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What do trans people really do in bathrooms? Web series flushes fear

A new video series, “Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People," has some answers.
Ninth graders Tehya Vining, left, and Christian Jarboe talk after walking for the first time into a gender neutral bathroom at Nathan Hale high school, May 17, 2016, in Seattle. (Photo by Elaine Thompson/AP)
Ninth graders Tehya Vining, left, and Christian Jarboe talk after walking for the first time into a gender neutral bathroom at Nathan Hale high school, May 17, 2016, in Seattle. 

For some, the idea of having to go to the bathroom with a transgender person might be a scary thought. That’s why comedian Dylan Marron decided to show just how normal of an experience it can be.

In his new web series, “Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People,” Marron and his transgender guest of the day take part in your typical, run-of-the-mill bathroom behavior — eating waffles, drinking beer, ribbon dancing with toilet paper, and having a sit-down interview.

Okay, so maybe not quite “typical” behavior, but certainly nothing to be afraid of.

“What I wanted to do here was completely humanize the issue,” Marron told MSNBC in a recent phone interview. “To have an honest, human, warm, emotional conversation with a trans person in the bathroom is just basically saying, ‘Hey viewer, this is something I want you to open your heart to.’”

Produced for Seriously.TV, the series seeks to educate viewers about what it really means to be transgender at a time when lawmakers across the country are pushing legislation that would bar people from using the bathroom in line with their gender identity. For most people, such policies aren’t a problem. But for transgender people, whose expressed or experienced gender differs from the one assigned to them at birth, these bills amount to unlawful discrimination, according to some courts’ determination.

By far the most notorious of these measures to become law this year is North Carolina’s House Bill 2, an act which also barred municipalities from enforcing nondiscrimination ordinances that are more expansive than the state’s. Last week, North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the U.S. Department of Justice sued each other, with each taking an opposing stand on whether HB 2 violates existing federal prohibitions on sex discrimination. Days later, the Obama administration issued a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the county to grant transgender students access to the bathrooms that match their gender identity.

RELATED: HB 2 and North Carolina’s tipping point

Supporters of measures like HB 2 say such policies are necessary to protect people — usually meaning women and young girls — from potential predators who may be masquerading as transgender. However, no one has been able to show any evidence of an increase in bathroom-related assaults happening in states where nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people exist. Some defenses of laws like HB 2 are even sillier. Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa on Tuesday said that Obama’s bathroom directive will lead to “a bunch of sweaty women around” since they won’t feel comfortable showering at school.

It’s these arguments that Marron hopes his series will dispel.

“I think these laws really play into people’s fears,” he said. “When you are told to watch out for something, even if it’s something you were never aware of before, the culture of fear that comes from that kind of spins out of control. And what these laws do, when they make people feel marginalized, is that they are basically telling the majority that these people don’t matter as much.”

RELATED: Despite drawing conservative judge, Gov. McCrory faces long odds in legal fight over HB 2

It’s not the first time Marron has waded into political waters with his comedy. Last year, in response to mounting outrage over the film industry’s lack of diversity, he created a different web series that edited Hollywood’s whitest productions down to only the few seconds in which a person of color had dialogue. Like that project, which had personal significance to Marron as a biracial actor, “Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People” means a great deal to him as well.

“I personally care about this issue,” Marron said. “Gender policing is something I definitely experienced as a queer man. But since I’m not trans, it is an issue that I want to throw myself behind as an ally. … This is a way to open hearts and minds through comedy.”