Mercedes Allen

The Religious Right Doesn't Want Barney Frank Showering With Them, Either

Filed By Mercedes Allen | December 23, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Barney Frank, religious right

As Canada's Bill C-389 -- which would extend rights to employment, housing, access to services and protections from the excusing of violence for gender identity and gender expression -- inches on toward Third Reading and a similar bill (ENDA) languishes in the US, the religious right south of the border is all a-panic over the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT). And an oddly familiar argument is being thrust into the forefront.

They're afraid that straight and gay soldiers might have to shower together. Openly gay congressman Barney Frank was confronted by CNS (which was formed to present a conservative bias in news) on the matter:

"What do you think happens in gyms all over America?" Frank said when asked by CNSNews.com about the working group's recommendation that straights be required to shower with gays. "What do you think happens in the House of Representatives? Of course people shower with homosexuals. What a silly issue. What do you think goes wrong with showering with homosexuals? Do you think the spray makes it catching? I mean people shower with homosexuals in college dormitories, in gyms where people play sports; in gyms elsewhere. It is a complete non-issue."

Of course, in Canada, we've been past all that, with no washroom or shower issues -- even trans soldiers serve without this problem (trans people can't serve in the US military regardless of the repeal of DADT), and without female soldiers being exposed to penises. (Natalie Murray has a detailed discussion about what the Canadian military policy actually means at DBM) Trans Canadians have already been using washrooms consistent with their presentation (and have done so for decades) without there being any epidemic of problems. Because apparently, trans Canadians have more respect for other humans and for the principle of privacy than religious right bigots do.

But the religious right isn't interested in that, and keeps harping on shower fear. The shower argument was also previously presented in various places by FOX News, WingNutDaily et al, including this graphic screencapped by StopBeck (h/t Pam's House Blend):

For those who know nothing about the issue and never gave it much thought -- let alone research -- the whole washroom thing sometimes seduces people into thinking that it has merit. Even Barney Frank has succumbed to trans panic with regard to washrooms, and said things which have been exploited by the religious right -- things he probably now regrets (although a public refutation of those comments would be nice).

In the end, this argument was never about any actual dangers, but about the "squick" factor that homophobes and transphobes get when fixating on what we have in our pants and what we do in bed. Which, of course, is none of their business, however much they feel they should be able to control those things through legislation.

So if anyone had any doubts about what the potty panic debates were all about or thought that maybe they had some merit, now you know better.


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Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | December 23, 2010 4:21 PM

And then of course there might be the common sense approach to the whole shower thing by acknowldging that many folks, regardless of the differences/similarities in their genital plumbing, would really prefer to wash themselves without others watching. I think they call the concept "separate stalls", "shower curtains", and a host of other arrangments other than a big "everybody soap up in a big steamy room". But then I guess just the thought that.....gasp....someone just on the other side of the partition might be......well.....ON OF THEM....is just too much to have to tolerate.

Well, they might be worried someone next door will start tapping his toes or have a wide stance.

The idiotic thing is that most showers in the military do have stalls. People have all these Vietnam-era movies in mind, but about the only place where you'll find these open bay showers is boot camp. Barracks have two or three people to a room sharing a bathroom. Even remote forward operating bases in Iraq or Afghanistan have some form of curtain stall or enclosed space.

:D I'm proud to say that Natalie Murry is MY freind! She rocks!
As for Barney Frank, yes he has made transphobic statements in his not so recent past and it did include the oft repeated 'bathroom' questions that center around bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms...
But, to turn his recent comments against him. Where does he think Trans people use the bathroom or change? Those gay and lesbian patrons who use those facilities? They are just as invisible to the straights as the Transgender patrons.

And sadly, as an American and a retired member of the United States military, I feel cheated that my nation which has been a 'bastion of Freedom' lags behind anyone when it comes to human rights issues. I hope going forward we can fix that...

but you missed Barney's brilliant closing line! He snorted that of course gays take showers - what do you think that we get dry-cleaned?

While it may be witty, it's also been noted elsewhere. The religious right's fixation on showers in this case, though, was an irony that I thought needed to be commented on.

What I have been unreliably informed... I think you can file this one under "rumour"....

Barney does not resile from his remarks. In fact, he insisted that language be put in ENDA to allow (though not require) employers to demand that Trans people use separate restrooms.

The reason ENDA got shelved in committee was that he was told that the Republicans would definitely move an amendment so that that applied to Gays too. The exact same arguments about "causing discomfort to other employees" apply in both cases.

He either had to remove the separate restroom sections he'd insisted on being inserted, or let the bill die. Under no circumstances would he allow any bill without that language to be considered, so while Barney Frank is involved, any progress on an inclusive ENDA is impossible, now or in the future.

As Miranda Stevens-Miller wrote
Some of you might know Barney's reputation for being transphobic. But I felt, with his recent actions in congressional committee, in which he publicly advocated inclusion of transgender women in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), that he may have seen the light. Besides, it was important for Barney Frank and other politicians to see people like us as part of the legitimate political process.

A little while later, I found Barney without a group of people around him, so I once again engaged him in conversation. "So," I said, "does your support of transgender inclusion in the VAWA mean that you might be changing your mind about inclusion of gender-variant people in ENDA?" An innocent enough question, but you would have thought that I was threatening him with a loaded weapon. He got red in the face and started shouting, "Never." His problem was that until we could answer the question of "people with penises in [women's] showers," there is no way that he would support it. The conversation got rather heated to say the least. And with Barney speaking very loudly and repeatedly about "penises in showers," we attracted a lot of attention in the restaurant.

I can imagine.
There was no way to win this argument. In fact, it was déjà vu, recalling a similar conversation we had almost two years ago when Barney was in town for a meeting of the Stonewall Democrats. At that time, it was "men in women's bathrooms."
So it was with a little trepidation that Transgendered people read that it was Barney Frank who was the main sponsor of ENDA - the Employment Non Discrimination Act, that would have protected people from being discriminated against due to sexual orientation or gender identity, the way they are when the discrimination is due to race, creed or colour. Would he really follow through, or would he find a way to make it "Gay Only"? GLB, without the T?
That was from 2007. We all know what happened.

The current language in ENDA has still not been released, but kept a closely-guarded secret, even though it's been allowed to die in committee. Pulled from consideration literally the day before it was due, in November last year, to be delayed by "a few days" while some minor adjustments were made to the language.

That's why it's ideal to take moments like this to challenge him (and others who might feel that way).

To all this shower talk I'd just like to inform:
I often shower with my dog, and while I sometimes bark, I've never licked my balls or contracted fleas.

Unfortunately, as human males, most of us need to find someone else to help us when our balls needs licking.

It can be a lot of work ... and too often it's like other similar things, it would save a lot of time if I'd could just do it myself.

With friends like Barney, we don't need Republicans.

I don't want St. Barney showering with ENDA.

He's been doing so for decades and continues to piddle all over it.

The whole bathroom/shower debate argument against repealing enda should be a wake up call to those lgb's that think T issues don't apply to them.We're all in the same boat, drilling wholes in the floorpan only ensures we all drown together.

I wouldn't want Barney in my shower; I like to relax in the shower and he seems awfully loud and caustic...hardly a peaceful environment

Plus, of course, we Lesbians don't exist