Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal
A national group of “radical feminists” more commonly associated with fights for abortion and gay rights has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of two Albuquerque women they say are at risk of greater violence, discomfort and oppression because of transgender policies in public schools.
The suit seeks to block federal guidelines issued in May 2016 that instruct schools to allow transgender people to use bathroom and school facilities aligned with their self-identified gender instead of their genitalia.
The group, Women’s Liberation Front, or WoLF, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque on Thursday saying two of its New Mexico members who are identified in the court documents as “AB and AB’s mother” have a “well-founded fear” they will have to “share such facilities with people who are biologically male” and that puts them at “imminent, traceable” risk.
“The reinterpretation of ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity’ also means that girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms must be opened up to any male who ‘identifies’ as female,” the group says on its website.
And in the suit, the group says “as a female, she is more vulnerable to assault or rape (including impregnation) when she is in isolated or closed areas with men.”
WoLF spokeswoman and board member Kara Dansky said there are “many, many” news reports of women being assaulted in bathrooms by men dressed as women.
But transrights activist Adrien Lawyer said those incidents are of “sexual predators behaving as sexual predators” not “people who truly identify as transgender women.” And he said there have been no reports of transstudents assaulting peers in school bathrooms. He pointed to a 2013 UCLA study showing that transpeople do experience violence in bathrooms matching their sex instead of their gender.
“We already have existing rules and laws against sexual assault,” Lawyer said. “In fact, the data shows that transpeople are harmed in the bathroom. We aren’t the assailants. We are the victims.”
The solution to the fear and risk of transwomen in bathrooms is to block the federal guidelines or alter them, Dansky said Friday in a phone interview from New York.
Blocking them would return public schools to using male- and female-only facilities, presumably based on genitalia, though Dansky said her group doesn’t “talk about it in terms of genitalia.”
Altering the guidelines, she said, could introduce other options, including requiring three bathroom and facility spaces, one for males, one for females and one open or neutral facility.
But that is the essence of discrimination, said Lawyer, codirector of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
“At school, you’re saying I have to be the person to walk all the way across campus to use the nurse’s bathroom because I’m trans?” Lawyer said. “This is protecting against an enemy that doesn’t really exist, and we’re marginalizing in the name of women’s equality and safety.”
Lawyer, who said he lived as a female lesbian for 20 years, said he understands the desire to have protected and safe spaces. Lawyer acknowledges the long-standing struggle in some lesbian communities about accepting transwomen, who are people born with male genitals but who identify as women. The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, held for more than 40 years, struggled in its final sessions over controversy because they excluded transwomen.
“I have the same genitals as (Dansky) and people would lose their mind if I went into a women’s bathroom. I have a beard,” Lawyer said. “We’re not our genitals.”
But we’re not our gender either, Dansky and her group argue. The group says on its website that gender is “a hierarchical caste system that organizes male supremacy. Gender cannot be reformed – it must be abolished.”
“First and foremost, we think the whole concept of gender identity is problematic and has not been sufficiently studied to justify the legal protection,” Dansky said. “We know that biological sex is grounded in science.”
On this note, WoLF is in line with groups it is often at odds with on other social issues.
The Albuquerque Public Schools board’s most conservative member, Peggy Muller-Aragón, has been the most vocal critic of allowing transgender people to use facilities different than their genitalia.
In March, months before the federal guidelines were released, APS administration enacted its transgender bathroom policy.
At the time, Peggy Muller-Aragón objected – as WoLF now does – that the decision was made without a board vote, saying the policy could traumatize kids by exposing them to “the body parts of the opposite sex.” WoLF says in its suit that the federal government also violated procedure by implementing the guidelines without input or notice.
Dansky said the policy is undoing the equality that her group has worked for, Dansky said.
Her group has set up a GoFundMe account to fund the lawsuit. As of Friday, it had raised more than $10,000 of its $75,000 goal.