Tempest surrounding Bathrooms: Gender Controversy du Jour
Again, I fearlessly (not) go where angels fear to tread—out on a (possibly breaking) limb, onto thin ice, into a social-cultural minefield. But I think I may have some thoughts (or just musings) on the subject worth putting down on “paper” and asking others to consider.
According to news reports the North Carolina legislature has passed a law requiring persons to use the public bathroom/restroom/locker room/changing room that corresponds with the sex on their birth certificate. Many people are assuming this law is intentionally discriminatory against transgender people.
According to news reports Target has created a policy that it will allow transgender people to use the stores’ restrooms that correspond with their gender identity regardless of the sex stated on their birth certificates.
According to news reports both actions have resulted in loud cries of protest.
Here are my musings on the subject.
First of all, I wonder if the true motive of the North Carolina legislators was prejudice against transgender people and discrimination against them. I wonder if pro-LGBTQ people have stopped to consider that a motive might be to protect women and girls from men pretending to be transgendering. We have all heard of male perverts who secretly spy on, even video record, women’s and girls’ restrooms and locker-changing rooms. Without a law such as the legislators passed, what would be the basis for arresting a man pretending to be a woman and claiming to be transgendering entering and using a women’s restroom, locker-changing room with no intent but voyeurism?
As a man, I doubt very many, if any men would call for a woman to be arrested for entering a men’s restroom—whether she is transgendering or not. In fact, just the other day I was using a men’s restroom in a mall when a mother entered with her toddler son to help him use the toilet in a stall. Why she did not take him into the women’s restroom for that purpose, I don’t know, but she didn’t. No man in the restroom gave her anything but a bemused glance. This was not the first time this has happened. When I lived in Europe female janitors often entered the men’s restrooms to clean—even at very busy times when all the urinals were in use. Again, not long ago, I was using the men’s locker-changing room at a gym when a girl entered looking for her father. Our (the men’s) concern was only for her, not for ourselves.
My point is that most men and boys will not protest to management or law enforcement if a woman becoming a man through the transgendering process (in process or completed) uses a men’s restroom or locker-changing room. We men just don’t feel threatened by that. And very few, if any women would ever enter such a place out of prurient intent (voyeurism).
So that throws me back to consider the possibility that the intent of the North Carolina legislators was not discrimination against transgender people but protection of women and girls from men pretending to be transgender. And my question to people protesting the law is what they would suggest law enforcement do if called to arrest a man in a women’s restroom/locker-changing room who claims he is transgender. (Remember that many transgender people do not go “all the way” to having their genitalia changed. Many, perhaps most, men transgendering to being a woman still have all their “parts.”)
Personally, speaking only for myself, but suspecting I am typical in this regard, I do not care if a woman enters the men’s restroom/locker-changing room while I’m using it—whatever her intent may be. I don’t feel threatened by that. Nor do most men. We might be puzzled, bemused, but we are not likely to sound the alarm and ask the manager of the facility to call security or the police. On the other hand, I suspect many women (and girls) would feel threatened by an adult male person entering their restroom or especially locker-changing room.
Now to the problem I see with Target’s stated policy. It picks up right where the previous musings left off.
First, I wonder when a Target store has ever prevented a person from entering a restroom or forcibly removed someone from entering a restroom or called the police to arrest someone for using a restroom. I have shopped at Target stores very frequently. For the past thirty years one has been near my homes. Because I am used to the stores’ layout I tend to go out of my way to find one when I’m in a different city. Never have I observed or heard of a person being prevented from entering a Target restroom for any reason (other than it was out of order). Nor have I observed or heard of a person being ordered out of one by security or police. I’m not saying it’s never happened; I’m just saying I’ve never observed or heard of it happening.
So why this new policy? Is there a problem? Have there been complaints in Target stores about transgender people using “the wrong restroom?” If so, I seriously doubt those complaints have come from males. (I know I would not bother to complain about a transgender person using the men’s restroom.) If so, I suspect those complaints have come from females—girls or women feeling threatened by someone who appears to be a man using the women’s restroom.
The question Target’s policy raises in my mind is this: Suppose a teenage girl complains to the store’s manager that a man entered the women’s restroom while she was there. Suppose the manager takes her seriously, which I hope he or she would, and confronts the “man” who defends himself by claiming to be transgender. (I personally know a person who was born male who claims to be a woman; he/she appears ambiguous as to sex when dressed but has male “parts” and sometimes a “five o’clock shadow.”) What should the Target store manager do? If the Target corporate policy gives such a manager any guidance, it has not been reported by the media. But this is bound to happen sooner or later.
My point in all this is this: It seems to me the current brouhaha over both the North Carolina law and Target’s new policy ignores the issue I am raising here—the realistic fear that voyeuristic men, driven solely by prurient interests, will claim to be transgender (only at certain times and in certain places) in order to use the women’s (including girls’) restrooms and locker-changing rooms. Also the realistic fear of many women and girls of people who look like and physically are still males, transgendering or not, using their facilities.
I’m sorry to be so crude, but it seems necessary to drive my point home: Imagine a women’s locker-changing room with showers being used by a naked person with male body parts who is transgender. This person may appear in public to be a woman, but naked is obviously a male human being—physiologically. (Remember, not all men-becoming-women through “gender reassignment” have their male parts removed.) Do you want your daughter or granddaughter being exposed to him/her naked? This is the scenario many people envision when they object to transgender persons using the restroom or locker-changing room designated for “women” (including girls, of course). You might say “I have no problem with that” but what you really mean, I suspect, is “if she is truly transgender.” But what if he is not? What if he is only a voyeur or exhibitionist? How will you or the management of the facility know?
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