By Stephanie Curry, Esq. Public Policy Manager for Family Policy Alliance®
In 2012, federal prison guidelines required prisons to start considering “gender identity” when placing inmates. This meant a man could be issued women’s clothing, use women’s showers or even be transferred to an all woman’s prison by saying he identified as a woman, without having had a sex change operation. Just as disturbing is that a woman could be transferred to an all men’s prison as well. Once these guidelines were passed and implemented, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was the target of multiple lawsuits from women who were threatened and abused as a result of the new policy.
The Women of Fort Worth
One group of prisoners who sued the BOP were female inmates in Fort Worth, Texas. Their lawsuits declared that it was dangerous and degrading for the Bureau of Prisons to allow men (who identified as women) into women’s bathrooms and showers. The behavior of the men caused the women to suffer “disgust, embarrassment, humiliation, stress, degradation, fear and loss of dignity.”
Certainly, prisoners live in a world very different than the one we’re accustomed to. But the Supreme Court has been very clear that prisoners have basic constitutional rights that belong to all citizens and cannot be taken away by the government. For example, prisoners have the right to be free from cruelty, inhumane treatment, and humiliation. This means even inmates retain the right to bodily privacy and dignity.
In a larger sense, the right to bodily privacy means that prisoners cannot be subject to physical humiliations, such as the refusal of clothing or showers. It also means being free from sexual violence and harassment and having the right to use a bathroom with privacy, especially and particularly from the opposite sex. This is not only to protect the prisoner’s safety, but also to protect their dignity.
The good news is the Bureau of Prisons recently updated their policies (in light of the multiple lawsuits and Trump Administration guidance) declaring prisoners’ safety to be paramount above gender identity considerations. Biological sex will once again be the first factor considered when placing prisoners.
But that leads us to our next question:
If bodily privacy is a basic right that belongs to prisoners, why doesn’t it also belong to our students in schools?
Standing for Students
The women of Fort Worth asked themselves that same question when the Obama Administration handed down the “Transgender Mandate,” a policy that would allow men and boys into girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools. These female inmates were horrified at the government’s willingness to compromise our children’s safety in schools. These women had experienced men in their bathrooms and found it to be a traumatic violation. The women rose up on behalf of students in Texas schools– from their prison cells. They requested to be intervenors in the lawsuit to stop the Obama administration rule from going into effect. (Intervenors are those who are not a party to a lawsuit, but they offer an important perspective on an issue.) They certainly had a unique perspective because they had lived through this policy being implemented and found it to be dangerous, fundamentally unfair, and a deep violation of their privacy and bodily integrity.
A Texas Federal Court did block the school Transgender Mandate. The Trump Administration also issued a memo officially reversing the school Transgender Mandate from Obama’s era. But the damage had already been done.
Schools are still implementing policies that allow men and boys into girls’ bathrooms! Of course, it is absurd to think that prisoners have a more protected right to privacy than our children. Yet, that is what is happening across the country as schools implement “non-discrimination” policies or “transgender rights” policies.
Family Policy Alliance and our allied groups in over 40 states want to partner with you to protect your child’s privacy at school in your state. The government does not and cannot have the power to take away the privacy, safety, or dignity of our children. If you have children in schools, learn your school’s bathroom and privacy policies. If you have questions about the policy or if the policy violates your child’s privacy rights, please reach out to Family Policy Alliance or your state-based ally. Finally, please support candidates in the upcoming election who are willing to protect the privacy and safety of our children in schools!
The bathroom issue will be front and center in many states this year, and Texas is no exception.
Right now, the state Senate is considering SB 6, the Texas Privacy Act, that would stop men from getting access to women’s bathrooms, locker rooms and changing areas.
“Texans overwhelmingly oppose these attacks on women’s privacy and safety,” said Jonathan Saenz with Texas Values. “Our Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst are to be commended for introducing this legislation.”
A recent Texas voter survey found a majority of Texans agreeing that public restrooms should be restricted by gender.
“This bill is written not to bring a controversy,” Kolkhorst said. “The Texas Privacy Act is a thoughtful solution to a sensitive issue. It preserves an expected level of privacy for our public schools and buildings. At the same time, it also allows for schools and universities to make personal accommodations for those requesting an alternate setting. The responsibility falls on all of us to protect citizens and ensure that their personal and private rights are secured.”
Do you believe that boys should have access to girls’ locker rooms, showers and bathrooms? President Obama does. His “bathroom mandate” is using Title IX federal funding to force public schools to allow just that.
Autumn Leva, policy director for Family Policy Alliance, tells us why we’ve formed an unusual alliance to make our voice heard at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Download a copy of the amicus brief as filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Family Policy Alliance is proud to work with nearly 40 state-based family policy councils, including The Family Foundation of Virginia. Victoria Cobb is president of the organization. This op-ed appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Stephanie is the adoptive mother of two girls who were sexually assaulted, each of whom suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. In a raw and powerful letter addressed to members of the Virginia General Assembly telling her story, she wrote: “A particular risk to my daughters is exposure to the anatomy of the opposite sex. To my daughters, the male anatomy is a weapon by which they were assaulted. But the risk extends to even being in the presence of biological males in situations where my daughters feel vulnerable, such as when they are using the bathroom, changing clothes, or showering.”
Now, according to a federal court, assault victims like her daughters will just have to deal with that horrible fear.
Are we really willing to force sexual assault victims into situations like these?
Even for most adults, preferring to shower or dress in the most private atmosphere possible is completely rational. Remarkably, that natural desire for physical privacy in public restrooms, locker rooms and showers shared by the overwhelming majority of Americans is being attacked as unreasonable, discriminatory — even bigoted. Worse, some are attempting to force our school children into vulnerable interactions with kids of the opposite sex in restrooms, locker rooms and showers, in addition to those who have suffered sexual abuse.
Last week the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals opined that a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in schools should be interpreted as prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Despite erroneous media reports, the court did not mandate that schools immediately require access for students to restrooms of the opposite sex, despite a request by the plaintiff and ACLU for just that. Instead, the case was sent back to the lower court for further proceedings.
Yet for the first time, rather than following the plain language of law, a court concluded that the term “sex” no longer refers to the reality of biological differences between males and females. Rather, it refers to an individual’s subjective and changing feelings of “gender identity.” No other court in the country has come to this conclusion.
More important, as Judge Paul Niemeyer said in his dissent, the decision “overrules custom, culture, and the very demands inherent in human nature for privacy and safety. . . . An individual has a legitimate and important interest in bodily privacy such that his or her nude or partially nude body . . . (is) not exposed to persons of the opposite biological sex. Indeed, courts have consistently recognized that the need for such privacy is inherent in the nature and dignity of humankind.”
The court argues that ignoring the realities of biological sex is necessary because the plaintiff may feel “irreparable harm” at not being able to use the restroom of her choice.
But what about the irreparable harm and humiliation children might feel being exposed to someone of the opposite sex in a locker room or shower? Is their humiliation and discomfort at having their bodies exposed to someone of the opposite sex irrational?
And while the ACLU may argue this case involves only restrooms and not locker rooms and showers, logic dictates — as Judge Niemeyer rightly stated in his dissent — the new definition of sex cannot be compartmentalized and must be applied to showers and locker rooms.
Unfortunately, the court failed to properly consider the vast harms that will result from allowing boys to share private facilities with girls. Students from all walks of life find it deeply humiliating and offensive to be forced to share showers, restrooms and locker rooms with the opposite sex.
For those students, there is no “appropriate use” that justifies the deeply harmful intrusion on their privacy. This is especially true for victims of sexual abuse, which some reports put at 1 out of 10 students under the age of 18, and for whom the very presence of a biological male in a female restroom will trigger psychological and emotional harm.
The privacy rights and safety of vulnerable school children shouldn’t be cast aside or used as a political pawn for special-interest groups that desire to impose a genderless society.
Remarkably, the court seems to have concluded that a single student’s need for public affirmation trumps the desire inherent in human nature for privacy and safety, dismissing even the fear of sexual assault victims. Hopefully, a reasonable court will step in and reaffirm that our children have the dignity of basic privacy rights in bathrooms and showers. Anything short of that will put vulnerable children at tremendous emotional, physical and developmental risk.
A federal appeals court ruled in favor of a transgender teen. It’s the first time a court has ruled that the term “sex” no longer applies to the biological differences between men and women, but rather how a person feels about their “gender identity.”
Victoria Cobb is president of The Family Foundation of Virginia, one of Family Policy Alliance’s nearly 40 state-based groups. She says the ruling simply puts women and children at risk.
“Even for most adults, preferring to shower or dress in the most private atmosphere possible is completely rational,” she wrote in an op-ed for the Richmond Times. “Remarkably, that natural desire for physical privacy in public restrooms, locker rooms and showers shared by the overwhelming majority of Americans is being attacked as unreasonable, discriminatory — even bigoted. Worse, some are attempting to force our school children into vulnerable interactions with kids of the opposite sex in restrooms, locker rooms and showers, in addition to those who have suffered sexual abuse.”
Target’s decision to publicly share a long-standing policy allowing men entrance into women’s restrooms and changing rooms brought a chorus of opposition from parents and concerned citizens.
The American Family Association has more than 600,000 signatures on a petition pledging to boycott because of the policy.
“Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims,” AFA wrote on their website. “And with Target publicly boasting that men can enter women’s bathrooms, where do you think predators are going to go?”
Izzy Avraham talked to his young daughter about Target’s policy and suggested they go to the store and speak to the manager about it.
“We kept talking and I explained to her that we should be kind and loving to everyone,” he said, “because everybody is a person with a heart and feelings. But that you can also disagree with the way they’re acting, and think it’s weird.”
The Avrahams were disappointed with the manager’s response, but thousands of people on Facebook shared his post and used his hashtag, #byetarget.
The Pennsylvania Family Institute, Family Policy Alliance’s allied group in that state, shared a video from Defend My Privacy showing a mom and her daughter cutting up their Target REDCard because of the announcement. The video has gotten thousands of views and shares and continues to make the rounds on social media. You can view it through the link below.
By some estimates, one in 10 women have been the victim of sexual abuse. That leaves them particularly vulnerable to situations that make them feel unsafe. Stephanie, an adoptive mom of two girls in Virginia, says her daughters are at risk because of their abusive background.
“A particular risk to my daughters is exposure to the anatomy of the opposite sex,” she said. “To my daughters, the male anatomy is a weapon by which they were assaulted. But the risk extends to even being in the presence of biological males in situations where my daughters feel vulnerable, such as when they are using the bathroom, changing clothes, or showering.”
Despite the pushback, homosexual activist groups continue to push for bathroom policies that are uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worst.
“The privacy rights and safety of vulnerable school children shouldn’t be cast aside or used as a political pawn for special-interest groups that desire to impose a genderless society,” Cobb wrote. “Hopefully, a reasonable court will step in and reaffirm that our children have the dignity of basic privacy rights in bathrooms and showers. Anything short of that will put vulnerable children at tremendous emotional, physical and developmental risk.”
Sign the petition asking Target to rethink their policy or see less of us in the future!
If you use Twitter, please use the hashtag #iexpectmore in your tweets.
You can see the Defend My Privacy video on our Facebook page.
The privacy and safety of women and children protected
North Carolina lawmakers are protecting the privacy and safety of women and children. They unanimously passed a bill that would prevent men from entering women’s restrooms, locker rooms and showers. The governor has already signed it into law.
This is good news for North Carolina families – and all families – but the need to protect women and children doesn’t stop here. CitizenLink and our family policy alliance are working hard in legislatures across the nation to safeguard families – including yours. But that’s only possible with your support.