Today in Transphobia—Dateline: Missoula

by Shaker Lydia Encyclopedia

When I moved to Missoula three years ago, I was told that this town was a liberal oasis in the conservative desert that is Montana. University organizations and groups like the Student Assault Resource Center, The Curry Health Center's Transgender Therapy Group, and The UM Allies program promote this image, and do good work in the community to assist GLBQTI students and Missoulians. As a queer pansexual woman, I felt welcomed and hopeful getting in touch with a community that felt safe and welcoming.

However, when stories like bigots protesting "a city ordinance that would protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity" strike Missoula, I'm not surprised. No amount of candlelit vigils, rainbow bumper stickers, or welcoming posters can change the fact that Missoula and Montana at large remains a highly homophobic, transphobic society. Each instance is a painful prod, reminding us that we are still second-class citizens who are not considered worthy for protection under the law.

Onto the measure itself: It's familiar enough already. According to the article:
In a news release available at, notes a lengthy list of concerns with the ordinance. The group fears the law would create "a government assigned sex," cost businesses money "to provide toilet facilities," and possibly "force ministers to perform homosexual marriages."

But chairman Tei Nash said the chief concern is the safety of women and children in public restrooms. He said the ordinance would give a man who "is female affirmed" the freedom to use women's restrooms.
Sound familiar? Every time a measure to protect trans and genderqueer people comes up, the bathroom fallacy is almost inevitable to follow—as though sexual predators will wait for the bureaucratic red tape to be cut and the smoke to clear before busting into the women's bathroom to assault cisgender women and children.

To be clear...a predator is a predator. A sign with a stick figure wearing a dress on it is not going to stop a sexual predator. This legislation will not fling open doors across Missoula inviting them in.

As for creating a Government-assigned sex...well, isn't that ironic. Labels of gender are assigned to trans and genderqueer people from a young age, whether it fits them or not. Once we break away from these assigned labels, we become vulnerable to attacks from people like Tei Nash.

Trans and genderqueer people of Missoula are already using the bathroom, the one they feel safest using without having management called on them, not the one they may feel expresses their identity correctly. This is nothing new. But with this legislation, trans and genderqueer people of Missoula can breathe easier knowing that they have some basic protections under the law to express themselves without being in a perpetual limbo of homelessness or joblessness.

NotMyBathroom is trying to turn this protective measure that would ensure safety and equality for Missoulians into a battle, but after three years, I'm ready to fight for my rights, as well as the rights of my fellow queer, trans, and genderqueer Missoulians.

This is not about bathrooms. The only thing remotely related is the possibility of flushing away legal vulnerability for a community that has been trampled upon in Missoula for too long.

Shakers can email Missoula Mayor John Engen condemning bigotry and supporting protective laws here and write letters to the editor of the Missoulian here.

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