Boys Will Stay Boys

Sam Grinberg
Sam Grinberg
“Picture this: your 7-year-old daughter comes home from school in tears. You ask her what’s wrong and she says she’s afraid to go to the bathroom at school because a boy comes in while she’s there. You’re told that your daughter is telling the truth, but because the boy says he wants to be a girl, [the school’s] hands are tied.”

The Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit legal foundation, spread misleading information like this in order to challenge the California School Success and Opportunity Act, which became law in August 2013, and was designed to reduce discrimination against transgender students in California public schools.

The opposition argues that boys will declare that they are girls for the sole purpose of gaining access to girls’ spaces, like locker rooms and bathrooms. The way this campaign framed “boys” as a threat to the sanctity of female spaces is not unique, however. In a 2013 Gender & Society article, sociologists Kristen Schilt and Laurel Westbrook argue that women’s spaces are at the center of a debate about transgender rights. This derives from the belief that women are inherently vulnerable and men are dangerous. These differences, which are seen as rooted in biology and therefore immutable, are used to keep transgender individuals out of women’s spaces.

In this narrative, transgender girls are always and forever boys, and a boy who says he wants to be a girl is a dangerous “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who is simply seeking to get physically closer to helpless girls. This myth is just the latest way to paint transgender individuals as liars, females as weak, and ignore the real threats—which are to, not from, transgender girls.