Simon Aronoff

Bathroom Politics, Again

Filed By Simon Aronoff | July 14, 2008 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: bathroom, Focus on the Family, National Center for Transgender Equality, nondiscrimination, transgender

Like many of you, I've had my FOTFbathroomad.jpgpersonal bathroom run-ins. Snidely concerned citizens (aka, gender police) letting me know that I was in the "wrong bathroom" throughout my life (too butch as a woman, too fey as a man). And I've had my professional bathroom run-ins too. As the deputy director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2007, I verbally tussled with Capitol Hill police after they rudely ID'd and removed two transwomen from the Dirksen Senate Building's lady's room during--get this--NCTE's Lobby Day!

Which is all by way of introduction to two current nondiscrimination law "repeal" (or disinformation) efforts happening in Colorado and Montgomery County, Maryland, that have me spitting mad.

In June Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law a bill that outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In doing so, Colorado joined 12 other states and the District of Columbia.

And closer to my home, last fall Maryland's DC-adjacent Montgomery County Council passed an inclusive anti-discrimination measure only to see the so-called "Citizens for Responsible Government" mobilize a fear-soaked signature gathering effort to repeal it.

These laws are aimed at curbing discrimination against all LGBT people in the critical areas of housing, employment and public accommodations. I don't have to tell you that they provide real, and much needed, legal protections. But, in both Colorado and Montgomery County, groups like Focus on the Family and Citizens for Responsible Government can only see the chimera of rabid, perverted, rape-minded transgender people.

Never mind that there has never been one reported case of a transperson sexually assaulting anyone in a bathroom. Or that violent predators are loath to consider the nuance of local anti-discrimination laws before committing a crime. Or the myth that sex-segregated bathrooms provide any type of protection for women--or men. Or that the legalese "public accommodation" may or may not even apply to restrooms.

After my venti ice coffee, I just want to pee, people. And I want to wash my hands afterward and get back to work. But FOF and their ilk would like to use the general public's (ever diminishing) fear and ignorance surrounding transpeople to rollback hard-won civil rights for all LGBT folks. By running misleading radio and print ads like the one above, they create a climate of fear stoked by rhetoric that paints us perverts and rapists.

Focus on the Family's James Dobson says, "Henceforth, every woman and little girl will have to fear that a predator, bisexual, cross-dresser or even a homosexual or heterosexual male might walk in and relieve himself in their presence."

The laws that are at stake are about so much more than the red herring of Ally McBeal bathrooms--which looked pretty fun anyway. Advocates in each of these states have organized to keep our policy victories in place. If you are in Colorado or Montgomery County, I urge you to get involved in the campaigns to fend off these bone-headed repeals. If you're not, please consider making a donation to them.

Equal Rights Colorado

Basic Rights Montgomery

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 14, 2008 12:00 AM

Simon thank you. If the past six years are continued for six more I would expect a national ID card which would include gender identity, HIV status, criminal past that we would have to "swipe" to get access to a bathroom.

"All of these services are provided for your protection."

battybattybats battybattybats | July 14, 2008 1:07 AM

Personally I think the answer to the bathroom issue is to convert all of them to single-user facilities with no private space except inside the stall.

Make them all unisex and make them all disabled access.

Then you have places safer for everyone.

And when you point out that the current ones are not safe and that letting transgender people into them has never made them less safe but that shifting to single-user will make them more safe then quickly opponents of single-user facilities must contend with the fact that they actually are defending the real predators current access to young boys.

And for those who think the cost of converting the facilities to protect children, the disabled, the elderly and everyone else currently at risk in public facilities is too great?

Change the building codes for new buildings and for rennovations and before too long the only places with the old dangerous communal-space toilets will be heritage listed.

A simple way to protect everyone.

Last time I checked, public restrooms are either single-user, or the toilets equipped with stalls. For a bathroom policeman from the Religious Reich to know what's up a transwoman's skirt, or in a transman's pants, they'd have to be voyeurs. Frankly, I'm terrified of the paedophilic element that a bathroom police force would attract. Those having to use a public shower are far less than 1% of employees, and most of them could probably do their showering at home, or a stall put up in the shower. So, the whole bathroom issue is total nonsense.

If anyone knows of an incident where a paedophile, or molester of any sort, ever crossdressed to gain access to the ladies' restroom in order to assault a woman or child, I've never been apprised of it. And, if anyone ever does, there is already a fair amount of law making such behavior illegal.

Well stated, Simon.

Having just relocated from the Southwest Back to New England I was somewhat surprised by the bathroom situation here.Many bathrooms are unisex but there is a disturbing lack of public restrooms.Most businesses don't have one and if you've got to go that could mean multiple stops trying to find one.On a lighter note I did joke with my brother about using a unisex bathroom and told him he couldn't use it as he didn't fit the discription on the placard of being both male and female.Amy

But, in both Colorado and Montgomery County, groups like Focus on the Family and Citizens for Responsible Government can only see the chimera of rabid, perverted, rape-minded transgender people.

Actually, they can see past it, knowing that this may mean that they may be unable to fire someone who's trans or refuse to rent an apartment to them. But they don't want the general public to see past it. They're also using the opportunity to try to create a psychological association between transgender and predators / pedophiles, in order to try to justify their bigotry and entrench it in the minds of everyone else.

... that shifting to single-user will make them more safe.

Actually, single-user, locking stalls are far more private and subject to potential attacks from someone who is so inclined than a public area. They're "safer" to a predator's perspective, without the risk of intrusion. I do know of one such male-on-female attack and how that played a factor.

For a bathroom policeman from the Religious Reich to know what's up a transwoman's skirt, or in a transman's pants, they'd have to be voyeurs.

For some, it won't matter what the genitalia are. Roz Kaveney's recent barring from a restroom during London Pride occurred despite the fact that she is post-op by several years. And look at how many still assert that Thomas Beatie is "really a woman." Or the treatment of Khadijah Farmer, Virginia Grace Soto, etc. If being trans is suspected, the actual genitalia can be irrelevant.

Is there an echo in here . . . here . . . here?

It's the tile in this restroom. It does it all the time.


Monica, that was perfect!

No, for some it won't matter, but I can see the end result of the Reichers's arguments. Whenever the Reich has brought up the bathroom issue in my presence (and I've been hearing garbage about bathrooms for the full 9 years we've had our local law), I've always made the statement that the people I'd really fear would be the type of person who would want or accept the job of bathroom police officer. Have to admit it's kind of fun to set the local Reichers on their heels by accusing them of being peeping Toms and Teresas,.I base that on the reasoning why many police forces eliminated their vice squads: because vice squad cops are often themselves attracted to vice.

The bathroom issue is a huge canard, we all agree on that, but that's the way the Religious Reich's going to fight this battle. Colorado and Maryland are the examples. So having our messages ready is wise.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 14, 2008 1:30 PM

Actually, single-user, locking stalls are far more private and subject to potential attacks from someone who is so inclined than a public area.

Mercedes, I was going to comment on that, too.

Simon, excellent post!

Funny how it always comes down to teh bathroom, isn't it? Something never mentioned in these debates, however, is society's double-standard regarding public peeing. I've lost track of the number of times I've come across--both as a man and as a woman--a man pissing up against a wall, a car, a pole or a bush, in broad daylight and in plain view of the world. And I'm not talking about in the wilderness, miles from a public restroom.

I once watched in broad daylight a young, well-dressed man walk over and piss up against a wall in plain view of several hundred people standing in line to see the second Star Wars movie. Some people cheered him on.

Sure, it's technically a misdemeanor, and men do get ticketed--or even arrested. But I'd venture to say it's probably one guy in 100? 200? Or vastly more, otherwise the practice would stop. I also wonder how racism and homelessness play into who gets prosecuted.

Meanwhile, we trannies avoid entering public restrooms to relieve ourselves, afraid of someone yelling at us or cops arresting us. We hold it, frequently uncomfortably, until we get home.

An appalling hypocrisy lies at the heart of this bathroom issue. Just look at that photo, does that look like an MtF threatening that little girl? As well, though, an unspoken, taken-for-granted male privilege underlies the debate. Factually speaking, it's men, not trannies, who perpetrate almost all assaults--against trannies, women, children and other men. Want to end assaults in public restrooms? Ban all men. They can go pee up against the nearest wall anyway.

Simon Aronoff Simon Aronoff | July 14, 2008 3:00 PM

Ha! Brynn, you are too much.

Yep. This bathroom argument was used during integration, when folks were trying to pass the ERA, and today when LGBT civil rights are at issue. Talk about back to basics!

We'll know in about 2 weeks whether or not the Mongomery Co. repeal effort can move forward given the high number of shoddy signatures the "Citizens" gathered.

Simon & Brynn,
The "bathroom issue" is also used as an arguement for keeping gays out of the military. Hell, with some of the gross habits I witnessed on board a submarine, I think it's a good arguement to keeping straight people out of the military.

What's the big deal? I go into the restroom, do my business and leave. I do all of this without looking at all my fellow user's genitalia. (Well, almost all the time. Sometimes you sneak a peek at the urinal when he's especially hot or it's hanging in the water making bubbles as he pees! *grins*)

Brynn, you crack my shit up.

Batty, I totally agree. Single-user restrooms is the way to go. The only problem with that is that bioguys pee all over the place. They can hit a ball, but I'll be damned if they can aim when it really matters!

Yes, it's always about the bathroom. But why? I have a few random psychobabble-ish ideas, none of which I can prove. These are generalizations in no particular order:

* Women hate the fact that men can pee anywhere, and that they can only pee in the designated bathroom. Therefore, they'll be damned if penis pee-ers (TM) invade their space;

* Non-penis pee-ers (TM) don't "get" communal peeing (at urinals, for example) and fear it, and don't want it to spread beyond the confines of the men's room;

* Women believe anyone with a penis is a man, regardless of gender identity or expression. And that as men, they want the world to see that they are penis pee-ers (TM);

* Women believe anyone with a beard and/or chest hair is a man, regardless of whether or not he has a penis, and shouldn't be in the women's bathroom;

* Men believe it's their God-given right to pee anywhere, and don't care who sees them.

Again, these are generalizations, especially about homo/transphobes.

All I want is to pee in peace, wash my hands, check my makeup and get out. Is that too much to ask?

battybattybats battybattybats | July 19, 2008 9:16 PM

If single-user facilities are also dangerous how can we increase safety then? Add security cameras inside them as well as outside completely giving up privacy?

Or would having a camera outside a single-user facility to record the faces of all toilet users and setting off alerts when more than one person enters the single-user facility be enough?