Cartoon: What Bathroom Bills Do

bathroom-bill-2

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Another week, another cartoon!

This is something I’ve seen trans friends and advocates point out – that access to public bathrooms is, to a great extent, a prerequisite for access to public life. And this is in contrast to bathroom bill advocates, who tend to take a “what’s the big deal?” approach to this.

Writing this paragraph now, I just remembered that the movie “Hidden Figures” (which I loved, you should see it if you haven’t already!) makes this point very well. Bathroom access is required to be able to do something as simple as being effective at a job.

TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
Panel 1
Three people stand talking. They’re on a sidewalk with a field behind them. A man with black hair and a mustache is speaking cheerfully; the other two, a man with a beard and a woman with glasses, look skeptical.
MUSTACHE MAN: Stop acting like “bathroom bills” are a big deal! It’s only the public restrooms! When do you need to use those?

Panel 2
A closer shot of beard boy and glasses girl, as they explain. They’re not yelling, but they are intent.
BEARD BOY: You mean, apart from work, school, college, airports, train stations, bus stations, rest stops….
GLASSES GIRL: Movies, plays, concerts, museums, ball games, public meetings, courtrooms, stores, malls, the DMV, Congress, jury duty… And a million other things! You mean apart from all THAT?

Panel 3
Mustache man confidently blathers on; glasses girl and beard boy yell back in unison.
MUSTACHE MAN: Right! So it’s not like we’re trying to completely ostracize you from society.
GLASSES GIRL AND BEARD BOY IN UNISON: IT’S EXACTLY LIKE THAT!

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48 Responses to Cartoon: What Bathroom Bills Do

  1. 1
    Humble Talent says:

    This is one of those unicorns where I basically agree with you completely. When the “bathroom bills” first started making their rounds, I had assumed that the opposition to transgendered people in the bathrooms they identified with stemmed from places like public showers, where say… parents didn’t want their daughters showering with a woman that had a penis, for instance. It didn’t occur to me that someone might actually care what someone else did in the privacy of a stall. And then once it became blatant that they did in fact care where people peed, they forfeited the arguement in my mind. It’s stupid and petty.

  2. 2
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Humble Talent says:
    April 4, 2017 at 12:39 pm
    This is one of those unicorns where I basically agree with you completely. When the “bathroom bills” first started making their rounds, I had assumed that the opposition to transgendered people in the bathrooms they identified with stemmed from places like public showers, where say… parents didn’t want their daughters showering with a woman that had a penis, for instance.

    You’re righter than you know.

    A rule which applies to bathrooms will probably also apply to other facilities. At least one of the cases I’m familiar with has to do with a locker room specifically, which is definitely not “doing your thing in a stall,” so I am skeptical that the issue would, or was ever intended to, stop at bathrooms.

    Similarly, trans advocates have, AFAIK, rejected the solution of alternate bathrooms, much as they have rejected the solution of alternate changing rooms. After all, in theory, any place could provide alternate unisex bathrooms and changing rooms and everyone would have a place to pee and/or change. That compromise would permit a business or entity which felt strongly about the issue to meet the “people gotta pee” criteria while maintaining sex-segregated stuff if they wanted to.

    The Obama administration firmly refused the compromise, and I’m not at all surprised, since it (a) isn’t what trans advocates prefer in the short term; and (b) the compromise doesn’t provide an entry into further expansions in the long term. But the argument isn’t about “having a place to go pee”, it’s about resolving two competing goals.

  3. 3
    MJJ says:

    I had assumed that the opposition to transgendered people in the bathrooms they identified with stemmed from places like public showers, where say… parents didn’t want their daughters showering with a woman that had a penis, for instance.

    Okay, but what about instances like that? How do you deal with public showers/locker rooms, etc.? Should women who do not want to change or bathe around people with penises be given any consideration?

    I think the real concern with transgender-friendly bathrooms is the issue of how you enforce the identification of someone as transgender – i.e. how to distinguish a man from a trans women who doesn’t “pass” well. This isn’t a theoretical question.

  4. 4
    Jane Doh says:

    MJJ said:

    I think the real concern with transgender-friendly bathrooms is the issue of how you enforce the identification of someone as transgender – i.e. how to distinguish a man from a trans women who doesn’t “pass” well. This isn’t a theoretical question.

    But why? I’ve used public women’s bathrooms all my life, and I have never seen anyone’s private parts. And if you are in a stall shower with the curtain shut, why would it matter who else was nearby doing their thing? When I was in Europe for work, I noticed that many places just had unisex bathrooms, and I didn’t feel unsafe. Someone not using a public bathroom for one of its intended purposes does not belong there, regardless of gender identity.

    Also, it kind of annoys me that men near babies are assumed to be perverts (from the blog post linked by MJJ). When my oldest was a toddler, my spouse was the primary caregiver, and people looked at him like he was a monster just for being in a park with kids playing nearby when he took her there.

    The gym shower issue is substantially different. While I personally think that people who don’t want to see others naked should change in a stall shower rather than at a locker, being unable to shower in a gym does not restrict someone from public life the way refusing them a bathroom does, even if some people want to be discriminatory there. I can’t remember the last time I was in a women’s locker room that didn’t have stall showers.

    I’d bet a lot of money that more gender non-conforming ciswomen are harassed in women’s bathrooms than there are men who wander in to a women’s bathroom to sneak a peek. No law is going to prevent sexual predators from going into bathrooms to assault people. Bathroom laws just make trouble for people who appear outside the norm.

  5. 5
    Ruchama says:

    Should women who do not want to change or bathe around people with penises be given any consideration?

    Sure. Any woman who doesn’t want to change with the other women is free to use a private stall. That’s what I usually do, because I’m not really comfortable being naked around strangers, no matter what anatomy they have.

  6. 6
    lauren says:

    gin-and-whisky, do you really not understand why a “solution” that has seperate-but-equal as its core, if not it official motto, was regarded s unacceptable? Maybe especially by thee nations first black president?

    And why forcing transpeople to out themselves by only letting them go into unisex bathrooms would be incredibly dangerous for them? And why telling transwomen “you can not go to the bathroom for (real) women” is transphobic?

    That’s without getting into the practicalyties of having to install a third bathroom everywhere.

    Locker rooms may be a different issue in theory if they offer no private stalls. But that could be easily solved by making offering private stalls for changing and showering mandatory. Which, given the myriad of reasons people in our constantly body shaming world have for wanting privacy while naked, should be a no brainer anyway.

  7. 7
    David Simon says:

    MJJ, I’d bet on even odds that the creep in the story you linked was somebody protesting against trans bathroom access. Many people have said they would do this, probably at least a few have followed through.

    It is also possible that this was a genuine creeper taking advantage of bathroom access to creep with added immunity. I’m not sure what that best thing to do about situations like that would be.

    But, trading off against trans people being permitted to use public restrooms would not be fair, nor (I estimate) a net gain for society.

    I do strongly agree with that post’s author that the weird gaps in bathroom stall doors are awful.

  8. 8
    Kate says:

    I had assumed that the opposition to transgendered people in the bathrooms they identified with stemmed from places like public showers, where say… parents didn’t want their daughters showering with a woman that had a penis, for instance.

    All of the girls/women’s locker rooms I’ve been in in the U.S. have private shower stalls. I think a lot of men aren’t aware of this, because a lot of boys/men’s locker rooms have group showers.

  9. 9
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    lauren says:
    April 5, 2017 at 12:51 am
    gin-and-whisky, do you really not understand why a “solution” that has seperate-but-equal as its core, if not it official motto, was regarded s unacceptable?

    That isn’t actually true (see below,) but of course I understand why they don’t like it, it’s perfectly obvious. It’s a balancing act, though; you have two groups with competing desires. So looking only at what one side regards as “unacceptable” is only half of the discussion. No matter which way you rule, some folks are going to find the result “unacceptable.”

    Personally, I think the balancing act would probably fall in favor of self-declared* trans access to bathrooms, in most situations; what goes on in bathrooms is basically private. But it isn’t a one-sided discussion and it isn’t completely obvious. I think it probably does not fall in favor of self-declared* trans access to locker rooms, dorm rooms, or other similar areas. And since bathrooms are quite openly a “wedge issue” and are by no means the end goal, I have trouble getting behind the push for bathroom access, so I think that allowing separate ones (for those places that care enough about the issue to pay for them) may be the better compromise.

    Also, the “separate but equal” argument is not really accurate. It’s my understanding that all of those laws would allow people access to one of the same bathrooms as everywhere else, which matches their legal gender. There is no legal requirement that they be separated at all, so there is no “separate but equal.” The issue is that trans advocates want access to other bathrooms.

    And why telling transwomen “you can not go to the bathroom for (real) women” is transphobic?

    If the only way not to get the ‘transphobic’ label is to adopt the same worldview as trans people, prioritize their wishes over competing wishes, and give them what they want, then sure: under that definition it’s transphobic. Seems like a meaningless definition, though, since you’re apparently using it to mean “disagreement”.

    And really, that labeling scheme ignores how limited this debate really is. If I were to discover my employee–who presents as a woman–actually has male genitals, I wouldn’t give a shit. She’s awesome, and that would not change her work. Nor would it change my opinion or treatment of her at work, any more than it would change my treatment of the other trans folks I already know about. (This type of thing is usually part of “phobic,” FWIW.) It would mostly change my opinions on whether she should share a changing room with my daughter. If my employee and I disagreed on that, I don’t see any particular reason that she has to win the argument, and labeling the disagreement “transphobic” is not a reason.

    *By “self-declared” I mean someone who has not gone through a formal/legal process to officially change their gender. Requiring that would remove a ton of opposition, I expect; it is also unsurprisingly opposed by trans advocates.

  10. 10
    pillsy says:

    All of the girls/women’s locker rooms I’ve been in in the U.S. have private shower stalls. I think a lot of men aren’t aware of this, because a lot of boys/men’s locker rooms have group showers.

    All the private gym locker rooms I’ve been in have had shower stalls as well. They have public changing areas, though.

  11. 11
    pillsy says:

    Really, why not just have more privacy in school locker rooms and showers to begin with if it’s a problem?

    The status quo is already pretty shitty. Why use it as a justification for making things shittier for trans people, instead of just making everything less shitty for everyone?

  12. 12
    Ruchama says:

    In a completely different discussion, a friend was just saying yesterday that middle school locker rooms are the reason why we know how to take off a regular bra and put on a sports bra, or vice versa, without taking off our shirts.

  13. 14
    Jane Doh says:

    gin-and-whiskey said:

    It would mostly change my opinions on whether she should share a changing room with my daughter. If my employee and I disagreed on that, I don’t see any particular reason that she has to win the argument, and labeling the disagreement “transphobic” is not a reason.

    But why? Why would it change your opinion on whether or not she should share a changing room with your daughter? Is there a reason other than that you think having a penis means someone wants to leer at your daughter? Is it because you don’t want your daughter to see a live penis?

    I have really struggled with what to tell my own daughter when she asked me why people care so much about where other women change/pee/work out/sleep. I say women, because transmen seem to be pretty much left out of the discussion, although I am pretty sure my daughter would find it much weirder to be in a locker room with a transman than with with a transwoman (though we use a family locker room at our pool, where men and women change with their aged 10 and under children, so maybe not). My kids have reached the age of not wanting to be seen naked, so they change in a stall. Problem solved.

    Ruchama said:

    In a completely different discussion, a friend was just saying yesterday that middle school locker rooms are the reason why we know how to take off a regular bra and put on a sports bra, or vice versa, without taking off our shirts.

    My husband was completely shocked when I told him about the “shirt trick” we all used in middle school to change shirts without ever taking a shirt completely off. I can still do it in under a minute!

  14. 15
    Ruchama says:

    From what I can remember from high school, it was maybe junior year before most of the girls would change shirts by actually taking one shirt off and then putting the other on, and none of us would ever change bras with our shirts off. I remember being really surprised when I started going to the gym in college, and women would get completely naked in the locker room.

  15. 16
    Ruchama says:

    That just reminded me of a math video I saw once, where a male mathematician was demonstrating how to take off an undershirt without taking off the shirt on top of it, and relating it to a topology principle, but mostly, he seemed really excited at having “discovered” that it was possible to take off the undershirt without taking off the shirt over it. I just burst out laughing — I learned how to take off a one-piece bathing suit from underneath a t-shirt and shorts, and then put on underwear underneath the shorts, without taking off the shirt or the shorts, when I was four or five years old. Learned how to get a bra on and off without taking off my shirt as soon as I was old enough to wear one. It never would have occurred to me that something as simple as taking off an undershirt from under a sweatshirt would be a discovery.

  16. 17
    lauren says:

    gin-and-whisky, the “transphobic” part is seperating trans*women from “real” women. And no, I do not think it is possible to claim that trans*women aren’ t real women without being transphobic.

    And your explanation why this wouldn’t be a case of “seperate-but-equal” rings false. While “real” women and men would have the option of using the third bathroom, trans*people would be required to. And any buisness owner who thinks that their customers need to be protected from sitting in the bathroom stall next to the scary trans*people probably wouldn’t be very inteested in the quality of the third bathroom. Which would mean that it would only be used by those with no other option.

    Leaving aside the question of how the hell something like that would be enforced with trans*people who “pass” as cis, it seems like a recipe for harrassement and worse to force trans*people to out themselves every time they use a bathroom.

    And the whole “slippery slope” argument:
    1. I have yet to read a single report about a trans*person attacking someone in a locker room. On the other hand, there are far too many stories of violence against trans*people, especially trans*women, who were attacked after being outed. So yes, I think their concerns are more pressing.

    2. Considering the dangers of transphobic attacks, I seriuosly doubt that trans*people who might be identified a such in a locker room are interested in stripping down naked in front of strangers who might attack them. Which means they would probably embrace a rule that all locker rooms need to offer single stalls. As such a rule would not endanger trans*people and would also help many other people who have reasons not to want to be naked around others, why not focus on this non-discriminatory option.

    3. Since there have, as far as I know, not been any attacks of trans*people against children in group locker rooms, why would letting them change in there be such a huge issue? But setting that aside, if there were single stalls, you could just tell your kid to always use those.

  17. 18
    Chris says:

    Perhaps I just matriculated with a very modest group, but I’m not sure this is solely a girl thing. When we did swimming in P.E., we boys would put towels around ourselves before changing into and out of our swim trunks. I only remember one boy who didn’t do this, one time, and I only remember it because he did it to deliberately shock people. We also wore the swim trunks in the group showers, and didn’t shower before or after any other activity except for swimming.

    My guess is that if anyone were trans, they would have had even more reason to be discrete. I suspect the vast majority of trans adults who still have the genitalia of their birth sex have little interest being naked in front of cis strangers.

  18. 19
    Ampersand says:

    It does seem that a “every changing room must provide individual stalls for changing or showering” rule would be a less difficult requirement for most businesses than “every place with public bathrooms must add a third gender-neutral bathroom,” if only because adding stall walls requires adding walls, while adding a new bathroom requires adding walls plus plumbing.

    At my gym, there are 9 individual shower stalls, each with three walls and an opaque curtain for the fourth wall, in the men’s locker room. Although most guys change clothes in the “public” part of the locker room, I often see guys going to the stalls to change, I assume because they’re not comfortable being nude where others can see. This system hasn’t caused any problems, that I can see. (The women’s locker room is set up the same way, I’m told.)

  19. 20
    Humble Talent says:

    Perhaps I just matriculated with a very modest group, but I’m not sure this is solely a girl thing.

    I had to look up “matriculated”, good job! But more to the point:

    All of the girls/women’s locker rooms I’ve been in in the U.S. have private shower stalls. I think a lot of men aren’t aware of this, because a lot of boys/men’s locker rooms have group showers.

    Gym class was absolute hell for me, not because I was overweight and out of shape (that wouldn’t be my excuse for at least ten years), but because Kate nailed it on the head and after every class I found myself in the unenviable position of being a gay teenager in a room full of naked young men.

    It was this weird paradigm that I don’t think that teenage me was really cognisant or prepared to deal with: I felt mortified and shitty every time I walked into that room, but really… had the people around me knew what was going on THEY probably would have felt just as mortified and probably been rightfully angry. I juggled the embarrassment of feeling like a pervert with the embarrassment of coming out in a very small, rural town and I chose to deal with it by not dealing with it and persevered in silence. What my peers didn’t know didn’t hurt them.

    So here I am, attempting to draw parallels between my awkward teenage years and what I assume are equally awkward times for transgendered people of all ages.

    It’s a strange quirk of chemistry, but transgendered individuals exhibit significant rates of homosexuality*. That is that despite feeling like a gender other than the one they were born, they are generally sexually attracted to the gender opposite the one they were born. Trans men (who were born women), for instance, are generally attracted to men.

    It’s this no-win situation: Do they shower with the gender that they were born, and feel embarrassed and awkward, or do they shower with the gender that they identify, and feel embarrassed and awkward, or do they completely sidestep the situation and shower at home? And that completely sidesteps the feelings of the other people in those rooms, who I think it’s unethical to ignore.

    What hit me as especially stupid about this is that somehow, previous to this gigantic spotlight being thrown on a group that probably doesn’t want it, they generally found a way to get along, even if that solution wasn’t perfect. Maybe they were aided by privacy curtains, or stalls, or understanding peers, or rescheduling, or one of a million other imperfect compromises. But only as the government attempted to interfere with people’s bathroom habits, first with Obama’s ill-conceived Executive Order, and then with all the even less well thought out reflex reprisals, did shit really start to hit the fan. It hits me like the kind of situation where the people most effected would like nothing more than for the clock to roll back a year or so and for the politicians to butt the hell out.

    But then… I’m not in that group. If you are I’d love to know what you think.

    *(up to 77%, depending on what you count, according to this trans-friendly group: https://thetaskforceblog.org/2013/06/05/wonky-wednesday-trans-people-sexual-orientation/)

  20. 21
    pillsy says:

    @Ampersand:

    It does seem that a “every changing room must provide individual stalls for changing or showering” rule would be a less difficult requirement for most businesses than “every place with public bathrooms must add a third gender-neutral bathroom,” if only because adding stall walls requires adding walls, while adding a new bathroom requires adding walls plus plumbing.

    Also, gotta get back to the fact that lots of people would benefit. I’m a straight, cis dude, and getting naked in the locker room was one of my least favorite parts of gym (and being a huge, mostly stereotypical nerd, I fuckin’ hated gym). It’s like the sidewalk cuts that were originally provided for people using wheelchairs, but end up making life a little better and more convenient for everyone.

    A lot of the trans panic around bathrooms and locker-rooms, and a lot of the gay panic that preceded it, seems to be founded on the unquestioning belief that school PE classes, gyms, et c., just must involve lots of people of the same sex getting naked together. It seems like an odd norm to cling to, given how widely hated it is.

  21. 22
    Elusis says:

    Trans men (who were born women), for instance, are generally attracted to men.

    Ah, that explains all the trans men who originally came out as lesbians then.

    No, wait, it doesn’t.

    What hit me as especially stupid about this is that somehow, previous to this gigantic spotlight being thrown on a group that probably doesn’t want it, they generally found a way to get along, even if that solution wasn’t perfect.

    Oh dear me, no. Unless by “generally found a way to get along” you mean “denied their gender identity to try to pass as cisgender, and/or experienced a great deal of hostility and aggression when trying to carry out simple bodily functions.”

    May I suggest that if you want to talk about transgender* people, you start off by asking questions, rather than making statements?

    *Note: “transgender,” not “transgendered”

  22. 23
    Humble Talent says:

    Ah, that explains all the trans men who originally came out as lesbians then.

    No, wait, it doesn’t.

    Well… I cited what I said. 23% said they were gay, 25% said they were bisexual, and 23% said they were queer, which was defined as “not straight”. The remainder was made up of people who identified as straight and “other”. If you want to look for yourself, the source report is here and the breakdown is on page 28. I don’t know what to tell you except your denial isn’t based on facts.

    Oh dear me, no. Unless by “generally found a way to get along” you mean “denied their gender identity to try to pass as cisgender, and/or experienced a great deal of hostility and aggression when trying to carry out simple bodily functions.”

    Same report, page 35 says that the number of K-12 respondents that reported instances of problems finding bathroom facilities at 26%, this was the same survey where 78% of K-12 respondents reported harassment, and 35% reported physical assault. That age group reported the highest frequency of problems finding facilities. And don’t get me wrong: That’s atrocious. I’m not defending that, but I am hoping to contextualise it, the vast majority of transgender people surveyed were able to work out where to pee. My concern is, now that a direct and ham-fisted spotlight was shone on the situation, how many of those people who were previously getting along are now having difficulty because idiot lawmakers are passing bills like HB2 in North Carolina.

  23. 24
    Charles S says:

    HT,
    From the 2015 version of that survey (which is really interesting, thanks for linking to it!), 59% of trans people avoided using public restrooms at least once in the past year out of fear of confrontation, 9% suffered UTIs or bladder infections as a result of avoiding using public restrooms. If Clinton had won the election, it is likely that the spotlight shown on the issue by Obama and trans activists would have resulted in a substantial decrease in the 26% of school kids denied access to the bathroom in their schools.

    For the question of gay trans men, I think the problem is that your specific language:

    but transgendered individuals exhibit significant rates of homosexuality*. That is that despite feeling like a gender other than the one they were born, they are generally sexually attracted to the gender opposite the one they were born. Trans men (who were born women), for instance, are generally attracted to men.

    implied that you were claiming the majority of trans men were gay, rather than that the majority of trans men were not straight. That wasn’t necessary for your argument, but it is implied by what you wrote.

  24. 25
    Humble Talent says:

    I want to be perfectly crystal clear up front: The fact that there are people out there literally getting sick because they feel unwelcome in public restrooms and can’t find a place to pee is batshit lunacy and unacceptable. It shouldn’t be this hard, but it is, and I have no idea what to do about it other than to bring it up and point it out if ever the topic comes up.

    But I think there’s this… disconnect, where because Obama’s executive order was well intentioned, that it’s somehow absolved from the damage it did. That there’s this idea, that nomatter how toxic a conversation is, the mere fact that everyone is yelling at eachother is a positive step forward. That some action was better than none… And I’m not sold that it is. I think that Obama’s EO had the bad fortune of being from Obama, who at the point he issued the order, probably couldn’t have put forward policy positions the right liked unopposed, so bitter and polar was his relationship with the house and senate. I’m not going to point fingers there, I’m just pointing out the obvious: Obama and the Legislature did not get along. And to be frank, I don’t know that the policy coming from Hillary would be any better received.

    At the end of the day, my being convinced isn’t really that important, and we’ll see what the numbers bear out… But when I ask myself: Is a trans person more or less likely in the wake of Obama’s Executive Order and the (painfully forseeable) knee-jerk reflexism to experience difficulties… I dunno guys, like I said… Even though the status quo was bad, I think it might be worse now.

  25. 26
    Ampersand says:

    Pushing for change inevitably creates some backlash. When Baehr v. Miike was decided in Hawaii in 1993, that catalyzed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and many people at the time said “see? This is why it was a mistake for activists to bring that lawsuit.”

    But in hindsight, it doesn’t seem like a clear mistake. If it hadn’t been Baehr, it would have been another case. It’s necessary to begin somewhere; there never was, and never would have been, a 100% backlash-free route to marriage equality. Nor is there a backlash-free route to trans equality.

    A half-century ago and before, there was an expression among Jews: “Shanda fur die Goyim,” which means “not in front of the Goyim.” It stood for the proposition that Jews needed to keep our heads down, to not do anything that would disturb the majority or give them an excuse to dislike us. And for a time, that was probably sound strategy. But eventually one needs to move beyond that – to be willing to make waves where the Goyim can see – or else no progress will ever happen.

    As far as I can tell, most trans people who have written about the few pro-trans stands the Democrats have taken, approve of them. And it’s not because trans people are unaware that backlash happens; I don’t think any group in the country is more conscious of the possibility of anti-trans backlash than trans people. My inference from this, is that trans people believe that the time for “Shand fur die Goyim” has passed.

  26. 27
    Chris says:

    I had to look up “matriculated”, good job!

    You know, this made me self-conscious, so I looked it up too to make sure I used it right. The definitions I’m finding all refer to college, which isn’t what I meant; I was talking about my experiences in middle school and high school. My lazy ass did approximately zero exercise in college.

    You may be right about the backlash against the trans community we’re seeing making things worse. I think that is largely a result of increased visibility. I don’t think there was anything the trans community could do, other than try and remain invisible, to avoid this backlash.

  27. 28
    AJD says:

    (A clarificatory digression: shande far di goyim, doesn’t literally mean ‘not in front of the goyim’. It means ‘a disgrace in front of the goyim’, referring to actions that make Jews as a group look bad. For example, Jared Kushner is a shande far di goyim.)

  28. 29
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks for that correction! :)

  29. 30
    Grace Annam says:

    pillsy:

    The status quo is already pretty shitty. Why use it as a justification for making things shittier for trans people, instead of just making everything less shitty for everyone?

    lauren:

    Considering the dangers of transphobic attacks, I seriuosly doubt that trans*people who might be identified a such in a locker room are interested in stripping down naked in front of strangers who might attack them.

    Chris:

    My guess is that if anyone were trans, they would have had even more reason to be discrete. I suspect the vast majority of trans adults who still have the genitalia of their birth sex have little interest being naked in front of cis strangers.

    Thank you, pillsy, lauren, and Chris.

    Years ago, I took a class at a facility where they provided overnight accomodations, for a price. There were singles, and doubles, and dorm rooms. I had a penis at that time and also was having no trouble passing as cisgender. The singles and doubles were more expensive, and all taken. So I asked for a spot in the dorm, where the rooms were divided by gender.

    And everything went fine. Because I did not change my pants where anyone could see me. There were bathrooms with stalls, and I changed in the stalls. This was mildly inconvenient and awkward, but it was the price I had to pay not to alarm the other women, and I paid it without hesitation. Because what I wanted to do was take a class and participate in the social groups around it, not become the center of a bathroom controversy.

    I have yet to meet a trans person in the flesh who does not try, hard, not to cause alarm in bathrooms and locker rooms. Every once in a while you hear a news story. So far, the majority of them have been made up, or have turned out to be an instance of a cisgender man trying to make political hay.

    The whole “I don’t want to see a penis in the locker room!” is predicated on the notion that someone might reveal one. That turns out to be exceptionally rare; so rare that it’s hard to find examples. And yet, it’s easy to find examples of trans people going about their lives, since there are upwards of 700,000 of us in the United States alone. If a hundredth of one percent of us were doing it, we’d have 700 examples. And we don’t.

    gin-and-whisky:

    Also, the “separate but equal” argument is not really accurate. It’s my understanding that all of those laws would allow people access to one of the same bathrooms as everywhere else, which matches their legal gender. There is no legal requirement that they be separated at all, so there is no “separate but equal.” The issue is that trans advocates want access to other bathrooms.

    Consider a rephrasing:

    Also, the ‘marriage equality’ argument is not really accurate. It’s my understanding that all of those laws would allow people to marry one of the same people as everyone else, that is of the opposite gender. The issue is that gay people want access to marriage with the same gender.

    That was an actual argument, before Obergefell: rejoice, for behold, everyone is already equal, because everyone has the same right to marry a person of the opposite sex as everyone else! And it was a facially absurd argument, if you understood that sexual orientation is pretty much hard-wired, and that being gay (or bi, or pan) is, in that way, fundamentally different from being straight. But of course the people making that argument didn’t understand that at all; they were operating from the framework that normal people are attracted to people of the opposite sex, and that if you are gay, it is because something went wrong, and things which go wrong should be fixed, not accomodated.

    People who want to maintain bathroom division and keep trans people in the bathroom matching their birth assignment… they’re operating from a similar framework, that trans women are not actually women, at least not where it counts, in the penis, and that trans men are not actually men, at least not where it counts, in the vagina.

    By “self-declared” I mean someone who has not gone through a formal/legal process to officially change their gender. Requiring that would remove a ton of opposition, I expect; it is also unsurprisingly opposed by trans advocates.

    Trans advocates oppose it in large part because it’s an impossible standard. There’s no central repository for gender markers. Do you mean the one on the birth certificate, or on the state-issued ID, or on the passport, or on the Social Security Administration card? Those are all different, and require different standards for change. In some states, you can’t change your birth certificate, or your driver’s license, no matter what. In others, you can, but only if you’ve had your genitals cut (sucks to be you if you have a heart condition which bars non-emergency surgeries).

    Trans advocates also oppose it because it’s fantasy. Do you actually think that the people who would object to a trans woman’s presence in the women’s room are mollified if she whips out her driver’s license and says, “See the ‘F’?” No, they’re not. They want to know if she has had genital surgery. We know this, because (a) many trans women who can’t pass as cis have had the experience of showing legal documentation and then being asked about their genitals and (b) because cis people who react from their gut and find themselves having to justify it generally go there, publicly and unabashedly, “Well, fine, but does she have a PENIS?!”

    Proposing laws or rules based upon things people might logically do, but don’t actually do in practice, strikes me as a bit like economists whose unspoken first rule is, “Assume that people are acting rationally, as we define it.”

    Grace

  30. 31
    annqueue says:

    For the record, I use three municipal gyms in my city and all three have group shower areas for women. Two of them also offer a separate “family” shower area or individual stalls, but one does not. The only person I’ve seen demonstrate unease about this (which isn’t to say others weren’t upset but just left) was a teenage girl who asked me if there were stalls. I feel her pain, having been a teenage girl myself once. I wish American culture were less disturbed by bodies and sex and more disturbed by violence. Anyway, these group showers are set up such that it’d be difficult to divide all shower heads into individual stalls, but they would accommodate one stall at least. It does seem like it’d be easy to provide a stall solution in the vast majority of cases, and it might help groups other than trans folks go about their day as well (I’m thinking of autistic folks and some people with Down’s syndrome that I’ve seen use the private stalls with their attendants).

    Re #20, HT, do you still feel awkward in locker rooms, or was it a teenage phase for you?

    I am bisexual, and though I didn’t figure this out until I was over my phase of pubescent shyness, it means that I do occasionally find myself naked and in the presence of other naked people I find attractive. I look the other way and go about my business. Of course I’m female and don’t have the problem of a penis potentially betraying me.

  31. 32
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Jane Doh says:
    Why would [having a penis] change your opinion on whether or not [she] should share a changing room with your daughter? Is there a reason other than that you think having a penis means someone wants to leer at your daughter?

    I exert some control over what my kids are likely to be exposed to. It’s my job as a parent. (To tell the truth, I don’t actually care about them seeing penises or breasts one way or another, they have seen plenty of naked people, but in a general sense that decision remains my parental role.) And I respect the decisions of other parents and people to feel the same way. If I don’t want them seeing a penis, it is what it is.

    Moreover, while I do not think anyone is more likely to leer because they’re trans (trans folks have no higher incidence of being an ass than anyone else), I do think my kids would react and process “leering w/ penis” differently, for a whole host of social and emotional reasons.

    lauren says:
    gin-and-whisky, the “transphobic” part is separating trans*women from “real” women. And no, I do not think it is possible to claim that trans*women aren’t real women without being transphobic

    You can use whatever language you like, of course, but if you use “transphobic” to mean “disagreement with anything on the trans issue” then the vast majority of the country is probably transphobic…. including a lot of people who lean heavily towards ‘live and let live’ in 95% of situations, but who will now be forced into a “with us or against us” approach. Personally I think many of them will end up against you, and that use of “transphobic” means that I don’t respect the label anymore, but of course that’s your call.

    Grace said:
    People who want to maintain bathroom division and keep trans people in the bathroom matching their birth assignment… they’re operating from a similar framework, that trans women are not actually women, at least not where it counts, in the penis, and that trans men are not actually men, at least not where it counts, in the vagina.

    I would put it differently: People who believe in the importance of sex-segregated divisions tend to feel like you should have strict markers for the divisions in those contexts.

    So for example, there is a set of people who could care less about someone being trans, and who would concede the flexibility of gender in many situations…. but who cares strongly about someone competing in the wrong athletic class and gaining an unfair advantage.

    Similarly there’s a set who could care less about someone being trans, but who cares strongly about their privacy and potential exposure to the wrong set of genitalia in a locker room. Or hotel room. Or class trip.

    If you’re going to have rooms divided by sex at all, you need a hard dividing line for rooms. Since the putative reason to divide rooms by sex has a lot to do with “what you see,” then “what you see” is an unsurprising guide to the division.

    I happen to know a high school kid who just publicly transitioned–let’s call him Lee–and Lee has a fully female body. Let’s say Lee goes on a high school trip and because he has declared his status is now assigned to share a room with John, not Jane.

    The point of sex-segregating rooms on high school trips is to separate folks by genitalia; if you didn’t care about that, and if you didn’t care about the potential issues which could arise, then you wouldn’t bother segregating by sex in the first place.

    John’s parents may not have cared about Lee’s transition one way or another; they may, however, feel differently in the context of a shared hotel room on a school trip. It doesn’t mean they think Lee can’t call himself a boy, or that Lee can’t ever be a “real” man, or any of that. They feel the same way about Lee as they would about John rooming with a gay girl.

    [Interesting stuff re pre-Obergefell] was a facially absurd argument, if you understood that sexual orientation is pretty much hard-wired, and that being gay (or bi, or pan) is, in that way, fundamentally different from being straight.

    I don’t agree, it was mostly a facially absurd argument because the competing interests were so very narrow: both of the two people in the marriage presumably agreed, and a lot of the effects of denying gay marriage had to do with impersonal contracts, visitation, benefits, ‘what about the children’, and such. Certainly Obergefell didn’t really depend on an immutable “these folks can only be happy in gay marriages” court ruling.

    And of course this is a different setting, because there are actual people on both sides who are claiming that they are discomfited. There’s a balancing act which really didn’t exist in Obergefell.

    You can certainly make an argument that the balancing goes towards trans access in various settings. But it’s setting-dependent, and you have to discuss both sides.

  32. 33
    Charles S says:

    gin-and-whisky:

    Also, the “separate but equal” argument is not really accurate. It’s my understanding that all of those laws would allow people access to one of the same bathrooms as everywhere else, which matches their legal gender. There is no legal requirement that they be separated at all, so there is no “separate but equal.” The issue is that trans advocates want access to other bathrooms.

    In North Carolina, under HB-2, people were nominally allowed to use the bathroom matching their birth certificate, but if you think that the trans man in the cartoon will be allowed to use the women’s room as North Carolina insists he must merely because he hasn’t changed his birth certificate, you are sadly mistaken. The law forbids him from using the men’s bathroom, but it doesn’t protect him if he tries to use the women’s bathroom.

    It isn’t “just” that he doesn’t want to use the women’s room because he wants to be recognized as a man, it is also that people who are obviously men are not generally welcome in the women’s bathroom.

    Under HB-2, there was no bathroom that it was actually safe or permissible for him to use.

  33. 34
    Grace Annam says:

    Ampersand:

    At my gym, there are 9 individual shower stalls, each with three walls and an opaque curtain for the fourth wall, in the men’s locker room. Although most guys change clothes in the ‘public’ part of the locker room, I often see guys going to the stalls to change, I assume because they’re not comfortable being nude where others can see. This system hasn’t caused any problems, that I can see. (The women’s locker room is set up the same way, I’m told.)

    At the facility I mentioned, above, the women’s showers had both a shower stall, with tile on three sides and a shower curtain on the fourth, and an individual changing area outside of each shower, with the shower curtain on one side and other hanging curtains around the other three sides. The hanging curtains were clearly not in the original design, but hung from retrofitted rods mounted to the ceiling.

    It didn’t seem that hard or that expensive.

    Grace

  34. 35
    Grace Annam says:

    Humble Talent:

    That is that despite feeling like a gender other than the one they were born, they are generally sexually attracted to the gender opposite the one they were born. Trans men (who were born women), for instance, are generally attracted to men.

    I was not born a man. Neither were you. We were born babies.

    I know that this point may seem pedantic, but this “born a man” language is mainly used by people seeking to deny me public accommodations, even though “born male” is available to them, so I tend to notice it.

    That said, I don’t think I was born male, either, except in the sense of gross anatomy. This is a framing issue: which is more important in defining me, (a) my psyche, my soul, my inherent sense of myself, or (b) my body? I’m inclined to think it’s the former.

    In other words, the well-intentioned nurse who once tried to convince me to get a mammogram by opening with, “So, you’re basically a guy, right?” got it exactly wrong. No, at base, I am not a guy, any more than a person of unspecified gender who is attracted to women is, at base, heterosexual. Yes, the safe even-money bet is that they are heterosexual. But we don’t actually have enough information to know if they’re heterosexual; to know that, we need to know their gender, too.*

    I am a woman with life experience in a male-typical body. That doesn’t make me a man; it makes me trans.

    *Also, #fightbiandpanerasure, we also need to know if they’re also attracted to men or other people.

    Humble Talent:

    What hit me as especially stupid about this is that somehow, previous to this gigantic spotlight being thrown on a group that probably doesn’t want it, they generally found a way to get along, even if that solution wasn’t perfect… But only as the government attempted to interfere with people’s bathroom habits, first with Obama’s ill-conceived Executive Order, and then with all the even less well thought out reflex reprisals, did shit really start to hit the fan. It hits me like the kind of situation where the people most effected would like nothing more than for the clock to roll back a year or so and for the politicians to butt the hell out.

    But then… I’m not in that group. If you are I’d love to know what you think.

    There are trans people out there who would like to roll back time to those halcyon days when “transgender” was a word spoken in hushed tones, and if you could just pass as cis well enough, no one would suspect that you were trans, and they would therefore permit you to participate in society just like a normal human. But it wasn’t government action which turned the tide. It was more and more trans people living our lives more and more fully, until we finally hit critical mass in the national consciousness with a combination of high-profile trans people, including Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, and Janet Mock. The government only followed after that.

    It was Jenner who seemed to draw most of the ire from the crowd who had managed to find safety in obscurity.

    So, yes, some trans people would like to turn the calendar back. I think such people are like people who have made it far enough up the rope to comparative safety and now want to saw the rope off below them, rather than walk away or take a turn pulling others to safety. I understand the fear. They had it easier than trans people who couldn’t pass as cis, and now they are getting pulled back in. But, that’s just another form of asking someone else to carry your load, to make sacrifices so that you can rest easy. It’s no different from cis people telling trans people to stay out of the bathroom so that the cis people don’t have to confront their own internalized bigotries.

    (For those new to my part of this ongoing conversation, I’m not calling cis people bigots. We all have internalized biases which we deplore. The difference between people of good character and people of lesser character is not whether you have them; it’s whether you work on them, in yourself, or try to get other people to carry the burden of the consequences of those biases, so that you don’t have to.)

    I can and do pass as cis. I am free to take the position that I’ve got mine and all you people who can’t pass as cis can fuck off and die. But then I couldn’t look in mirrors, or look people of good conscience in the eye. So I speak up.

    President Obama’s executive order was the right thing to do. That it provoked outrage in the people who would like trans people to fuck off and die was as predictable as sunrise. It was still the right thing to do. As Frederick Douglass put it, way back in 1857,

    The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.

    That retaliation is hurting people. But, here’s the thing: we were already hurting. We used to have a saying: “Fifty by thirty.” That is, 50% of us would be dead by the age of 30. We were dying at the hands of others, numbing the pain with drugs and alcohol until we died, taking risks in the hope of dying honorably, or just straight-up killing ourselves without ever coming out and telling the world our shameful secrets. The suffering was already there. We were just hiding it, as much as we could.

    Now some of it is out where people can see it. And that’s good.

    Grace

    [edited for formatting and clarity]

  35. 36
    Kate says:

    Thank-you Grace.

  36. 37
    AndiF says:

    Delurking …

    Grace, I have a lurked and occasionally commented here for many years and I have always been so impressed with your patience, your eloquence, and your clarity. I just wanted to thank you for all the knowledge and understanding you’ve taken the time to pass on over the years even when I’m suspect that it must feel exhausting and even emotionally hurtful to keep doing so.

  37. 38
    Ampersand says:

    Annqueue: Thanks for your comment.

    You’re right that individual stalls help people other than trans people. Which makes it an even better idea, I think. Accomodations that help a lot of people are more likely to be maintained than accommodations that help fewer people.

    I know you mean well, but please avoid phrasing like ” Of course I’m female and don’t have the problem of a penis potentially betraying me,” because it implies that a trans woman with a penis is not female. Thanks.

  38. 39
    Chris says:

    Gin-and-whiskey, of course the vast majority of the country is transphobic.

  39. 40
    Grace Annam says:

    gin-and-whiskey:

    If the only way not to get the ‘transphobic’ label is to adopt the same worldview as trans people…

    I was cleaning up and closing tabs when my eye fell on this line and I saw it in a new light.

    It seemed to me that gin-and-whiskey is talking about labels on people. But that reply was explicitly in response to lauren’s post:

    And why telling transwomen “you can not go to the bathroom for (real) women” is transphobic?

    Which was labelling an act, not a person.

    It reminded me of Jay Smooth’s brilliant video about a useful way to think about race and race conversations, and particularly what he says at 1:58:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU

    It struck me that gin-and-whiskey was expressing an anxiety about being labelled, himself, as transphobic. He may not even have been conscious of the distinction, in that moment. But of course lauren didn’t label him transphobic; she labelled an act transphobic (and accurately so).

    Food for thought.

    Grace

  40. 41
    Grace Annam says:

    Kate, you’re welcome!

    AndiF, indeed, sometimes when I am not posting here it’s because I’m busy, and sometimes it’s because I’ve had more than my daily or weekly ration of the crap that accompanies being trans in my society. But one of the reasons I keep coming back is that I know that people who don’t comment still read, and so I cherish the hope that what I do here accomplishes something worthwhile. So, thank you very much for your appreciation. It’s good to know that people who are mostly or completely invisible are getting something out of my efforts.

    Grace

  41. 42
    Grace Annam says:

    gin-and-whiskey:

    …you have to discuss both sides.

    Actually, I don’t. I have to be willing to participate in a conversation which includes both sides, but I don’t have to argue the other side. Fortunately, there is an overwhelming majority who are willing to step up to that plate.

    I would put it differently: People who believe in the importance of sex-segregated divisions tend to feel like you should have strict markers for the divisions in those contexts.

    No, they actually don’t. They think they do, but that’s because it has never occurred to them that going by genitals would put Buck Angel in a locker room with their daughters. In my experience, people who believe in the importance of sex-segregated divisions tend to feel like they should be able to define the categories in such a way that they need not feel anxiety. The problem, of course, is that they’re not willing to participate in a conversation which includes the anxieties experienced on both sides, and puts some amount of weight on the anxieties of trans people who have actually been assaulted, so that the relative merits of the anxieties of both sides can be determined.

    So for example, there is a set of people who could care less about someone being trans, and who would concede the flexibility of gender in many situations…. but who cares strongly about someone competing in the wrong athletic class and gaining an unfair advantage.

    I’m sure that set of people exists. Much larger, however, is the set of people who would like you to believe that they are in that set up people, but aren’t. That would include the people who say they could care less that someone is trans, but cares deeply about trans women competing with cis women and gaining an unfair advantage… and who won’t concede the argument when the problem is studied and it is demonstrated that the trans women don’t actually have an advantage. (Because, and we’ve been over this before, here at Alas, if we had an advantage, we’d be winning at a higher rate than our numbers, and we aren’t.)

    Similarly there’s a set who could care less about someone being trans, but who cares strongly about their privacy and potential exposure to the wrong set of genitalia in a locker room.

    Which doesn’t seem to happen. At one point should people be required to demonstrate that their anxieties are founded in reality?

    After I started hormone therapy, I started to grow breasts. For over two years I changed in a locker room which I shared with over thirty trained investigators. No one noticed. Why not? Because I did not show them my breasts.

    Trans people are not flashing their genitals at people. Even if we have no inherent body modesty, we pretend that we do, so that we have an excuse not to be seen naked.

    This fear is a bogeyman.

    Or hotel room.

    I have shared a hotel room with both genders when I pretended to be a man, and again since I transitioned. In my experience there’s a separate small room with a door which you can lock, and people take turns using it. You don’t have to use it to pee. You can use it to change your clothing. Also, we brought along special clothes for sleeping in, which we called pajamas, or sleeping shirts, which were baggy and comfy and modest.

    Why does the solution to this problem have to bar from full participation that class of people which demonstrably goes out of its way not to bother the majority?

    Or class trip.

    Where I went to school, we went on mixed-gender camping trips twice per year. We slept under the same tarps. We changed in our sleeping bags, or behind a bush, or politely asked our schoolmates to face the other way. When we needed to pee, we announced our intention to pee and for a few minutes, other people politely stayed out of the section of woods we tramped off into.

    This is not hard.

    Grace

  42. 43
    annqueue says:

    Amp: Yes, I realized my error after posting, and couldn’t figure out how to edit it. I would have changed it to ‘cis female’ if I could have.

  43. 44
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks, Annqueue! No big deal; I appreciate you being nice about it. :-)

  44. 45
    Humble Talent says:

    Just from a point of personal explanation:

    I don’t feel any deep rooted need to offend trans people, so if I use the wrong pronouns for them, I’ll apologise and attempt to be polite. I think that one of the simplest of daily exercises, finding a pot to piss in, should not be a fraction as difficult as it is for them, I think a lot of the fear surrounding them is ignorant and misguided, I look at the suicide statistics and nothing could drive home more solidly for me that this is a demographic that needs help.

    But this conversation is starting to veer away from the original topic and on to places I think are much more contentious. “because it implies that a trans woman with a penis is not female.” Reads to me about as abrasively as ten grit sandpaper. There’s so much packed into that statement that it seems everyone here takes for granted. Do we want to have those conversations? I’m game, but I’d be just as happy going back to the things we agree on, because it seems like there’s value there.

  45. 46
    Grace Annam says:

    Humble Talent, not everyone here takes that proposition for granted, but a lot of us do (including me) and on this blog it’s well-trodden ground. Your intuition that this may not be the place for it is a good one. If you want to discuss the line you quoted, the place to do it here at Alas is The Mint Garden.

    Grace

  46. 47
    Humble Talent says:

    That’s actually kind of a brilliant way to get people up to speed on the way the discussion has been framed on here. I’ll take the time to read it before I comment.

  47. 48
    Grace Annam says:

    Humble Talent:

    I’ll take the time to read it before I comment.

    Thank you.

    Grace

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