Book chapter

Transgender-Specific Policy: Gender Identity Inclusion in Public Accommodations (2020)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Abstract

In the early 21st century the public debates about the inclusion of gender identity in public accommodations municipal ordinances and statewide and national laws represent another step in the ongoing struggle of the social movement seeking to advance the rights and liberties of lesbians, gay men, bisexual, transgender, and other queer (LGBTQ) people. Situating these current debates in the larger context of the LGBTQ movement connects this emergent issue to that broader struggle. The LGBTQ social movement and its counter-movement, often referred to as the Religious Right, have had numerous battles over social policy since the late 20th century. Importantly, movements and their counter-movements identify winning strategies and, at times, tactically innovate so as to effect a shift in current tactics in light of a failing strategy. Tactical innovation includes shifting policy debates, which has been a primary tactic of the counter-movement to LGBTQ rights. Transgender rights broadly and public accommodations policies specifically represent a tactical innovation in the ongoing development of LGBTQ rights in the United States.How has gender identity inclusion in public accommodations been addressed in politics, policy, and law? There are numerous dimensions of gender identity public accommodations policies as understood in social movements, American law, public policy and administration, public opinion, and sociology and social psychology. Public accommodations are a constant source of public contention. The legal landscape in constitutional, federal, state, and municipal approaches to these policies remains uncertain, and there are competing interpretations of law in whether gender identity protections are covered in existing federal statutes. The rhetoric of the policy debates in both state legislatures and initiative and referendum campaigns primarily focuses on the potential harms to women and girls brought about by men taking advantage of such laws to assault them in sex-segregated public facilities. An account of public opinion about these policies also shows that American adults are far more divided about transgender people using restrooms consistent with their current gender identity than other aspects of transgender rights such as employment nondiscrimination policies. Experimental interventions, such as in-depth conversations encouraging people to consider the day in the life of a transgender person, reduce transphobia and make people more resistant to arguments opposed to the inclusion of gender identity in public accommodations laws. Finally, some have questioned whether sex classifications are needed in public policy and how current non-discrimination laws achieve their stated goals without such a system. Further development and inquiry absolutely are needed in all these areas.