Birth certificates and bathrooms in Arizona

Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh has introduced a bill that would make it illegal for transgendered persons to enter what he, John Kavanagh, consider’s to be the “wrong” public restroom.

Brahm Resnik nicely summarizes the proposal in the title of a recent column, “‘Show me your papers’ — before you pee.” The bill would add the following to the state’s definition of “disorderly conduct”:

A person commits disorderly conduct if the person intentionally enters a public restroom, bathroom, shower, bath, dressing room or locker room and a sign indicates that the room is for the exclusive use of persons of one sex and the person is not legally classified on the person’s birth certificate as a member of that sex.

So Kavanagh’s bill specifically targets one minority group — transgendered people — for legal harassment. That’s unfair and unjust, but let’s bracket those very important matters of fairness and justice for the moment and just consider what it would take to enforce a law like this.

Resnik worries that this bill would, in effect, require all transgendered persons in Arizona to carry their birth certificate with them at all times. But it wouldn’t do that.

It would, instead, require everyone to carry their birth certificate with them at all times.

Including good, straight, white, Christian citizens of Arizona — the sort of people Kavanagh had no intention of harassing with this legislation. His bill is intended to exclude certain people from public accommodations — people he doesn’t particularly care about burdening. But the only way to do that is to require everyone to be able to prove that they’re not one of the people he’s targeting. Kavanagh only intends for his bill to affect the lives of transgendered Arizonans, but in practice it would mean that every person in Arizona would be required to be able to demonstrate that the gender “legally classified on that person’s birth certificate” met the standards of his proposed law.

Kavanagh simply hasn’t thought this through. His motive for this proposal — fear of the other — is similar to the motive behind many Jim Crow laws and other race-based forms of legal discrimination, so Kavanagh turns to them as models for his bill. It’s the same basic approach his party has taken in Arizona to the legal harassment of Latino and Hispanic people — legislating the presumption of illegitimacy for anyone who appears not to conform to his preferred norm and requiring such citizens to provide constant, elaborate documentation of their claim to equality under the law.

But this “Papers, please” model of race-based legal discrimination doesn’t work for legal discrimination based on sexuality, because sexuality isn’t always visually obvious. When you’re trying to enforce a form of legal discrimination based on traits that are not visually obvious things get much more complicated.

Think of the routine police harassment of black motorists sardonically referred to as “DWB,” or driving while black. That’s a relatively simple form of legal discrimination because it’s based on a visually apparent distinction. A Radnor cop sits in his cruiser alongside Lancaster Ave. — the main artery of Philadelphia’s “Main Line” suburbs — and he peers through the windshield of every passing car until he sees a black driver he can pull over for, say, driving 27 in a 25 mph zone. (To be fair, Radnor police don’t exclusively pull over black motorists — they also occasionally pull over white Villanova students.)

But such selective legal harassment of a particular population is a much trickier business when that population is not visually distinct. I took the picture below in Jerusalem in 1990.

 It’s not easy to peek through a windshield to determine whether the driver of a car is Israeli or Palestinian — the difference is not visually obvious. So to allow a simpler visual distinction, Israel uses color-coded license plates. I’m not sure what the code is today, but in 1990 it was yellow plates for Israeli drivers and blue plates for Palestinian drivers. Thus the only way for Palestinians to get around easily without being repeatedly pulled over, pulled aside, and required to produce documentation was to get a car with yellow plates.

In 1990, though, the West Bank was going through a wave of Intifada protests, which included a lot of stone-throwing. If a blue license plate made your car a target for harassment from the police and the IDF, then a yellow license plate made it a target for stone-throwing Palestinian protesters.

The rough solution, then, was to drive a car with yellow plates, but to display a keffiyeh head scarf on the dashboard. That signaled “Yes, I have yellow plates, but please don’t throw stones, I’m one of you.” The police and the IDF knew about this signal too, of course, and if they saw the keffiyeh on the dash, they’d respond just as though the car had blue plates. And Israeli drivers also learned the keffiyeh trick, which they’d use as a way to avoid becoming a target for stones.

This technique required some agility involving the quick removal or replacement of the scarf, depending on where one was driving. Too quick or too slow and you could end up either detained at a checkpoint or paying for a broken windshield — as in the photo. (I have no idea if that car belonged to a Palestinian driver using Israeli plates or to an Israeli driver using a Palestinian keffiyeh.)

The point here being that legal discrimination gets really complicated when it’s premised on traits that do not involve visually apparent distinctions. Without a simple visual distinction, any attempt to harass one visually indistinct group will wind up making life miserable for everyone from every group.

And just as an IDF officer or Intifada protester can’t simply glance through a windshield and be certain if they’re seeing an Israeli or a Palestinian, so too no Arizona official can simply glance at a person using a public restroom and be certain if they’re seeing a transgendered person.

Please don’t misunderstand me — I’m not in any way saying that legal discrimination or legal harassment based on visually obvious distinctions is in any way right or good or acceptable. I’m only saying it’s logistically more simple.

I appreciate that people like Rep. Kavanagh want to subject sexual minorities to the same kinds of harassment and discrimination they apply to racial and ethnic minorities. But things like “DWB” or Arizona’s anti-immigrant laws don’t provide a useful model for discrimination against sexual minorities who may not obviously look like sexual minorities. And when the minority group you’re targeting for harassment often looks just like everyone else, then you can’t impose a “papers please” law on them without imposing it on everyone else too.

 

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  • SisterCoyote

    I’m cisgendered female, and I get called “Sir” or “Young man” or otherwise misgendered almost every day. I used to joke about flashing people who told me I was in the wrong bathroom, and it was only a few years ago that I started wondering what would happen if I couldn’t do that – if there was no way to prove to bigoted assholes people that I was who I said I was.

    I’m still pretty sure the simplest solution is for people to stop arguing about the gender of people who they do not share a body with. This is the most horrifically fucked up bill I’ve seen in a while, even worse than Arizona’s usual standards.

  • Jenny Islander

    Trying to avoid TMI here–assorted medical issues require me to use only hypoallergenic cotton menstrual pads each month. These are very bulky items. I try to wear loose, concealing clothing if I have to take my coat off outside the house during that time, but sometimes I just can’t get to that pile of laundry due to the usual Mom chaos, so I have to walk around with a visible “package.” So far nobody has commented to my face. But if I’m reading this law correctly, I could be subjected to a legally permitted public hazing in Arizona because I have medical issues that are nobody’s damn business!

  • Katie

    And once again, women are being punished because of the fear that men might misbehave.
    I’d also note that there isn’t an age limit on this law, and as a woman who has sons, I can say from experience that (some) women start being uncomfortable about boys being in the women’s bathroom when the boys are, oh, about five. So not only is this a law that will hurt transgendered people, it can also be used to harass parents who might need to take their opposite sex child to the bathroom.
    Not to mention the absurdity of a law that seeks to keep men out of the women’s bathroom, by…legally requiring some men to use the women’s bathroom.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    Actually, the bill exempts parents of small children, as well as janitorial staff and the physically disabled.

    One other interesting bit from the actual bill: It’s an addendum to the disorderly conduct statue, with the new part under a new subsection. The original statute required “intent to disturb the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, family or person,” while the new subsection lacks that phrase.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    … as if they didn’t care whether the intent was to cause a disturbance or not. That is interesting, and perhaps rather telling.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It would, instead, require everyone to carry their birth certificate with them at all times.

    Equal protection’s a dick, ain’t it?

    I mean, if your goal is legally enshrined discrimination.

  • AnonaMiss

    I see what you did there.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    That was actually an accident. I got so caught up in the question of whether or not I’d catch hell for saying “Equal protection’s a bitch” that I didn’t notice the opportunity that had presented itself.

    But anyway, “Equal protection requires…” is kind of a dodgy idea when selective enforcement is kinda the whole point of a law like this.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Slightly beside the point – but, despite having grown up in a country with male/female toilets, I don’t really see the need. Why can’t we just have unisex toilets everywhere? It’s not like having sanitary bins in the loos is really going to inconvenience the men. And while it would be creepy and inappropriate if a woman came over and started staring at men using the urinals, it’d also be creepy and inappropriate if a man started staring at the men using the urinals – so what’s the big deal?

  • aunursa

    Many restaurants and public facilities (e.g. BART rapid transit stations) have two single-person restrooms: a Men’s room and a Women’s room. In such facilities, wouldn’t it make more sense to have such restrooms for use by either/any gender? Why should a woman have to wait for another woman to finish her business if the designated Men’s room is unoccupied… and vice-versa? Single-person restrooms should not have gender use limitations.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    When I was a teenager, I once spent the weekend sleeping in the church hall with 40 other Girls Brigade girls. And despite the fact that there were 40 girls and no boys present, everyone still kept queuing up to use the ladies toilets. (Except for two of us, who rebelled, used the mens, and got to pee way faster than everyone else.)

  • arcseconds

    Why should a woman have to wait for another woman to finish her business if the designated Men’s room is unoccupied… and vice-versa?

    Cooties.

  • arcseconds

    Why should a woman have to wait for another woman to finish her business if the designated Men’s room is unoccupied… and vice-versa?

    Cooties.

  • stardreamer42

    Given the comments my (male) partner has made about the condition of many public men’s restrooms, I can foresee several ways this might go. Apparently there are a LOT of guys who can’t be bothered either to aim properly or to clean up after themselves if they miss, and the floors around the toilets become… sticky.

  • The_L1985

    The floors around toilets in a lot of public women’s restrooms are just as nasty. Especially since there are also women who ignore the perfectly-good bin in the side wall and toss their feminine products on the floor. I DO NOT WANT TO SEE YOUR BLOODY MAXI, THANKS.

  • P J Evans

    They closed the restrooms at my local trains station, because some of the users made messes, mostly by filling the little trash container with the paper seatcovers. The PTB blame it on the bus riders, but it happens in midday, when there are far fewer bus riders. It’s inconvenient as hell if you’re having to wait for a train that’s fifteen or twenty minutes late.

  • The_L1985

    So, hiring a janitor wasn’t an option?

  • Rae

    I’ve seen that many, many times IRL, and done it myself, and most of my female friends and relatives have done it.

    However, it was only this weekend that I was at a Starbucks that I saw the opposite: A man going into the single-occupant “women’s” restroom because there was a line for the “men’s” room.

  • Makabit

    I’ve always used the single-person men’s room if it comes available, and I see no reason a man shouldn’t use the women’s. What on earth is the point of gender-separated restrooms if NO ONE ELSE IS IN THERE?

  • arcseconds

    I’ve also wondered that, especially as we now accept that sexual attraction doesn’t sharply divide down gender lines. Anyone who uses a public changing room will, probably, often be getting changed in front of people who are sexually attracted to their general morphology.

  • The_L1985

    I was always weirded out by that. It’s not that I have problems with the human body or anything, but if there are stalls in the changing room, I don’t expect to see naked strangers and don’t particularly want to.

    It’s not like I walked into a nudist colony or a clothing-optional ritual. Unexpected nudity of strangers is one of my squicks, because I like to know whether to expect other people to be wearing clothes or not.

  • Rae

    For that matter, just put urinals in stalls, too, and label the stall doors. Or make them all toilets, although from what I’ve seen of men’s rooms that could get messy.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    TW: Rape

    I believe I’ve heard concerns brought up of sexual assault/harassment taking place in the bathroom, which are relatively isolated. Of course, this happens with male/female toilets anyways, so…

    In less disturbing news, I once had a scoutmaster who insistently referred to male/female divided toilets as ‘unisex’, under the logic that they were each designated for one sex. He did a lot of other weird things too, but that’s the relevant story…

  • The_L1985

    I went to a restaurant once that had a single-occupancy bathroom. It was unisex. First time I, as a ciswoman, ever tried to go to the bathroom while staring down a urinal.

  • Jenny Islander

    Two things come to mind:

    1. Guy pee stinks. I have trouble using heavily trafficked unisex bathrooms because the lingering tomcat smell from the male patrons makes me ill.

    2. There is a thing about men being manly by nonchalantly shaking it off and walking out. Leaving those of us who have to drop our pants to pee trying to keep them out of the sticky stains on the floor. Seriously, I had some conservative Christian guy tell me with a straight face that it was my problem for being too dainty to come into contact with “sterile” urine. I say that I handle my children’s piddle as a matter of course, but grown men can clean up after their own selves! Except they don’t.

  • Jenny Islander

    ETA to no. 1: Maybe I wouldn’t notice if I had grown up with all-unisex toilets, or maybe it’s something in American food, but in any case the smell is awful.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Obviously, as a man I’m not qualified, but whenever I go out in a mixed group, the women tend to be the ones complaining about the state of their restrooms. Often in graphic, horrible detail.

    There’s apparently this “hovering” thing which some women do which not all of the women who do are good at?

  • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

    Guy pee stinks.

    Fecal matter smells quite wretched, regardless of the owner… and frequently used, poorly ventilated bathrooms present this offense more often than not.

    Nevertheless, folks seem to manage.

  • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

    Also, coffee pee and asparagus pee… Yish.

  • Makabit

    Urine that has come out of your body, and is on the floor, is no longer sterile. Urine doesn’t have some inherent QUALITY of being sterile, it just is when it’s in the bladder.

  • LMM22

    Mess.

    More importantly — even if sexual assault isn’t an issue, hidden cameras still would be. Everyone has a cell phone these days, and it’d be really difficult to do *anything* about the guy in the next stall. (At least with single-sex bathrooms, one could complain that, hey, there’s a guy in the bathroom! With unisex bathrooms, you’d have to catch him in the act.) This is *especially* true in high school or middle school contexts — I could easily see girls getting blackmailed or mocked because of footage taken in women’s restrooms.

    Also, to the extent that it’s possible without violating people’s rights, I *do* think that we should be aware of people’s boundaries and discomfort levels — particularly when they vary culturally. Technically, we don’t even need stalls — or enclosed toilets! — but we have them because few people feel comfortable without them. (I had two close female Muslim friends in grad school. Both were relatively liberal, particularly for first-generation immigrants, but neither would swim in a mixed-sex environment. One of them lived in Saudia Arabia for awhile as a teen — she had little good to say about it, but she did miss the segregated swimming pools. I’m not sure how they would deal with unisex bathrooms, but I doubt they’d be happy.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/dpolicar David Policar

    I just want to make sure I understood you: on your account, with single-sex bathrooms, if a guy is in a stall adjacent to a woman and takes pictures with his cellphone, the woman has recourse, since he wasn’t supposed to be in the room at all. (If a woman is in a stall adjacent to a woman and takes pictures with her cellphone, the woman has no recourse, but we’re not worried about that.) But with mixed-sex bathrooms, the woman would have no recourse even if her photographer was male, because there’s no practical way we can address men taking abusive photos once we let them into the room at all.

    Yes?

  • LMM22

    Adolescent culture being as such, it’s quite likely teenage boys would take photos of girls. Women are *far* less likely to be cultured to do so. It’s quite easy to throw someone out beforehand. It’s much harder to do so after the fact.

    Basically, we live in a culture where grown men fondle women on subways. We live in a culture where grown men take pictures up women’s skirts. Until you address this, count me out of your utopian unisex restrooms.

  • DavidCheatham

    How about we just make bathrooms where you can’t see into the stalls?

    Seriously, this has always seemed like a saner solution to start with. Extend the walls to the ceiling and floor.

    And before people ask if this would cost more money…what, more money than two entirely separately rooms? Because one real wall is almost certainly more expensive than extending every flimsy plastic wall a few feet up and down, and that’s assuming you make the combined restroom the same size. (When in reality you can now make it smaller.)

    Oh, and fun fact: Now you can put _cameras_ in there. Just, you know, not in the stalls.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dpolicar David Policar

    Well, I’m all for addressing that sort of abusive behavior.

    How about: prosecute men who inappropriately touch women or take inappropriate pictures of women, whether they are in a single-sex bathroom, a multi-sex bathroom, or not in a bathroom at all?

    Even better, how about: prosecute people who inappropriately touch or take inappropriate pictures of other people, whether inside or outside a bathroom?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It seems to me that if the justification for segregated restrooms is “to protect women from men who might illicitly photograph them there”, you need to have an answer for “why don’t we care about women who might illicitly photograph them there?” Because if we have some way to solve that second problem, then that same method can be used to solve the first problem, and we don’t need sex-segregated bathrooms for that reason.

    If on the other hand, it’s “Sure it might happen, but it’s so rare that I don’t care about doing anything about it,” well, that’s an argument that has a rather unfortunate history when it comes to how we police gender.

    (And that’s leaving aside for the moment the fact that you can essentially ruin someone’s life by releasing a covertly taken photograph of them in a state of undress. I’m hoping really hard that within my lifetime, it’ll stop being feasible for society to discard people for having been photographed in a state of partial dress. Though right now society seems to be interested in finding new ways to discard people rather than getting rid of the ones we have)

  • http://thisculturalchristian.blogspot.com/ michael mcshea

    I did not know that the facilities in a private club, a country club, would could be considered public? Have the walls and barriers of white America shrunk right up unto the very stall door?

  • Lori

    Lovely. Nothing like have a full on white supremacist stop by for a visit.

  • http://thisculturalchristian.blogspot.com/ michael mcshea

    And I am double parked in a rather seedy part of town to join y’all at that. lol

  • Lori

    Feel free to unpark your ass and head on back to Klan town.

  • http://thisculturalchristian.blogspot.com/ michael mcshea

    Whatever. Bye.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Well. That was random.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Oh, is that what he’s talking about? The “country club” thing was confusing me…

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Country clubs are one of the last places where open racism is still considered socially acceptable. The words “country club” and “white America” are pretty synonymous with “our fortress of solitude against the inferior races infringing on our right to be assholes.”

  • Lori

    Yup, that’s what he was talking about. Folks who are not flaming racists don’t waste a lot of concern on the sanctity of country club toilets.

  • de_la_Nae

    Businesses are pseudo-people, populated by people. People are not allowed to do certain behaviors outside of their most personal holdings (and sometimes even then, i.e. murder) because they have been found to be systemically abusive to humanity, society, and other people.

    Businesses, (usually) being at most pseudo-people (and of course staffed and maintained by actual people who are still under certain rules) have slightly different leeway with the rules. Because essentially they must be able to deal with their employees in a non-systemically abusive manner, and in cases of businesses whose entire means of living require personal interaction with people (i.e. The Public), they are not allowed to be systemically abusive either.

    The debate on where the lines are and should be drawn are constant, but that’s the general idea. The law usually is supposed to boil down to “don’t be a dick, love your neighbor”. Oh hey, where have we seen that phrase before? :3

  • http://thisculturalchristian.blogspot.com/ michael mcshea

    Don’t have a clue about what your pile of words mean?

  • stardreamer42

    It means that if you run a business — yes, even a private business — you are REQUIRED TO OBEY THE LAW. Libertarians and assholes don’t like that very much, but tough shit.

  • de_la_Nae

    Pretty much what Stardreamer42 said. Because people are not allowed to do certain things to other people, businesses are not allowed to do those certain things either, private or no. Businesses are made of people, after all.

    Then again because businesses *aren’t* people (just made of them, among other things), they have some different rules and allowances. Defining those are a constant struggle for society.

    That better? I know it can be a little confusing to someone who hasn’t had to think about it very much, and God knows I can muck up an explanation sometimes.

  • http://thisculturalchristian.blogspot.com/ michael mcshea

    I have lived in Arizona and there are two classes of people, the rich and the super rich. For some dude from the Mormon dominated legislature is trying to post some new exclusionary law, it must be for the benefit of the two classes or their private enclaves. If Country Club is some coded word here that gets me banned, so be it. Have a nice life.

  • Lori

    You haven’t been banned and you’re not going to be unless you do something a lot worse than talk like a racist. Don’t try to make out like you’re being victimized.

  • depizan

    Wait, wait, wait… are you seriously claiming that everyone in Arizona is rich?

    Bwahahahahhaha! No, really, that is absolutely the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.

  • The_L1985

    …One of the poorest states in teh US has only rich people in it?

    Pull the other one, it’s got bells.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Please tell me that was a horrible reference to the Eminem song.

    ….No? Balls.

  • The_L1985

    Dude, there has never been a white America. Before white people came here, there were Native Americans. Not long after white people arrived, Africans were imported as slaves. America has never been, and will never be, all-white. DEAL WITH IT.

  • Former law prof

    Fred, I agree with your sentiments entirely, but you overstate your case. The bit about birth certificates is in the law as a way of defining gender. NOTE, I AM NOT DEFENDING THE LAW, WHICH IS STUPID. What I am doing is looking at it as a lawyer would, which is often quite different from the way these types of things get stated in arguments. The reality is that looking like a male (or female) is not a reason for police to detain you if looking like a male (or female) is appropriate for the circumstances. The people this law targets are OUT transgendered folks — known to be transgendered by someone willing to call the cops.

    Its odd side effect is that it would also target transgendered people attempting (however unhappily) to comply with it. Imagine the response if someone who looks male (but is female by birth) goes into the women’s room because the law requires it. Ironically, what people would wind up having to do is to prove that they’re transgendered, since otherwise the law is an invitation to peeping toms to claim they’re transgendered.

    The Jerusalem stuff is fascinating, btw. All I’m saying here is that the concept of probable cause intervenes here to make your assessment of the Arizona law unlikely.

  • Katie

    Except that being a peeping tom is already illegal.

  • de_la_Nae

    Some days I wish I was a business owner in Arizona, just so if this law was passed I could waste everyone’s time and money calling the cops on anyone who tried to use my bathrooms.

    I, uh, probably shouldn’t be a business owner. Something tells me it would die quickly.

  • Guest

    What’s stopping you from hanging around any public restroom and calling the cops on everyone who tries using the bathroom? The state Capitol restrooms, maybe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mary.e.collins.12 Mary Elizabeth Collins

    I like the cut of your jib, friend.

  • Edo

    There’s a term for that, but I have no strong moral objections to it.

  • Matri

    Oh please, this law is practically begging for this to happen.

  • Fanraeth

    Dear Guest, I like you very much.

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    “The bit about birth certificates is in the law as a way of defining gender”

    Highly problematic way of defining gender though. It’s changeable, but it’s difficult to change and inconsistent whether it can be changed. I’m working on getting my gender change processed by the state of California. However, when that happens, to my knowledge I will not get a new birth certificate; I will get a California court order declaring me female. I can’t get a new birth certificate because my birth certificate was issued by Texas, and they won’t accept my gender change. But this Arizona law specifically says birth certificate! So I’d be in the unusual situation of being legally female in the eyes of Arizona law, but it would be illegal for me to use a womens’ restroom. What? If you peg the law’s definition of gender to birth certificates, what you really mean is– depending on the state the person was born in!– “this person is cisgender” “this person is cisgender or is transgender and has had surgery” or “this person is cisgender or transgender and has received some sort of medical treatment” (where “medical treatment” could mean psychiatric counseling). In other words it would tell us very little.

    “Ironically, what people would wind up having to do is to prove that they’re transgendered, since otherwise the law is an invitation to peeping toms to claim they’re transgendered.”

    Okay, so granting yes you have an interesting point that this would create weird legal problems for trans people who attempt to follow it, but

    Just

    UGH

    I hate this argument SO MUCH. I usually hear it in the context of saying trans people *shouldn’t* be allowed into restrooms, it makes even less sense here. Remember in the absence of this law, trans people don’t magically get access to restrooms; business owners may exclude trans people under current AZ law.

    That aside, where’s this “peeping toms in bathrooms” problem that we keep hearing about? It doesn’t seem to exist outside of discussions of transgenderism and nothing about it seems to make sense. If bathroom voyeurs exist, why do we only worry about heterosexual ones? Why can’t we deal with them using existing laws against voyeurism? Why once caught would a bathroom voyeur try to pass themselves off as transgender (an incredibly societally disfavored minority), thus making them not ONLY a caught voyeur but also subject to transphobia? Certainly a cisgender person wouldn’t get very far pretending to be trans in court even if there were a reason to do so.

  • P J Evans

    You might get a new birth certificate anyway. (I know it’s done for at least some adoptions: I believe my nephew has one from CA, where he was born, and one from NY, where he was adopted. The cousins in TX who were adopted *did* get new BCs.)

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    Gonna try. Not sure if it will work. The current CA gender change regulations are only a little over a year old and I haven’t heard results from anyone who’s tried to pull the trick I’d need to pull yet.

  • Lectorel

    To quote a very pithy acquaintance of mine, in response to ‘but your birth certificate says you’re female!’:
    Yeah, it also says I weigh six pounds, four ounces. A lot has changed, hasn’t it?

  • depizan

    This law would target anyone who didn’t look “right” using a restroom. It would allow people to call the cops on guys with long hair, women with short hair, whoever didn’t match their idea of what a “man” or “woman” should look like.

  • http://danel4d.livejournal.com/ Danel

    That’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

  • tsig

    I was going to say that so I upvoted you

  • aunursa

    I’m not sure what the code is today, but in 1990 it was yellow plates for Israeli drivers and blue plates for Palestinian drivers.

    According to Wikipedia, certain number suffixes are now reserved for Palestinian plates. (Note that Israeli plates are issued to all Israeli citizens — Jews, Muslims, and Christians.)

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    I don’t believe for a second that this bill – if it became a law – would ever be enforced. That’s not the intent. The intent is to make a point, for social cons to draw a line in the sand in their conflict against those people.

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K

    It also makes it easier to get the “wrong sort” ejected if they’re “bothering” you by existing.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    I think not enforced at the state level (i.e., there wouldn’t be police officers routinely checking bathrooms for people who looked like they didn’t belong there), but I have no doubt that the intent is to give a tool to specific people to address something they don’t like, just like the nipple felony law is probably aimed directly at the Go Topless protestors.

    These days, it’s sadly pretty common for legislators to take aim directly at a local issue with a state law.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It wouldn’t be enforced by policemen in rest rooms, but it would certainly be enforced as a way apply the force of law selectively when a panicky cisperson was spooked by a suspected* transperson.

    (* I say “suspected” because I think that this law would be used not just against actual transpeople, but also to harass cis people who weren’t performing their gender in the complainant’s preferred way)

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    There was actually a news article just the other day about a cisgender woman getting kicked out of a place of business because someone accused her of being a “man in the bathroom”. (Can’t seem to find that article now!) The scary endgame of this law would be basically mandatory stereotypical gender presentation in Arizona if you don’t want to be asked to present your papers.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I’m on vacation using the lodge’s wifi which is spotty at best. I actually wanted to make a post on this subject at my place but, while I can log in I can’t actually do anything over there at the moment.

    If the law passed, which I hope it doesn’t, it seems like a viable protest strategy would be civil obedience. Organize a group to be present at a restroom, say whichever one Arizona legislators use, and demand to see the birth certificate before anyone gets in. If they don’t comply call security (the state legislature’s place must have security) to have them detained on the suspicion that the person is using a restroom that doesn’t match the gender on their birth certificate.

    See how long of enforcing the law equally for everyone in a place where the legislators want to use the restroom it takes before they decide to repeal the law. It’s not civil disobedience because it’s obeying the law.

  • http://thegloriousliberty.blogspot.com/ TheGloriousLiberty

    I would want to follow that senator around and ask for his birth certificate before he entered any public restroom, actually. Say have a rotating team of people so as to avoid stalking charges.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Access to the blog appeared, and then went away, and then reappeared, and so forth, which means that the post probably sucks, but I did get a post on it out.

  • histrogeek

    It’s like work-to-rule, a long-standing union tactic squashing productivity by compulsive following the rules. I think it would work faster in the case of restrooms though.

  • gpike

    The concept of policing restrooms is fairly bothersome to me since I’m nonbinary-identified and have a regular problem with older ladies freaking out when they encounter me in a women’s restroom even though I don’t remotely “pass” as male… *sigh*

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    I know exactly how you feel. I’m genderfluid in a way I can’t even articulate, meaning what I identify with not only changes, but sometimes it feels like I’m trying to plot X,Y coordinates on an X,Y,Z,Q plane.

  • gpike

    Yeah! It’s awkward when one is simultaneously “invisible” but can’t help rocking the boat in public spaces just by existing…

  • gpike

    Yeah! It’s awkward when one is simultaneously “invisible” but can’t help rocking the boat in public spaces just by existing…

  • Baby_Raptor

    I know exactly how you feel. I thought I was the only one who was that random…

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    And I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s not!

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    You know, I wonder, if the Arizona law passes (I don’t feel it’s likely), I wonder if it would have the accidental effect of promoting gender-neutral restrooms because that would be the only way for businesses to accommodate transgender customers without either somebody breaking a law or a scene being caused (the bill says I should be using the men’s room, but I assure you, if I went in the men’s room people would FREAK OUT).

  • gpike

    I was thinking of that too – more gender-neutral restrooms would be great – but geeze why can’t we just have that IN GENERAL rather than people discriminating blatantly against folks that ARE actually men or women… >_>

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    There are reasonable arguments to be made about the value of having female-only spaces to which women can retreat when under threat or duress. Though there’s no per-se reason that bathrooms have to be it.

  • gpike

    Yeah. Though frankly if people want there to be “safe spaces” for women who were “born female”, then there should also be safe spaces for women who were not assigned as female at birth.

  • Indigo

    For what it’s worth, the women’s centre at my university had a library, which was open to all, and another area that was designated women-only, as a safe space. Their rule on entering this space was that it was for people who identified as women (transwomen were allowed, transmen were not). There were quite a few people around, some with what I felt were more legitimate complaints than others, who were upset about this. Most of them, however, seemed to be cismen who wouldn’t have ever considered setting foot in the women’s centre in any capacity if there weren’t a sign telling them they couldn’t.

  • Fanraeth

    I’m a cis-gendered gay man, but regularly experience people mistaking me for a woman. This means that trips to the public bathroom are always tense for me because I’m afraid someone will make that mistake and cause a scene. It’s never happened yet, but I don’t think I would ever feel comfortable using a bathroom in Arizona were this law passed.

  • Carstonio

    I admit that I had assumed that transgender and transsexual were the same thing. That doesn’t change my opinion of Kavanagh, who is lower than the animal waste that I scraped off my boot yesterday.

  • Lectorel

    It’s a bit complicated, since there are multiple different definitions out there, and depending on when a person transitioned, they may describe themself by the terms in use during that time period.

    Current accepted format is use of the adjective ‘trans*’, which covers all non-cis gender IDs. Use it with a space – i.e. trans* women, not trans*women.
    Some people with non-normative gender identities may prefer a different term for themself, though, for whatever reason.

    Using myself as an example, I don’t call myself trans*, even though I’m a bit genderfluid, because ninety present of the time my body and gender are compatible and read as female to others, so it’s connotations don’t quite jibe with my personal experiences.

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    As Lectorel mentions the terms have shifted over time. In general though the way people seem to use things, “transgender” is a slightly broader term than “transsexual”. Also many transsexuals prefer to use “transgender”, even though both terms could technically apply, as “transsexual” sounds weird and clinical. Laws usually sidestep this question entirely by talking about “gender identity” and “gender expression”.

    Also, as long as we’re already talking about this “transgendered” just sounds silly and one should just go ahead and use “transgender” as an adjective. Google “GLAAD style guide” if you want a more authoritative argument on that.

  • Hexep

    That’s a good style guide. Above and beyond other considerations, I can just read a style guide; it’s an easy read. Although it does not include trans-asterisk.

  • Carstonio

    I admit that I had assumed that transgender and transsexual were the same thing. That doesn’t change my opinion of Kavanagh, who is lower than the animal waste that I scraped off my boot yesterday.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    If I were setting up bathrooms in a place that needed more than single person facilities could occupy I think I’d go with five (I are inefficient), all handicap accessible, in this order or reverse order: single occupancy, multiple occupancy labeled, “Women and their ilk,” multiple occupancy labeled, “Whoever”, multiple occupancy labeled, “Men and their ilk,” single occupancy. Anyone concerned about knowing the genitalia of everyone in the room can have their dreams come true by using the single occupancy ones, this would also be useful to people who have whatever reason to dislike multiple occupancy restrooms (reasons range from the traumatic to the silly.)

    The other three should be sufficient to deal with those who don’t have problems with multiple person restrooms.

    Placing the single occupancy ones next to female and male respectively would serve as a guideline, but not a rule, for who they’re intended for if people waiting for a single occupancy room are intent on dividing between the two largest genders. Not a rule because a rule is often absurd in some cases. (See any time that there’s way more of one gender in the area.)

  • Hexep

    My solution? Two rooms; one has a pissing trough and the other has toilet cubicles. The sink or bank of sinks would be external, so people who just want to wash their hands will not even have to think about it.

  • http://twitter.com/celesteh Les Hutchins

    It’s obvious that the lawmaker wants to target trans women who don’t pass. What he really wants to do is keep them out of the public sphere. People who do not have access to public toilets cannot be away from their houses for long. This tactic was employed against women in London in Victorian times. They could only stay out as long as their bladders could hold. And because many trans people face harassment whenever they try to use a toilet, this actually does limit public participation and leads to various health problems in the trans community related to chronic dehydration. Trans people are more likely to die of kidney disease.

    Under this proposed law, they’d send me to the ladies room. But a 37 year old man with a moustache lingering in the ladies room is not what anybody wants. He doesn’t imagine that I exist. If they did start checking papers, I’d never use a public toilet again, which, you know, mission accomplished.

    Arizona’s attempts at writing their own immigration laws already require people to carry passports or other documentation proving they’re citizens. This proposed law specifies birth certificates because the federal government has recently reformed the process by which a person can update their passports, which is a very positive thing. Also, the lawmaker is an ignorant ass and probably imagines birth certificates can never be updated.

    Just as a note – sexuality usually means sexual orientation – who you want to canoodle or possibly marry. Trans issues center around gender identity, which is a separate thing.

  • WalterC

    Am I the only one who, if I ever have to use a public restroom, just walks in, takes care of his business, washes his hands, and then leaves as quickly as possible? I don’t look over into other stalls to find to make sure that the guy in my right isn’t actually a woman. In fact, I’m not even faintly curious about that; for all I know, I could be surrounded by men, women, raccoons, dinosaurs, alien cyborgs from the future, whatever. It’s really not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about.

    I doubt Kavanagh actually does that either. I think what’s happened here is that he’s trying to lash out against the Phoenix law that enhanced protections for transgender folk, and he was so eager to ‘strike while the iron is hot’ (politically speaking) that he didn’t take the time to actually make sure that what he was saying wasn’t too bizarre.

    He’s already admitted that his original proposal was flawed and actually making it a criminal offense for a transgendered person to use the “wrong” bathroom was a mistake. It’s too bad that he didn’t go one step further, and admit that if he has a problem with the Phoenix City Council, he should go over to their legislative building and kick their asses himself instead of picking on a bunch of people who didn’t do anything to him.

  • de_la_Nae

    Another problem with all this is that the states themselves can’t agree on what a birth certificate’s identity as a document is generally supposed to mean. The ones that get leery of changing it for any reason generally argue, to my understanding, that it’s a simple record of birth with a few facts (bequeathed name, time, etc.), and that anything that needs changing later can be done so *and recognized as such* with other documentation. For example I have my court papers documenting my name change, if I have to interact with any group or institution that requires correcting. Because I had those papers, getting my state ID and various other things updated was easy.

    Some states allow a whole lot of changes to their birth certificates, given (sometimes excessive and ridiculous) time and effort. Laws like this proposed one will probably add pressure to that sort of thinking, even if the law itself is made with the former in mind.

    Anyway it’s all sort of stupid and mean and petty much of the time. Big surprise there.

  • GDwarf

    Me, I’d be all for all public washrooms being gender-neutral. While we’re doing that, could we also make the stall’s doors open out, where there’s loads of room, instead of in, so that I don’t have to stand on the toilet to leave the thing?

  • WalterC

    That’s all well and good for you, but I don’t want to live in the morally anarchic world you envision, where bathroom stalls open outward, flagrantly exposing the contents within to the outside world. How much more do we have to bend over to cater to such deviant fantasies?

  • P J Evans

    That sounds like a design problem. (The one’s I’ve met have *mostly* been large enough that the door clears – but not all of them.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    More seriously, while I agree with you, I imagine that the reason they are the way they are is so that you don’t have problems of people getting hit by doors being opened.

  • GDwarf

    I’m sure that’s the reasoning, yes, but the alternative is that you get hit by the door several times when you try to leave. I mean, the doors open out in the handicapped stalls, so clearly it’s not *that* big a problem. *grumble grumble*

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    I wonder if stalls could be made with sliding or rolling doors or something. Perhaps the door could be made in sections that curve and recess into the wall of the stall and then be pulled out when needed. Then it wouldn’t hit anyone when it opens up.

    I must remember to mention this to my future-inventor son when I get home from work tonight.

  • Lectorel

    That reminds me of a story from a trip to San Francisco. There was this new restaurant, completely redone on the inside, everything in white with gold accents, and these little separate, open air stations where you could see food being cooked. It was gorgeous and obviously thought out to the last detail.

    When I went to the women’s bathroom, the same white and gold theme was there too, sinks, floors, and stalls.
    And in every stall, there was a little grey metal trashcan wedged awkwardly in the corner for used pads and tampons. The designer had forgotten or never considered women might need some way to dispose of those in-stall.

  • Carstonio

    I’ve seen unisex washrooms in other countries. I’m old enough to remember the accusations that the Equal Rights Amendment would result in these coming to the US. Offhand I don’t know if any rational argument against them.

  • Baby_Raptor

    So one time I was at an IHOP with my roommate, then my boyfriend, celebrating his recent finding of a job.

    Towards the end of our visit, I got up to go to the bathroom. Upon walking out, most everyone in the immediate area started giggling, and the waitress for our half of the restaurant moved out of the little entryway. (She’d been making sure nobody entered behind me.) Confused, I looked around…And realized I’d walked into the mens’ room by mistake.

    Apparently, completely innocent situations like this can now get someone who a cop thinks “looks wrong” harassed and punished.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    One of the Apple campus buildings has the mens’ & womens’ rooms reversed from the rest of them. Yes, I have walked into the wrong one because I turned right out of habit while I was in that building.

    And at the Apple WWDC party, the lines for the mens’ room are so long relative to the womens’ that if there aren’t any women waiting the attendents let the guys go in both of them.

  • P J Evans

    I was in a bookstore once and had to use the restroom (it was after work)). There was a man in the women’s room using the facility – with the stall door open. I don’t know how he managed to not see the sign outside.

  • Rae

    I was in a restaurant in a beach town once. Going into the restroom, I encountered a man (smelling slightly of alcohol) coming out who loudly told me “You’re in the wrong bathroom, honey.” I backed up, opened the door, and looked at the sign, which said “women” and had the little skirted figure in the circle, and then he was like “Oops!” and walked out. When I walked back in, the women who had been in the toilets then were laughing their asses off.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The inside of the door to the men’s room in the Ocean City MD Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not museum has a sign on it that says “Thank for for visiting the ladies’ room”

  • Ben English

    Even for a bigot this seems like the most superfluous piece of legislation. Like, you’re in the bathroom and another person who is trans happens to be using that bathroom…. and? So what? Do people usually interact with complete strangers in public restrooms?

  • Fanraeth

    Maybe the homophobic closeted Republicans are terrified of accidentally cruising a trans person at the urinal?

  • Carstonio

    Huh? You mean they have the same revulsion to heterosexuality that homophobes profess to have for homosexuality? The joke about the straight man finding out that his date is actually another man has been around for decades. What you describe sounds almost like an SNL parody with a gay male protagonist: “Oh my god, you’re a woman? I’m so ashamed! What if I’ve been turned straight?”

  • Fanraeth

    Some people are incredibly transphobic. Some of them are also gay. It doesn’t make any sense to me either.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It’s a sad fact of life that all too often, people who have had to struggle to get their rights recognized are happy enough to choose the side of the oppressors for the next group that comes along. Often, they see them as some kind of johnny-come-lately trying to real the rewards of their struggles.

  • Carstonio

    MCC rightly points out that the “peeping toms in restrooms” problem doesn’t seem to exist outside of transgenderism discussions. Suspicious that a male legislator is ostensibly concerned about other men pretending to be women just to gawk in women’s restrooms, like he’s the valiant knight rescuing the fair damsels. But the first time I heard about this was from a new commenter here last year who identified herself as female.

    I agree with others here that the law is really about harassing people who don’t conform to gender norms. The Neuter Apocalypse joke on the old “Love Boat” originated in an era when reactionaries did indeed have paranoia about gender distinctions disappearing. They reacted in horror to homosexuality, sex-change operations, long hair on men, short hair on women, pants on women, men rebelling against the draft and talking about peace and love, women wanting to be called Ms. instead of Mrs., women wanting to make their own life choices instead of following the Ozzie and Harriett script, and worried about what was next. Obviously much of this was really men trying to protect their gender privilege, but not all.

    With a majority of the country now endorsing marriage equality, such folks are still out there. Kavanagh is most likely pandering to that mindset, but he also could subscribe to it. Either way, it’s a despicable act of demagoguery.

  • DavidCheatham

    (Please, for the purpose of this post, understand I’m speaking about the opinion _those_ men, not me.)

    The best rule of thumb is, every time anyone hears anything about opposition to homosexuality, they should mentally edit that to mean ‘abnormal gender roles’. It has almost nothing to do with sexuality. Psychologically, these people have a very hard time dealing with any sort of gender ‘abnormality’ at all.

    There’s this idea that anti-gay people on the right keep getting caught being gay, and that makes them hypocrites. Well, a lot of them are actually not. Why? Because they’re in the _male role_ in the relationship. The person giving them a blow job is the weird one, not them.

    In fact, they often manage to deal better with women in a ‘male’ role than men in a ‘female’ role…they can understand why women would want to better themselves, and if 10% of women want to pretend to be ‘men’ and get a wife and dress like men, well, that just _validates_ their world view. They don’t really believe she’s ‘people’, but they aren’t _freaked out_ by it.

    But men who _willingly_ become metaphorical women by letting men have sex with them? Or even worse, _actually_ become women?

    Why would anyone who was born with a penis, and hence inherently better than people who were not, degrade themselves like that?

    It all comes down to misogyny. _All_ of it. Women exist for men to use, and hence men deciding to be used that is like…I dunno…someone choosing to live as a someone’s dog. Whereas women choosing to live as a man are, instead, a dog that put on pants and pretends to be people, which is just somewhat silly, but, hey, if they’re polite enough and remember not to crap on the floor, the real people (men) can go along with it. And even let those dogs have _their own_ pets.

  • Carstonio

    Here’s Kavanagh: “Phoenix has crafted a bill that allows people to define their sex by what they think in their head.”

    Here’s my rhetorical question: So what?

  • AnonaMiss

    Wait – what would happen if they tried to pull this on President Obama when he was visiting the state?

    “You have to show your birth certificate to use the restroom and NOPE THAT’S NOT A GENUINE BIRTH CERTIFICATE”

    Yes yes I know he’s the President nobody would get that close to him leave me alone I didn’t get any sleep last night and thought it was silly

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    This was the first thing I thought of when I heard of this bill. Especially as it comes from the state of Sheriff Joe “My posse of sex offenders has turned up shocking evidence that the president is a secret Kenyan” Arpaio and Governor Jan “I was only shouting and wagging my finger at the leader of the free world because he was a scary black man” Brewer.

  • Makabit

    But apparently he might actually be a scary black woman?

  • Makabit

    I’m a ciswoman, and I’ve shared a ladies’ room with transwomen. It has never, ever, been an issue.

    I tried to remember when I last heard a story, in the news or from someone I know, of a ciswoman being raped/harassed/slightly inconvenienced by a transwoman in the ladies’ room.

    I recalled a story about a woman who had the crap beat out of her by two girls in a fast-food restroom…but she was trans, and they were cis.

    I think all the ladies should use the ladies’ room. It’s tidier that way.

  • http://twitter.com/thetroper Moustache De Plume

    I am 100% positive that he *intends* to target people who don’t look just like everyone else, that he’s someone who believes most trans* people are obvious. That said, I think it’s hilarious that someone who’s claimed transpeople who don’t pass successfully (not that they should have to) will “confuse children” by using the “wrong” restroom, will himself confuse a fucktonne of children when people who look their gender but not their (birth certificate) sex use the “right” restroom out of fear of getting caught.


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