How Do Jim Crow Laws Relate to Transgender Issues?

Transgender issues began to emerge in the 20th century and continued into the 21st century. During the second decade of the century, a major issue involving this group involved access to public restrooms. For some individuals the social issue mirrored a time of the earlier 20th century in which people were treated differently due to their race.

Jim Crow Laws

After slavery was abolished, some laws were established to segregate African Americans and Caucasians. These laws came to be known as Jim Crow laws, named after a character that the white entertainer Thomas Dartmouth Rice created to symbolize a slave performing a song and dance act. This combination of laws helped to sustain a racial caste system, most noticeably in the south. Jim Crow laws influenced and were influenced by religion, education, employment and other societal institutions to propagate the racial inferiority of the African American race.

De jure segregation, or forced segregation, was the result of such laws that provided for separate facilities for African Americans to
go to the bathroom, drink water and attend school. These laws forced African American citizens into a second-class citizen role in the country, lasting from just after the Civil War to approximately 1965. Many jobs were unavailable and sources of income were scarce for the non-white population.

For many years, the courts upheld this system of laws, predicated on the belief that discrimination was not present when “separate but equal” accommodations were provided. However, in 1954 in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, Chief Justice Earl Warren found that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” effectively toppling over the system of segregated public schools. The fight for equal rights of African Americans raged on, eventually culminating in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Transgender Bathroom Issues

During the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the new social issue pertained to whether transgender individuals had the right to go to public bathrooms that corresponded to their gender identity or if they would be relegated to bathrooms that matched their sex at birth. Some lawmakers have suggested creating separate facilities that only transgender individuals can use.

Biological Factors

Some individuals are born with both sex organs. There are more types of sex than just male and female. Intersex is the condition where genitalia may be a mixture of the two. When this occurs, many parents will choose with a doctor one sex or another. If the sex chosen goes against the internal biology of the patient’s body, hormones or testosterone may be required to maintain the outward appearance of the choice. For example, parents of a child born with a combination of male and female genitalia may decide to raise a child as female.

Rare instances may have the girl changing when puberty arises with male hormones and body hair. To ensure the child stays female, they may administer hormones for the outward appearance matching the medical change they decided upon. Intersex may lead to a type of gender dysphoria. Confusion of which gender a person belongs to easily arises when sexual organs don’t match only one gender, or they match the opposite gender the person grew up with.

However, not every transgender case corresponds with such biological factors. In many cases, a transgender person believes that he or she was intended to be the opposite sex. Alternatively, he or she may identify with the gender whose social construct matches his or her ideology.

Jim Crow Argument for Transgender Individuals

Transgender individuals and their supporters draw a parallel between the discrimination that these individuals are facing and the discrimination that African Americans experienced in previous decades. For example, policies were considered to provide for “separate” transgender restrooms, reviving the inherently unequal rationale.

Non-Discrimination Ordinances

Many non-discrimination ordinances have been put in place to provide transgender individuals with greater protections than they are afforded under federal law. At the time of publication, 14 states and over 200 cities and municipalities have passed such ordinances. These ordinances often provide that a transgender person has the right to go to the public restroom facility that conforms to his or her gender identity. In these locations, it is often illegal for a business owner, state governmental agency or even private citizen to attempt to restrict a transgender person’s restroom use.

Arguments Against Transgender Bathroom Use

Some proponents who are opposed to the idea of transgender individuals using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity state that they are afraid that their children may be subject to sexual assault or perversion. They fear that a man dressed as a woman will use this as a disguise to prey on other women or children.

Statistics and Education

Thorough investigations into potential violence perpetrated by transgender individuals against others when using the restroom have yielded zero instances of these actions in the United States. No evidence has been found to prove any allegations to be founded, despite lawmakers continuously pointing to this possibility as rationale to oppose non-discrimination acts.

Legal Assistance

Due to the ever-changing landscape of laws affecting the LGBT community, individuals who believe that they are being discriminated against or forced to follow archaic Jim Crow laws may wish to consult with a lawyer familiar in these issues. Different states and cities have different laws that may apply to the case, and a legal challenge may even be made even in the absence of a local or state

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Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case.

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