Well readers, once again this post comes to you late- and you can blame a combination of my own schedule and the complexity of addressing theological minutiae. Rather than trying to grapple with the subject of superstition in contemporary Christianity, we’re going to be looking at an equally strange subject:
Now if you’re like me you probably don’t spend much time thinking about the bathroom- except when you’re cleaning it in preparation for guests or writhing in agony after eating a Big Mac because you didn’t have any options (seriously, when did McDonald’s start putting glass in their burgers?). Which is why it should come as some surprise to you that the city of Houston is up in arms over that very subject- or more specifically, who gets to use ’em.
Now a few of you may vaguely recall that in 2014 the city of Houston passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or “HERO”, a piece of legislation banning discrimination in terms of employment, housing, and use of public accommodations. For the most part there was no controversy over most of the ordinance, which prevents discrimination against race, sexual orientation, sex, and marital status, but what really riled up some was the inclusion of the following element-“Gender Identity.”
Now the inclusion of the term “Gender Identity” is important because it means that transsexuals may, without harassment or prevention, be permitted to use the bathroom of whatever gender they identify as. In other words, a woman who was once a man would be allowed to use the male bathroom and vice versa.
Needless to say, some folks were not happy about this.
While cries of outrage and disgust were (and, as Houston votes on whether to keep the law, are) raised from many traditionalists and conservatives, few perhaps better encapsulate the argument (and the way it’s being delivered) than presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Back in February of this year, Huckabee declared:
“Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE,” Huckabee said.
“I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.’ You’re laughing because it sounds so ridiculous doesn’t it?”
Now that’s downright creepy- especially being delivered from an unlikely-but-still-possible leader of this country while speaking at the at the 2015 National Religious Broadcasters Convention, but the core argument is there. The vast majority of the opponents of HERO and similar legislation have cited that opening the doors of bathrooms and showers to the transgendered will give free reign to perverts, child molesters, and rapists. And no, that’s not an exaggeration- these are actual quotes:
“It will by government decree open thousands of women’s restrooms, showers and girls locker rooms in the city to biological males! Predators and peepers can use it as cover to violate our women and children!”
Now of course that argument is absurd. It makes the assumption that women aren’t likewise capable of being predators (they absolutely are). The writers of this idiotic manifesto similarly ignore male-on-male assault, seeming to imagine that such attacks occur only by men assaulting women (which is a little off-topic, but I had to point out that woefully incorrect and sexist inaccuracy). But let’s suppose that, in whatever strange fantasy land that the writers of this point live, such assaults are solely perpetrated by men against women. Are we to imagine that a simple swinging door and a sign is going to deter a flipp’n molester? Are any of them out there thinking “Well gee, I was totally going to assault some lady, but I wouldn’t want to breach the rules of societal propriety!”
That would be ridiculous.
Now some of you might be reading this and saying “But Gordon, you droll rascal! Aren’t you a huge South Park fan? Didn’t they do an episode this very season lampooning the issue of men (specifically Eric Cartman) claiming to be transgendered just to use the women’s bathroom?”
They did, dear reader- and good on you for watching. This season has been amazing (though still definitely not for everyone). And yes, the point could be raised that, while would-be rapists and molesters wouldn’t be deterred either way- your more run-of-the-mill voyeur could use this as an opportunity to legitimize his or her perverse activity.
But again, that could happen anyways.
I mean, there’s a flippin’ trope as old as time about the creepy old guy(s) in the men’s locker room. The folks who apparently think that by getting to a certain age, towels no longer apply.
Now granted, that’s not entirely an answer- and it’s certainly not intended to in any way, shape, or form justify that kind of ogling or harassment. It’s just to say that the argument some could cite isn’t nearly as ironclad as you’d think.
Now granted, the foul “No Unequal Rights” group does offer one interesting (if seemingly contradictory and hypocritical) point:
The definition of “Gender Identity” is infinitely vague. “…an individual’s innate identification, appearance, expression or behavior as either male or female, although the same may not correspond to the individual’s body or gender assigned at birth.” How do you protect against “identification, appearance, expression or behavior” discrimination? Who is the arbiter?
That, as much I’m loath to give these idiots any credit, is still a valid question. There are a number of different identities out there beyond male and female, and all I’d have to do to prove it is point out anyone born with any range of hermaphroditic or intersexual variations. We have folks in society born with varying degrees of both male and female genitalia. What’s to be done for them? We have folks with abnormal hormonal and chromosomal development. How do you address those folks?
I’d argue for unisex bathrooms.
Look, if we’re going to try to divide up restrooms on the basis of sex and gender, we are going to wind up with some unfeasible number of stalls for every conceivable kind of person out there. Males, females, transgendered male-to-female, transgendered female-to-male, persons born with male genitals and female breasts, persons born with female genitals only, persons who were born male but wound up as something else due to a botched circumcision, and on and on and on.
Now of course, some of you might be horrified at the idea of that. “How-“ you might wonder, “How can you expect men and women to use the same bathroom?”
How can you not?
I mean, what’s an outhouse or port-a-potty if not a unisex bathroom?
“But we’re talking about public restrooms here! Restaurants! Theaters! Places of business!”
So what? The bathroom in the dorms at my college had both urinals and stalls (as, I believe, most every male bathroom does). If a lady had to use one of the stalls, why would I care?
“But what about those weird drop-down trays for changing babies and stuff?”
What about ’em? If anything, that’d be an argument for unisex bathrooms- it’s not like we don’t have dads taking care of their kids either.
“But you gotta at least admit how uncomfortable some people would feel, don’t you?”
It’s a bathroom. We go into these things to rid our bodies of feces and urine. Or maybe to splash water on your face or blow your nose or do whatever. And besides, there are some folks- men and women alike- who don’t like using the bathroom with anyone nearby.
“But people would still be weird about it! What if there was a unisex bathroom in some seedy dive bar, and only one woman was in there with a bunch of dudes?!”
Again, that thinking would imply that men are vicious, soulless animals incapable of even a modicum of self-control. I don’t believe it and I strongly wonder if this very separation of the sexes doesn’t feed back into that vile reasoning. If that’s the case, then why stop with bathrooms? Let’s have separate pews in churches. Separate seating in restaurants. Separate elevators. Separate stairways. Separate sidewalks.
Anyone want that?
Didn’t think so.