In late 2015, then-presidential candidate Ben Carson argued that transgender individuals should not be able to use the bathrooms of their choice, notes Time. Instead, he said, they should be granted their own bathrooms. While this idea may seem like a fantastic solution to the transgender bathroom debate in theory, Carson’s suggestion would greatly harm transgender individuals.
“It’s not fair of them to make everyone else uncomfortable,” Carson said. “I think everybody has equal rights, but I’m not sure that anybody should have extra rights—extra rights when it comes to redefining everything for everybody else and imposing your view on everybody else.”
Essentially, Carson believes that allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice would grant the trans community an “extra right” at the expense of others’ comfort.
There are several reasons why this argument is harmful to transgender people. Firstly, as the Huffington Post notes, transgender-specific bathrooms would parallel segregation. During the Civil Rights Movement, the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal is inherently unequal.” Separating transgender people merely singles them out as different and dehumanizes them; it does not make them equal.
Additionally, transgender bathrooms would be extremely problematic by forcing transgender individuals out of the closet. Many members of the transgender community who are not yet out as transgender would feel uncomfortable making a statement by walking into a transgender bathroom. Allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice would leave the decision to come out up to each individual.
Lastly, designating a specific bathroom to transgender people is inherently degrading. Subordinate treatment would make transgender individuals—who are already oppressed by society—feel even more out of place in today’s society.
Creating transgender-specific bathrooms would only contribute to the stigma against trans individuals. Ultimately, allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice would avoid issues of outing and allow transgender people to keep their dignity.