TW: discussion of sexual assault and laws relating to it.
Recently a person was arrested an is awaiting trial after claiming to be a trans woman and sexually assaulting two cis women in a shelter. The details are here: http://www.torontosun.com/2014/02/15/shocking-case-proves-tobys-law-is-flawed
So, let's talk about the problems inherent in how we're talking about cases like this on both sides:
Firstly Cis folks? Just because this particular individual claimed to be a trans woman and then proceeded to assault vulnerable people while in a shelter? Does not mean that outlawing trans women from using the facilities for women would protect Cis women.
There are plenty of countries where no law such as Toby's law exists and those countries still have cases of heterosexual cis men dressing as women in order to harass, assault and mistreat cis women. All laws protecting Trans individuals right to use the bathroom of their gender identity do is to enshrine that right, their absence or existence does not change the behaviour of Cis male predators.
Secondly? Let's talk about the real facts. Fact is cis women are more likely to be hit by lightening than to be assaulted by either a trans individual or a individual pretending to be trans anywhere. Yes, the trans community sometimes has predators, and sometimes predators pretend to belong to a group in order to prey upon them and others. The truth is still that overwhelmingly Cis women are vastly more likely to assaulted by someone they know, such as a boyfriend, family member, Husband, or family friend than by some unknown to them Trans women or Cis male stranger in a bathroom.
Yet you'd think laws like Toby's law were filling bathrooms and shelters with cis male predators dressed like women and that cis women were being assaulted by them at an astounding rate from the coverage, except that isn't so. Protecting women, cis or trans is important, but we all need to look at the facts rather than listening to the media that massively overblows them.
Thirdly? Cis women? I know you're scared, and yes, I know what socialisation does to brutalise you. The doctors said "congrats, it's a girl" when I was born as well even if they were wrong. But please remember and appreciate that trans individuals are being brutalised, that we suffer the same fear as you, that we will be assaulted and killed for who and what we are. In many ways the fear both groups are subject to is alike, we all have to fear Cis male predators in particular. So remember that we all want to be safe and don't dismiss the safety of Trans individuals as being less important than your own, perhaps then we can start to find solutions that keep us all safe.
On the Trans side?
Could we please stop acting like trans predators/cis male predators who dress as women and assault people don't exist? Yes, they're a tiny group. But they still do exist. It not only erases people like me who were sexually assaulted by a trans individual, but it also effectively gaslights cis women who even if they are overstating the problem can indeed read the reports of the rare occasions when it does happen.
Admitting their existence isn't a problem, what we should be stressing is how incredibly rare such cases are, and how barring trans individuals from bathrooms and shelters won't prevent any assaults on cis women by such predators but will put trans individuals especially trans women are risk of assault, and murder.
Could we also start appreciating that even if the fears of cis women are not in proportion to the rate of actual assaults by trans individuals/cis male predators presenting as trans? Those fears are still built on the intense socialisation in fear and being responsible for owing a body with a vagina those declared female at birth are subject to.
Those whose birth the doctor greets rightly or wrongly with "congratulations, it's a girl" are taught to be constantly afraid, constantly on our guard, because society blames us when we get assaulted. The ownership of a vagina imposes a heavy burden of responsibility, one that DFAB people carry for life and only get to put down in spaces where presumably no men are present. The result is DFAB people who live in a world where they are constantly in the trenches so to speak. It's really little wonder that DFAB people are more than a little twitchy and overprotective of those spaces where the world's blame for having a vagina can be at least temporarily left behind.
We really need to start realising that DFAB people are often in a state of shellshock at the way the world has always treated them and making allowances for the effects of said shellshock.
We've got to stop treating this socialised fear as unreasonable, especially since once we transition and especially if we don't pass, we're subject to it ourselves and end up in our own trenches. None of us would mock a trans individuals fear of assault since we know it happens, yet often we seem to fail to appreciate that in many ways Cis women and trans individuals are in the same trenches.
For both sides? We need to start listening to each others, Cis women with the exception of known hateful individuals aren't being afraid just to spite trans people, there are reasons behind it, and trans people are not deliberately trying to hurt Cis women. We need a solution that creates spaces in which we're all safe. We need dedicated Trans shelters, we need a world that doesn't make it so often the only work trans people can get is survival sex work, we need a world free from the rape culture that impacts DFAB people, Trans women, Cis women and Trans men, we need a world where everyone is safe, and the current conversations? Aren't helping to build that, they're just building walls between us.