In Depth

Transgender bathroom laws provoke protest

'Urinal selfies' highlight the impact of laws that would force transgender women to use men's toilets

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A Canadian transgender woman is posing in men's bathrooms in protest against a proposed law that would make it illegal for her and other 'trans' women to use female toilets.

"I'm giving them what they want," Brae Carnes told the Times Colonist. "I'm actively showing them what it would look like if that became law and how completely ridiculous it is. It's just not right."

In the UK, trans people are legally allowed to use whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable in. However, in Canada and several states in the US, conservative lawmakers are attempting to push through legislation that would force people to use bathrooms matching the gender they were assigned at birth.

These so-called "bathroom bills" are one of the biggest remaining battlegrounds for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, according to Time magazine.

Under a proposed bill in Florida, trans people who use bathrooms or changing rooms that are different from the "gender established by the individual's chromosomes" can be charged with a misdemeanour, which is punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of $4,000.

Save, a Miami-based LGBT advocacy group, told Al Jazeera America: "The proposal is absurd and hurtful. It aims to undercut our recent advances towards full equality, and creates massive barriers to using the facilities that we know fit our bodies."

Proponents of such legislation argue that the bills are about ensuring public safety and privacy by preventing "voyeurism and rape".

But campaigners point out that there is no evidence that 'trans-inclusive' spaces are unsafe, and that trans people are in fact far more likely to be victims of violence, as they already face high levels of harassment, threats and abuse when using public bathrooms.

"There are far more 'cisgender' (non-trans) people who are sexual predators … The idea that trans people are more likely to commit such crimes is a harmful, bigoted stereotype," says advocacy group the DC Trans Coalition.

Transgender Law Center's Sasha Buchert also points out that the bills would be difficult to enforce, reports Mother Jones. "Is someone going to stand at the door and check someone's chromosomes?"

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