Trans Bathroom Politics Examined

So, today bathrooms became a key piece of political discussion—again—as the Trump Administration repealed some of the protection guidelines that the Obama Administration had put in place for the Trans community in regards to public restrooms.  I should mention that I am a white cis-gendered male, and so that is where my particular opinion is coming from on this issue.

As I said, I am cis-gendered (meaning that I identify with my birth gender), and therefore have not had much insight into the needs and struggles of the Trans community.  I also have very limited insight into women’s restrooms, as I only remember going in them a few times when I was pretty young, and was out with just my mother.  So please take all of that information into account when weighing the merit of my opinions.

I understand the desire to have privacy from another gender when using the restroom.  Personally, I want privacy from the same gender, the opposite gender, trans gender, and really everyone else.  When using the restroom, I don’t want to share that experience with anyone.  So in this sense, I get why people are uncomfortable—however, our public restroom system that we still use (for men the urinal/stall combo, for women… I assume just a stall system) doesn’t really afford us any privacy.  The system is flawed, but keeping groups of people away (rather than having individualized bathrooms which is the best option) doesn’t solve the problem.  Opponents of trans men and women using their identifying gender’s restroom want to cite protecting women and children, even though there has been no statistical evidence, of any problem based on gender identity.

This argument breaks down—as far as I can see— for three distinct reasons.  First is the statistical evidence I mentioned before.  There isn’t any evidence to suggest that trans men and women are more likely to commit violence.  The second reason, is what we saw last year when this issue was raised, in which you have people identifying as men, who look like men, who may have to use a female bathroom (and vice versa) which in itself can create two distinct problems, one that it makes the people who ‘wanted everyone in their birth gender bathroom’ uncomfortable because honestly they’re the ones most likely to take issue, and second that it endangers the trans people by exposing them to potentially bigoted people.

Now, the third reason that I think this argument breaks down, is more inherent of people’s understanding of what it is to be trans gendered.  There is a lot of confusion, and this is both with the prejudiced and those trying to be allies.  There seems to be a lot of confusion between gender and orientation, which based on how our society has expressed the two for the past several hundred years makes sense.  We have come to associate masculinity and being manly with heterosexuality in men, and femininity with being a women.  We have difficulty when someone does something that doesn’t fall into those rigid gender roles accepting that they may still be heterosexual.  When you think more specifically about some of the things we’ve correlated within that dynamic, it can seem absurd.  Why does drinking beer, or loving sports, or cars get associated with gender dynamics?  And more importantly what do those things have to do with orientation.  The truth is they don’t really have anything to do with each other, but we have been raised in a largely binary society, and so we conflate these concepts.  This binary mode of thinking is what leads us to think that different is bad, and ‘normal’ or common or accepted or whatever best describes what used to be the status quo is good.  There isn’t much difference between this type of thinking and the old thinking that a tattooed person is more likely to be amoral or criminal, but somehow our brains have been wired to see different, and standing out as inherently negative despite the evidence.

Most of us, even those of us who are white, straight, cisgender know what it feels like—to some extent—to be ostracized or mistreated, and if we can keep that in mind, and start seeing whatever way we were made to feel ‘less than,’ perhaps we won’t have to be dealing with this issue in ANOTHER year.

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