Are you kidding me?
Let me start with a story.
About four years ago, I met a fellow helicopter pilot who had just finished up her training. I’ll call her Alice. Alice was slender, kind of pretty, and friendly, with an upbeat personality and a positive outlook — the kind of person I like to help when I can. Like most new pilots, she needed to build flight time. When it came time for me to fly my helicopter from my old home in Wickenburg, AZ to my new home in the Wenatchee area of Washington, I invited her to come along for the 8-10 hour flight. Although she wanted to come, a logistical misunderstanding prevented it and I made the flight alone.
Not long afterwards, Alice and I became friends on Facebook. That’s when I noticed that she shared a lot of links to LGBT-related articles. I assumed she was a lesbian — I know quite a few! — and was very surprised when I realized from her Facebook posts that she had been born male.
We had a conversation going in Facebook Messaging and even though that was back in 2013, it’s still there for me to consult. Here’s a pared down part of that conversation:
Me: Honestly, I didn’t even know you were transgender until you started mentioning it on Facebook. While I know it’s important to you that everyone accept transgender people as just regular people, I had already accepted you as a regular person — a woman.
Alice: First let me say thank you! You have just given me an amazing compliment (probably without realizing it). To be recognized and accepted as a woman is really a huge compliment to me and means so much that it’s really hard to explain. I have worked incredibly hard towards the goal of being accepted as a woman and the journey has been the most difficult and challenged thing I’ve ever encountered.
There’s more to the conversation, including me urging her to just be a woman and not identify as transgender and her concerns about bathroom use. I guess I was displaying my naivety when I said:
Me: In your public persona, be the woman you are. I can’t imagine anyone challenging you if you use a ladies restroom. Why worry about it?
Her response was chilling:
Alice: It’s been a problem for me in the past, and being arrested as a sex offender for using a restroom is very high on my list of nightmares. Especially in Maricopa County where Sheriff Joe’s reputation for treating Trans* people in his jails is abysmal. I’ve been told by an employer that I have to leave their property to find a unisex bathroom. I’ve been asked to leave the bathroom in a restaurant. I’ve been physically blocked from using a bathroom in a restaurant with the owner threatening to call the police on me if I entered the women’s room. To this day, even though I feel that I generally ‘pass’ as a woman, I’m still scared to use a public restroom without first having a friend ‘check it out’ to see if it’s empty. The ‘bathroom’ issue is actually one of the most prominent in my everyday life. Statistically speaking, it’s also one of the most dangerous activities a trans* person does in any given day. Again, I ‘pass’ pretty well so it’s not that much of a safety concern for me, but the anxiety from when I didn’t ‘pass’ is still very much present in my mind.
I have the entire conversation saved and if I thought it wouldn’t be violating her privacy, I’d share it here to help people understand more about what transgender people are dealing with. But I’ll stick to the issue at hand: bathrooms.
First let me sum this up. Here’s a person who looks like a woman, talks like a woman, acts like a woman, and is thrilled when she’s recognized as a woman. (I honestly had no idea she wasn’t born a woman.) Clearly, she identifies as a woman. Why on earth wouldn’t she use a woman’s bathroom?
I can’t even imagine her using a men’s room.
The Conservative Sex Problem
The problem is this: Conservatives in America have a problem with sex.
They’re completely hung up on it. They think they’re supposed to believe that sex is for one purpose: making babies. They think they’re supposed to believe that sex for enjoyment or to feel closer to their mate or because it’s a natural part of being alive is bad and dirty.
So it follows that any kind of sex that isn’t to make a baby is bad.
Premarital sex? Can’t have a baby without being married. Bad! (This also explains why they rely so heavily on abstinence sex education rather than teaching kids about condoms and safe sex. Shouldn’t be doing it at all because it’s bad!)
Gays or lesbians having sex with someone of the same gender? No way to make a baby there so it’s bad!
Boy feeling more like a girl than a boy? How can he make babies if he turns into a girl? Bad!
Girl feeling more like a boy than a girl? How can she make babies he she turns into a boy? Bad!
So rather than try to understand these things and recognize the fact that there are all kinds of natural differences in sexuality, conservatives fall back on what they think they’re supposed to believe and they act (or react) accordingly.
It’s ironic to me that the political party that whines the most about government interference in our lives is the same party that unceasingly tries to enact laws governing sex and gender related issues. But I digress.
Not Everyone is as Creepy as Mike Huckabee
Back in February 2015, then presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, in a speech to fellow conservatives, made the following comment:
Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE,” Huckabee continued. “I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.’
Apparently, he made a similar comment back in 2013.
You see, in the small, closed minds of conservatives, the only reason a male might want to go into a woman’s bathroom or locker room is to peep at (or do worse to) a woman. They can’t imagine a person who honestly identifies as a member of the opposite gender just wanting to do what’s natural: use the restroom for the gender he or she identifies with.
Conservatives hung up on this issue seem to think that gender identity is something that a person can switch on or off based on convenience or motives. Teenage Mike Huckabee wants to peep at girls so he finds his feminine side for the day. (I guess looking at porn isn’t enough.)
To them, it’s all about sex and ulterior motives and creepy guys wanting to do something nasty in a ladies room.
Funny how they’re never worried about women who identify as men wanting to use the men’s room, huh?
I don’t profess to know all the answers, but I do know this: I’m a woman who identifies as a woman and can use a women’s restroom. If Alice walked in, I probably wouldn’t look twice at her. If someone who was not quite as feminine looking as Alice but who clearly identified as a woman walked in, I would try not to stare and would certainly not challenge her. She has enough crap to deal with; why add more?
But if Mike Huckabee walked in, I’d scream “Rape!” at the top of my lungs. You have to keep creeps like that out of the ladies room.
What’s the Solution?
The solution is to do away with gender-specific restrooms.
I heard a great story on an NPR program, PRI’s The World, yesterday that explains how gender-specific bathrooms came into being in the United States. Called “Why a 1920s legal move is responsible for the gender-segregated bathrooms we have today,” it discussed the cultural ideology of women’s place in the home and, later, in the workforce.
Terry S. Kogan, a University of Utah law professor explains it this way:
“American regulators began figuring out ways of trying to, in effect, protect women in the public, since they could not be forced back into the home,” Kogan says. “So you find a range of architectural solutions, all of which was, in a way, an attempt to create a private haven and protective space for women in the public realm.”
But the idea of protecting women has often been used as an excuse to advance other agendas. For example, many lawmakers argue that strict abortion laws will help keep women safe, but advocates point out that putting barriers in front of reproductive services actually make things more dangerous for women. Additionally, those that favored bathroom segregation laws that discriminated against black Americans during the Jim Crow era also claimed such laws were designed to protect white women and children.
Nevertheless, gender-segregated bathrooms were written into the fabric of American society in the 1920s with the rise the uniform building code.
“It was a movement aimed at various building officials — engineers, architects, contractors, building material dealers,” Kogan says. “[They were] coming together, trying to adopt a code that could be enacted hook, line, and sinker by cities around the country and ensure adequate public safety, health, and welfare in new construction. Hidden in the midsts of the first uniform building code from 1927 is a provision that says, ‘Where there are public restrooms in buildings, they shall be separated by sex.’”
With those words, Kogan says, the “Separate Spheres Ideology” was written into law and carried into the 20th century. Today, many advocates of HB2 argue that women and children must be “protected” from transgender people in public bathrooms.
Listen to the story. There’s a lot more.
Another thing I heard on NPR yesterday — although I can’t seem to track down a link to it — is a discussion of possible alternatives. For example, why not have a urinal room that would obviously be used by people capable of using a urinal? And then have a restroom for every other bathroom use by either gender? If privacy is a concern, make the bathroom stalls fully enclosed with lockable doors — like they already are in many high-end hotels and conference centers. (And apparently in the U.K., according to one friend who was appalled by the metal bathroom stalls to be found in U.S. restrooms.)
It seems to me that multi-person restrooms have two parts: the toilet part where you do the business you likely came in for and probably want privacy for and the sink/mirror part where you’re hopefully washing your hands and possibly fixing your face or hair or maybe adjusting your slip (do people still wear those?) or bra strap. I’ve never seen a woman expose herself in the sink/mirror part of a ladies room. So who cares if there are men in there?
Oh, that’s right. Conservatives. So worried about creepy men.
I’ve got news for conservatives: I’ve seen more creepy men out in the open — including a guy in a business suit masturbating on 40th Street near the corner of 6th Avenue in Manhattan at 4:30 in the afternoon — than I ever will in a ladies room. And I’m not even counting the last time I saw Mike Huckabee on television.
But I guess this problem won’t be resolved until the close-minded sex-obsessed conservatives lose this battle, too. Like the one for gay marriage.
If only they’d learn to mind their own fucking business. (No pun intended.)