Why Europe Isn’t Having Debates Over Transgender Bathrooms

The European Union might not be the poster child for a single currency system, but it does lead the world in advancing gender equality. In March, the European Parliament called on the EU to move forward with “a new strategy for gender equality and women’s rights for 2016-2020.”

Included in this strategy must be trans-inclusive language and policies. From the EU’s perspective gender equality and transgender equality are the same thing.

This makes sense. As Transgender Europe, co-chair, Arja Volpio argues:

“Gender equality is trans equality. The root causes for transphobia lay in sexism, misogyny and rigid gender stereotypes.”

So in the EU, no one is proposing documentation of one’s biological sex to use a single-facility restroom as we are doing in N.C. In Europe, they understand that there are good reasons why a transgender woman would prefer to use the ladies room. Foremost among them would be her desire to be safe. And they also do not subscribe to the “bathroom predator” myth that transgender people harass others in the restroom.

In fact, if anyone is to fear harassment, the evidence shows the contrary. In the U.S. nearly 80% of all transgender people say they experienced harassment at school growing up. In adulthood, harassment rates are likely to be as high, resulting in hate crimes. But the Bureau of Justice Statistics notes there is likely under-reporting of incidents against transgender people. In 2014, BOJ recorded 1,359 incidents and 15 murders of transgender people in the U.S. in 2015.

Contrast these figures to the EU. The EU has made stronger efforts to quantify the number of hate crimes against transgender people. A dedicated body collects this data, the Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) Project.

TMM reports, “Between 2008 and 2014, 1,612 reported killings of gender-variant/trans people in 62 countries have been documented, including 90 in 13 European countries.”

This is more than reported in the U.S., but in the U.S. reporting of these types of incidents remains suspect.

TMM’s work confirms what American justice and law enforcement officials know, but cannot yet prove; there is widespread under-reporting of hate crimes and attacks. For instance, in Europe, “although one in two trans persons is attacked or targeted through violence, threats or insults, only less than a quarter of hate-motivated incidents are reported to the police or other organisations, e.g. LGBT groups, general victim support services.”

It is likely the same here. If we had a full picture of the violence inflicted on transgender people, as they do in Europe, we might not be so ready to get behind ridiculous bills like North Carolina’s House Bill 2.