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Privy Problems: Gender Identity and Public Restrooms

Privy Problems: Gender Identity and Public Restrooms

Let me be perfectly up front about something... I hate using public bathrooms. They're filthy, almost always poorly maintained, and full of other human beings who I know are listening when I'm trying to relieve myself. However, from time to time I find it necessary to visit a public privy because there's no chance of me holding it until I get home. It's at these times that I try to find the emptiest stall at the very back of the room and pray to the god I wholeheartedly don't believe in that the last person flushed, the toilet paper has been stocked, and no one walks in and sits in the stall next to me.

One thing that doesn't occur to me is whether that person has a penis.

I want to be clear, though. Women, unlike men, have a legitimate reason to not want bathroom laws messed around with. The whole reason we have separate bathrooms in the first place is because of sexual assault by men on women. Unlike racial segregation, the splitting up of areas for urination and defecation makes perfect sense. A lot of men are creepy and will do horrible and disgusting things for reason Freud could only begin to guess at. So, as it stands, men get the place with urinals and women get the place with comfy seats and nice decorations and televisions playing Days of Our Lives or some shit. I wouldn't know.

Point being, the fear of assault is the entire rationale behind those little stick figures on the door (aside from illiteracy). Which makes the debate over transgender people using restrooms respective of the gender they identify with all the more troubling. Conservatives and right-wing religious types have been going on for some time about the societal decay brought about by the LGBT community, which includes trans people relieving themselves in the wrong bathroom.

They see sex and gender as static and interchangeable. You're either a boy or a girl, and what's in between your legs is all that matters. Now, I know there are perfectly well constructed arguments and facts and logic to combat that kind of ignorant nonsense characteristic of the traditional values crowd... but that's not really important to this specific debate. Whether trans people are born, socialized, or choose their “lifestyle” (they don't) is irrelevant. Whether sex or gender are separate things or these people are mentally ill (they're not) is irrelevant. What's relevant is whether there's a legitimate reason to be afraid of allowing people to use the bathroom of their identified gender as opposed to just their biologically assigned sex.

So let's talk about bathroom assault. Have there been examples of it? Yes. Are they numerous? No. Are they mostly sexual? Only by a little bit. A lot of assaults (women on women, men on men) have nothing to do with sex. Do men sneak into restrooms to sexually assault or spy on women? Yes. Yes they do. It happens. There's a legitimate reason to not want predatory males sneaking into women's restrooms, and society generally frowns on it when it happens.

But you know what? None of them have ever worn a dress. None of them have even identified as transgender.

This might come as a shock to people who may have never actually used a public bathroom before, but there are no security guards. No special key you have to keep on you, or password you have to remember (boy, imagine forgetting it when you have diarrhea). No secret handshake before walking in. When men sneak into bathrooms to sexually assault women, they don't need to pretend to be transgender. Which is exactly why no sexual predator, in the history of sexual predators, has ever bothered to pretend to be transgender in order to sneak into a women's restroom.

Meanwhile, transgender people who venture into using the bathrooms of their biologically assigned sex, due to social pressure, are regularly assaulted in and out of public bathrooms. They are far less likely to be assaulted if it become socially and legally acceptable to use the restroom of the gender they identify as. What's more, you likely have already used a public restroom with a transgender person and not even realized it. Because, shock of all shocks, they generally have gone through a lot of trouble to actually look like the gender they identify as, regardless of what's really between their legs.

Might there be some transgender people capable of sexual assault? I'm sure there are. And maybe someday there will be an actual statistic of one or two committing sexual crimes in a bathroom. But considering you have a greater chance of being assaulted in a dorm room, on the street, or if you're a child... Catholic School... then perhaps we need to stop the fear-mongering and actually treat people the way, how did that socialist Jew from the Bible put it... like we want to be treated.

Transgender, Gay, Straight, Male, Female... I don't care. Just don't sit in the stall next to me so I can shit in peace.


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