooms. (Many multi-stall public bathrooms don’t have locks, and there’s no magic force field that repels men.) 

Overall, there’s no evidence that allowing trans women into women’s bathrooms leads to an increase of sexual violence in those settings.

Just as importantly, keeping trans women out of women’s spaces puts them at risk.

In general, trans people (especially trans women of color) are particularly vulnerable to violence (including sexual violence, domestic violence, and assault and murder) and to poverty and homelessness

Bathrooms and locker rooms: Not allowing trans people to use the facilities where they feel most comfortable makes them vulnerable: They might risk outing themselves, which can lead to stigmatization and violence; or they might be forced to be subjected to unnecessary dysphoria, to risk medical problems (by avoiding using the bathroom), and/or not to participate in certain activities (for instance, a trans student who feels unsafe using the bathroom at their school might skip classes to avoid this conflict). 

Shelters: Shelters are an important resource for vulnerable people, and it’s important for vulnerable people to be able to access them safely. 

Of 27,715 respondents to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey,

  • 12 percent had been homeless in the past year, and of those, 26 percent avoided staying in homeless shelters because they feared they would be mistreated as a transgender person. 
  • Of those who had stayed in a shelter in the past year, 70 percent reported some form of mistreatment, such as being forced out, harassed, or attacked because of being transgender.

Jails and prisons: This is a complicated issue, but it’s pretty common knowledge that a lot of violence happens in prisons, perpetrated by both inmates and officers. Trans women are much more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of such violence, and this is exacerbated when they are incarcerated in men’s facilities, where their nonconformity is more apparent. 

Of the two percent of survey respondents who had been incarcerated in the past year,

  • 20 percent reported being sexually assaulted by facility staff or other inmates. This rate was five to six times higher than the rates reported by the U.S. incarcerated population overall. 

Further reading