By Aren Framil, Co-Design Editor In the past few months, more than 20 politicians, school board members and community leaders nationwide have spread the rumor that schools are providing litter boxes for children who identify as cats in school bathrooms, according to an NBC News article. This is a shocking statement, and for those who...
By Aren Framil, Co-Design Editor
In the past few months, more than 20 politicians, school board members and community leaders nationwide have spread the rumor that schools are providing litter boxes for children who identify as cats in school bathrooms, according to an NBC News article. This is a shocking statement, and for those who believe these allegations and shake their fists at the news — “The education system is indoctrinating our kids!”— it contributes to anti-trans panic.
The notion of people identifying as animals, cats or otherwise, is taken from the idea of xenogenders. Xenogenders are genders defined not by relation to “male” or “female,” but by other ideas not usually associated with gender, such as animals, plants and other things, as defined by the Non-binary Wiki. People who identify with xenogenders do not identify as the things themselves, however, merely in relation to them; the claim that children are identifying as cats is inaccurate.
Politicians also blame furries for the litter box rumors, another mischaracterization. The furry subculture involves people dressing up in anthropomorphic animal suits, and has nothing directly to do with gender identity or identifying as animals. Furries and xenogenders are entirely separate things, but both are blamed interchangeably for the alleged litter boxes, a clear indicator of the lack of understanding on these topics.
But let’s set the record straight. Schools aren’t putting litter boxes in bathrooms. Every school accused of providing litter boxes by these politicians has refuted their claims, and the one Colorado school district that does keep litter in schools, Jefferson County School District, does so in case of a school shooting, according to NBC. The stupidity of these accusations may seem obvious to some, and as far as rumors go, they’re quite far-fetched. However, the fact that this urban myth has wormed its way into serious political debate forebodes something much, much worse for transgender and non-binary students.
Around 1.6% of adults identify with a gender different than the sex they were assigned at birth, according to a 2022 Pew research study. Yet, anti-trans legislation has been coming up in record high numbers, with CBS reporting that over 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were proposed in 2022 so far, 155 of which target trans individuals specifically.
What does this have to do with schools and litter boxes? The litter box rumor, like many others, is a fearmongering tool, used to rally support for anti-trans political agendas under the sensationalist threats transgender people supposedly pose to children. First, it was about physical advantages in sports, then grooming and now something as implausible as litter boxes in schools. All these accusations are baseless.
The point isn’t to prove that these accusations are true, though. These rumors draw on the preexisting biases of many Americans, solidifying their belief that trans individuals pose a threat to society.
This trend of blaming trans individuals for everything under the sun will persist, as it has in the past, if left unaddressed. Singling out those in the trans community deemed “weird” or “unseemly” comes from a place of fearful ignorance and promotes the idea of being “acceptably trans,” where only certain identities are worthy of respect. Ostracizing certain people from a community just because others don’t understand their identity or find it odd is just another form of transphobia and bigotry.
Those who identify with xenogenders aren’t harming the trans community; they are simply a scapegoat for hateful ideologies. To create an inclusive and, above all, safe environment for students of all genders, it is necessary to call out purposefully inflammatory misinformation, and recognize the genuine harm it causes.
Aren Framil can be reached at [email protected]
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