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The debate over whether people must use the public bathroom of the gender they were born with continues to rage on. I can certainly empathize with parents who want to keep their children safe but here’s the thing: Their efforts to keep transgender individuals out of public restrooms is based on fear rather than facts.

In fact, CNN contacted law enforcement agencies across the 19 states that have anti-discrimination policies covering gender identity and found that, “None who answered reported any bathroom assaults after the policies took effect.” This survey further proves that fears over transgenders in our public restrooms are misguided.

There are individuals out there who actually are dangerous. They are the ones we should all be worried about.

When I was 7- or 8-years-old my brother had a birthday party at McDonald’s, a rite of passage for all kids of the ’80s. In the flurry of birthday noise I headed off to the restroom by myself. The restrooms were so close to the party that no one thought twice about it. Entering the restroom I remember seeing a very strange looking woman at the sink. Her hair was messy and black, her make-up didn’t look quite right and she smiled oddly at me, watching me in the mirror as I entered a bathroom stall.

I was always a nervous kid so I tried to talk myself out of being scared of this odd looking lady as I locked the door to my stall, assuming I was paranoid as usual. But when her feet moved so close to my stall I could see her toes and when she leaned on my stall door enough to make it move against the lock, my nervousness turned to terror. I began screaming for my mom. I yelled and I yelled but this stranger didn’t say a word, didn’t move away from my stall, and never offered to get my mom. That’s when I knew things were as bad as I feared.

After what seemed like ages to my terrified self, my mom came into the bathroom and a flurry of events ensued once I told her what had happened. I remember police and hushed conversations and mentions of that woman in the bathroom not being a woman at all. When I was old enough to understand my mom explained that my suspicions were correct. That scary woman in the bathroom wasn’t a woman; it was a man hastily disguising himself as female for the purpose of tricking a child and taking her. The police explained to her that with restaurants so close to the freeway, unfortunately this type of child predator was more common than anyone would like to think.

A man who is born feeling so strongly that he should be female that he slowly turns himself into one, hoping to become more comfortable with his identity, will be heading into the women’s bathroom for one reason alone: to use it. He has no interest in your children. He is dressed as a woman because he identifies as one and therefore uses the only restroom that makes sense. Imagine if he takes great care with his clothing and make up to the point where he is unrecognizable as a male and heads into a men’s bathroom. Isn’t that more confusing? Doesn’t that stand out more? Make our children more uncomfortable?

When it comes to public restrooms we need to worry about people waiting to prey on our children when they are alone. Whether out of convenience or the belief that nothing bad will happen, most of us send our kids into public restrooms alone from the time they no longer need our assistance. But even in the ’80s, when we were all sent into the neighborhood with instructions not to return home until dark, there were predators lurking in places our parents couldn’t have predicted in their wildest dreams.

We all want to keep our children young and innocent and safe from harm so let’s focus our efforts on what’s really important. A man who identifies as a woman or a woman who identifies as a man will be using the restroom for the exact same reason as the rest of us. Imagine the resources and energy we would free up to work at keeping harmful people out of where they don’t belong if we’d let go of not allowing the harmless people in.

Photo: Getty