Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Trans sexuals and Bathrooms

Charlottte, North Carolina must be an interesting town.  Recently, it's city council passed an ordinance which would have allowed trans sexual people to use the bathroom of their choice, so people with penises who feel they are women trapped in a man's body could walk into a women's rest room and use the toilet there because that's where they feel they belong.

A similar measure was defeated by referendum in Houston.

The State of North Carolina promptly passed a law forbidding this access, pre empting the local ordinance.  The New York Times excoriated the Republican governor for signing the law.

As is the wont for such events, the justifications for the law and the criticisms of it have all been fundamentally dishonest or beside the point.

Advocates for the law said if trans sexuals  were allowed entry to bathrooms, sexual predators would have license to prey on children.  Critics said this law is an attempt to deny trans sexual individuals respect and basic human rights.

Little effort has been made to actually analyze the real issues here which are:

1. Why do we, in this country, separate males and females in bathrooms, where people go to defecate and/or urinate?  Not all countries do this. On at least some college campuses, bathrooms are coed.

2. What is a trans sexual  individual?

With respect to the practice of gender separation of bathrooms. The fact is we do this because we do not like the idea of women seeing men's penises in public, which a rest room sort of is.  Some of us worry about our wives or daughters walking into an enclosed semi private/ semi public space and seeing a stranger's penis, even if it is in the non sexual context of urinating. Either the man or the woman or both may feel uncomfortable with this exposure. 

If the toilet is walled off, i.e., their are no urinals, the problems might be diminished, although we tend to be a little squeamish about this sort of thing in this country.
No need to escalate this into the end of Western Civilization, with dire warnings about sexual predation. Why go there? It's just not the problem. 

We do have laws about public nudity, "indecent exposure" which arise out of taste and cultural norms and folkways, not because of concerns of  any physical harm (sexual predation)  but because of a sense of propriety. 

It's really about nudity, decorum and sensibilities not rape, or sexual behavior. And that might be enough of a reason. If enough women in Houston say, no, I would not be comfortable sitting next to a man who is having a bowel movement in the stall next to me, even though I would not feel that way about a woman, then what Constitutional right have we violated?  

We have hurt the feelings of the man who is having the bowel movement but have we done something comparable to refusing in public to serve him at a lunch counter because he is Black? After all, there is no history of demeaning men for being males in this country. We have not denied the man the right to defecate, if we have provided him with a toilet next door in the men's room.

You will say, "Oh, right, separate but equal." But in the case of male / female segregation there may be such a thing. In the case of Brown v Board of Education the justices were quite right to say there was no such thing as separate but equal in the case of White and Black schools. 

Now, number 2: What is a trans sexual person?

While there is some confusion about transgender and trans sexual definition, most would agree a person who feels he is the wrong sex, for example a man who feels he's a woman trapped in a man's body, is a trans sexual.

Some trans sexual  men have had their penises removed and their breasts enhanced and they may not pose much of a problem to other women in the rest room, especially since in women's bathrooms, you generally enter a closed stall. 

But other trans sexual males still have penises and testicles in a scrotum and those individuals, were they to expose their anatomy to women in the rest room would likely meet with some shock and dismay, even if they announce, "But wait! I'm actually a woman trapped in a man's body!"

One might reasonably argue, if every bathroom has walled off toilets, in which case there is a private space within a private space, but since we are dealing with issues which pertain more to laws that have to do with public nudity and "indecent exposure"  the arguments ought to coalesce around those concerns.  

Some have tried to compare the issue of bathroom use to gay marriage, as a matter of "respect" and public acceptance of differences. That is not the issue in the case of public bathrooms.  

In the case of gay marriage, it's a case of what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes. In the case of trans sexuals revealing their anatomy in the private setting of a public facility, we are dealing with non consenting adults having to see what they do not want to see.


  1. Mad Dog,
    There is no reason anyone should be seeing what they don't want to see-there are stalls in every women's room in the country, so no one is on view..Therefore it's immaterial whether the Queen of England-or the King of England- is in the next door..Should someone be exposing themselves to other visitors in the "ladies room" they have problems regardless of their being straight, gay or transgender..This just smacks of another Republican effort to insert a law where one isn't needed--like the Voter ID laws..there for another purpose besides necessity..

  2. Maud,
    Good point.
    But, of course,I have to ask, why then should we have separate women's rooms and men's rooms? We could save money on urinals if we simply had unisex bathrooms and the long lines at women's rooms (always longer than those for men's rooms) could be avoided.
    Mad Dog

  3. Mad Dog,
    See your point regarding unisex bathrooms-a thrifty alternative to the current arrangement. However I would guess most women, myself included, would prefer the status quo and the separate but equal facilities-maybe not rational or practical, but preferable..