COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Using, or not being able to use, a specific public restroom is suddenly now a hot topic of debate.
But public bathrooms are not really a new battleground - at least when it comes to civil rights.
Public restrooms have played a role in many civil rights struggles.
Many younger people may not remember when the racist saying "whites only" and "colored only" were fixtures outside nearly every Southern public restroom or posted over drinking fountains back in the fifties and early sixties.
Then, more recently, mandates were legislated for restrooms to accommodate the disabled. Those "bathroom wars" needed to be won because they truly affected millions and millions of people facing vicious discrimination on a daily basis.
The recent debate about which restrooms ought to be used by transgender people is intensely polarizing, especially after one Alabama city just passed a law making it a crime to use a restroom different from the one that reflects your gender at birth.
Meanwhile, Target is in the news for allowing transgender customers and employees to use any restroom they associate with, regardless of birth gender.
So it may be worth considering that the transgender "bathroom wars" being fought right now will probably not be much of a practical concern for most people on a daily basis.
That's because less than 3% of the total population of 320 million people are thought to be transgender, according to the US Census Bureau and even the Census Bureau admits those numbers may not be accurate. So the public outcry for transgender protection in the wake of the laws in Alabama and North Carolina, can seem out of proportion to the small population these particular laws aim to address.
Of course, saying that the number of transgender people is small, does not diminish the issue of discrimination for them. No doubt the use of public restrooms is a very sensitive issue for those people affected.
But putting the transgender numbers in perspective should at least help put the general public restroom safety concerns in perspective, too….in other words, any illegal acts that might happen in a public restroom are still illegal – no matter who commits them. Whether or not transgender people are able to choose their public restroom doesn't change that.