This is our truth, tell us yours
Content note transphobia, childhood sexual abuse.
We have talked a lot here of the unholy alliance of the Christian right and exclusionary radical feminists. For quite a while terfs have claimed that the major rape threat any woman faces is when going to the bathroom. Unconcerned it seems with protecting women from actual rape they have ramped up a bathroom panic around trans people using the bathroom appropriate to their gender.
It seems the right in America, not satisfied with removing various rights to bodily autonomy have clambered aboard this bandwagon and are running with it. (Is that a mixed metaphor? I dgif, I am sickened, angry and tired.) In Virginia today a law was passed which will allow adults to demand to inspect the genitals of children before they use the bathroom,
Let me say that again Virginia has passed a law which means any predator or pedophile who gets a job in the school system can say to a child you must now let me inspect your genitals. Tim Peacock makes clear here that such checks would in fact be the only way to comply with the law.
. Local school boards shall develop and implement policies that require every school restroom, locker room, or shower room that is designated for use by a specific gender to solely be used by individuals whose anatomical sex matches such gender designation.
I genuinely feel physically sick.
I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and one of the things I know is that you cannot spot a predator. We are obsessed with the idea of danger strangers, a comforting fiction that somehow you can know who abuses children and who doesn’t. People also seem to think that criminal records checks protect children, as if they aren’t the prime example of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. For someone to have a criminal record a child has already had to be harmed, and given the low reporting rates of childhood sexual abuse, its a fact that far more people are abusing than are ever reported. Which is no surprise when those who come forward with historical claims are treated as liars or worse.
A conversation Carter and I have is around nodes, how abusers connect, share information, and very often victims. Every large scale investigation into CSA shows that these nodes exist. As the North wales care home scandal highlighted, they protect each other too. A law that allows predators to abuse children in schools will attract those who will cover up when inspections turn into touching, when complaints are made, when the request to look takes place in a locked office, when parents are told their child is making things up.
Legal child abuse now exists, and why? Because the unholy alliance think that protecting children matters less than harming trans people. Trans children are of course forgotten in all of this, their very existence ignored. The Virginia bill means any gender non conforming child (cis or trans) can now be targeted by sexual predators. This in a country where a child was sent home from school for having short hair. Given that there are few secondary sex characteristic visible in prepubescent children the framing of the law means it is the youngest, least able to question, most vulnerable, children who are at highest risk.
“anatomical sex” means the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person’s anatomy.
Leaving aside for a moment that only the unholy alliance ignore science so spectacularly this means every child who does not dress, and act in accordance with the most rigid cis gender norms is now a target of legal child abuse.
Intersex children will either have to return to the harmful “stealth” mode of existence pretending to be one gender or the other (which research has shown can be incredibly damaging) or have an adult inspect and determine what their genitals most resemble, a horrific prospect for an already marginalised and exploited group. There is a strong possibility different adults will make different decisions, further harming an intersex childs mental well being.
All children deserve to have bodily autonomy. Child abuse prevention programmes talk of giving the children the power to say no, of how the “swim suit” areas are private. In one law Virginia is telling children those areas are not private, that adults can demand the right to see them at any time. If children are taught that their genitals are public property in one sphere, they will carry that knowledge into others. Any attempt to protect children from abuse will crumble in a state where abuse is now written into its laws.