This Bathroom Attack Totally Debunks Trans Panic

May 17th 2016

Alex Mierjeski

A violent assault in a Chicago bathroom is stirring up anger in anti-transgender circles — and has become a Rorschach test for the logic behind the anti-trans movement.

Bathroom Sign

Last week, Reese Hartstirn was arrested by Chicago police after attempting to choke an 8-year-old girl in a bathroom, ABC 7 reported. Hartstirn's case is being cited in some conservative circles as proof that increased access to bathrooms for transgender people is dangerous to helpless bathroom users. 

After the conservative pundit Glenn Beck tweeted the story out, the comment section within the post quickly turned to the transgender bathroom debate

Some commenters drew false correlations between threats to public safety and letting people use bathrooms according to their gender identity, not their anatomy. As far as we know from reports, Hartstirn is (probably) not transgender, nor did he appear to be posing as such to gain access to a women's bathroom — as some were quick to point out on Twitter.

Fears that sexual predators use the guise of transgender identity to target women and girls in bathrooms have run rampant in recent months after state laws barring transgender access drew intense criticism. But research last month by the fact-checking group PolitiFact found no instances of sexual assault by a person in the opposite gender's bathroom in states with transgender protections, ATTN: reported.

Some on Twitter also pointed out that crimes committed in bathrooms — whatever their nature — would likely happen regardless of laws barring trans people from using the bathrooms they feel comfortable in.

States such as North Carolina have recently passed laws removing protections for transgender people who might otherwise use public facilities in alignment with their gender identity. Those measures have been met with fervent protest, and recently, federal threats. Earlier this month, the Justice Department informed North Carolina that its so-called "bathroom bill" violated federal civil rights protections, threatening to stop the flow of millions in federal funding. 

Last week, the Obama administration issued a guidance that transgender students should have access to the bathroom of their choosing in all public schools.

"We're talking about kids. And anybody who's been in a school, in a high school, who's been a parent, I think should realize that kids who are sometimes in the minority, kids who have a different sexual orientation or are transgender, are subject to a lot of bullying," Obama said on Monday in an interview with BuzzFeed News.