Several conservative news outlets, like Breitbart, shared the recent story of a Pennsylvania man who was arrested for filming young girls inside of a store’s bathroom. Conservative media used the story to justify new anti-LGBT “bathroom laws” which claim that allowing people to use the bathroom of their identified gender would make children accessible to sexual predators.
What many readers don’t know is that the Pennsylvania arrest was completely unrelated to transgender issues.
James Thomas Shoemaker, 19, was arrested after taking pictures of women and young girls while hiding in a bathroom stall. Shoemaker never claimed to be transgender, and even if he did, his actions would still be explicitly illegal.
Filming individuals in a bathroom is illegal in nearly every jurisdiction, as the act violates their reasonable expectation of privacy. Although many anti-LGBT lawmakers and pundits believe that privacy would be at risk if “men” could use women’s bathrooms, there is no evidence to support that claim.
It's starting. Just an example of what's on its way with this new bathroom situation. More to come.for sure. https://t.co/kECOWrjPJC
— A Greater Country (@agreatercountry) April 22, 2016
Snopes.com, a popular site that debunks urban legends, media myths, and hoaxes, looked at the Pennsylvania arrest and pointed out that Shoemaker never made any claims that he was transgender and that the specific case is completely unrelated to new transgender bathroom laws and policies. Snopes also referenced several other cases that conservatives use to critique new bathroom laws, and debunked all of them. Overall, the right wing viral story was rated as “Mostly False.”
Claims that such behavior was a result of transgender individuals using bathrooms were easily disproved. Incidents of the same (illegal) nature occurred at least two times in 2011, again in 2012, and another three times in 2013. In all cases, the incidents made the news because filming people in bathrooms without their knowledge or consent was (and remains) illegal.
In fact, most transgender activists are not pushing for biologically-born men to use women’s bathrooms (and vice versa), but for private bathrooms that could safely and comfortable accommodate anyone of any gender.
Featured image: James Thomas Shoemaker (Fox 43)