North Carolina is currently mired in the aftermath of passing the controversial HB2 law that stipulates what public restrooms transgendered individuals can use in the Tar Heel State. One of the reasons the law was passed was the “bathroom panic” urban myth which conservatives have bandied about to scare people into thinking that sexual predators would exploit access to bathrooms unless laws like this one were passed. The trouble with the conservative position is that experts from a number of states and cities’ law enforcement agencies and civil rights commissions have routinely debunked this myth over the last few years, explicitly stating that there’s no correlation between trans protections in legislation and sexual assault.
• Colorado expanded an anti-discrimination in public accommodations law in 2008 to add “sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class.” In 2014, Alexa M. Priddy, director of training and communications at the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, told Media Matters there had been no reports of illegal behavior since the law was expanded.
• Connecticut passed a similar law in 2011 with a similar lack of incidents, with Jim O’Neill, legislative liaison and spokesman for the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights in Opportunities, telling Media Matters in an email, “I am unaware of any sexual assault as the result of the CT gender identity or expression law. I’m pretty sure it would have come to our attention.”
• Hawaii, 2006? No reports “of any incidents of sexual assault or rape causally related or attributed to the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression,” according to the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission in 2014. The report noted that they had seen rising reports of transgender students being bullied and harassed when forced to use restrooms they did not identity with, however.
• Iowa expanded its Civil Rights Act in 2007 to include similar protections and according to a Des Moines Police Department spokesperson, “We have not seen that. I doubt that’s gonna encourage the behavior. If the behavior’s there, [sexual predators are] gonna behave as they’re gonna behave no matter what the laws are.”
• In 2014, Executive Director Amy Sneirson of the Maine Human Rights Commission told Media Matters that after Maine passed legislation to this effect in 2005, “I am not aware of any increased sexual assault or rape in women’s restrooms” after protections were in place.
• Cambridge, Massachusetts passed a protections ordinance in 1997 and the city’s police superintendent, Christopher Burke, said there had been zero incidents 17 years later. After a state-wide law was enacted, Toni Troop, spokeswoman for the statewide sexual assault victims organization Jane Doe Inc., told Media Matters a similar statistic and added, “While cases of stranger rape and sexual violence occur, sexual violence is most often perpetrated by someone known to the victim and not a stranger in the bush or the bathroom.”
• Minnesota made these protections law in 1993. In 2014:
Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder told Media Matters in an interview that sexual assaults stemming from Minnesota’s 1993 transgender non-discrimination law have been “not even remotely” a problem. Based on his experience, the notion of men posing as transgender women to enter women’s restrooms to commit sex crimes “sounds a little silly,” Elder said.
• Las Vegas Police Department spokesman Jesse Roybal reported the same three years after the state adopted several trans protection laws.
• Albuquerque police had the same to say a decade-plus after New Mexico passed their anti-discrimination law.
• Rhode Island’s trans protections law has been on the books since 2001. When asked, Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights Executive Director Michael D. Evora, told Media Matters:
The Commission for Human Rights has not taken in any cases alleging gender identity discrimination in respect to bathroom usage in public facilities since the law was amended to prohibit such discrimination. In addition, we are not aware of any effect the passage of the law has had on incidents of assault in public restrooms.
• The Vermont Human Rights Commission is “not aware” of any problems as a result of the state passing its law in 2007. To wit, Montpelier Police Chief Tony Facos told Media Matters his department had no “complaints related to this issue.”
There you have it: letting transgender people use the public restroom they identify with does not lead to higher rates of sexual assault.