Sometimes, it makes sense to turn an issue around and look at it from a fresh perspective. That is definitely the case with the fuss currently being made around toilets (or “restrooms” as our potty-obsessed American cousins appear to prefer to call them).
The toilet issue
Let’s start with the fuss. Many will have read the horrific tale of Chrissy Lee Polis, beaten viciously for daring to use gender appropriate loos in McDonalds in Rosedale. Then, hot on the heels of THAT story comes Stephanie, “banned for life” from the Cosmo hotel in Las Vegas for .. . using the loo. I spot a pattern!
The cis fuss
The response is instructive. A few women saying they don’t like the idea of a man using the women’s facilities. Loads of men repeating the same boring catchphrase: “if a man in a dress went into the women’s facilities whilst my wife was using it…he’d better watch out” or words to that effect. Implied? Why, these big hunky masculine men would resolve a difficult situation by beating the crap out of someone. Good for you! Sure that proves something.
(Actually, what it mostly proves is that most blokes haven’t the first idea what women wear: I don’t know about the US, but over here, for much of the year, women wear jeans, leggings, trousers, all manner of stuff but NOT dresses. Sure, I love the fact that summer is coming and my skirts are coming out of the wardrobe. But not for winter. I bet these guys also think I wear red and black stin bras and have six inch heels on my boots. As if!)
Interestingly, few of them ever seem to respond to the observation that their atttitude over here in the UK and many parts of Europe would see THEM kicked out of facilities and/or arrested and in jail. Still, I guess it’s a principle thing. If Nelson Mandela can spend years in jail for human rights, strong men can spend a while in prison for the right to beat up trannies.
Then there’s the interesting attempt to get technical. One poster – David, bless him! – began the debate by saying that only those legally female should be allowed in the women’s facilities, then sort of morphed to saying only biologically female persons should. Make up your mind, David!.
Perhaps he dozed off – or maybe his head began to hurt – when I pointed out that here in the UK I have a right to use these facilities on the basis of my identity. That I can be legally female pre-op: and that there are many post-op trans women who are, in his terms, biologically female, but not legally so. Difficult, huh?
I love the appeal to biological femaleness. It’s a debate that the experts have been having for years and can’t exactly make their minds up about. So how us lay folks are meant to, I don’t know. He muttered something about chromosomes. I also get the sense that most of these nlokes are hyung up on penises. A penis, in their world, is what defines a man.
I mean, I know some guys can be real pricks…but isn’t this taking things a bit far?
Latin rules: God made the loos
Anyway, let’s talk about changing perspective. The presumption here is that men’s and women’s facilities are absolutes. Think Latin, in which everyday objects like tables had gender, and anyone trying to enter the temple of the vestal virgins got put to death.
Actually, these aren’t absolutes. They are conventions. The rise of family and unisex facilities in Europe shows exactly that. There’s no big thing about sharing changing facilities or loos. Personally, I’m against total unisexing, cause there are things that are different and that I prefer about the Ladies’. But that’s another debate.
The gender binary when it comes to toilets is not absolute – and gender re-assignment when it comes to such facilities is far easier and has a near 100% success rate (just involves surgically removing one sign on the door and replacing it with another.
Convention, convention, convention, backed up in the US by some sort of weird moralistic, prudish hang-up about toilets. For some reason Americans seem to associate loos with sex. Maybe cause they think sex is dirty and they need to wash their hands after?
Convention and, as some seem to be aware, safety. That’s a reason for single-sex facilities. Only in this case, its bollocks. Single-sexness has never stopped men dressing as plumbers, cleaners or whatever and entering the facilities. Or drilling holes or inserting webcams or just walking in and raping. That little sign on the door? Its not a magical shield.
Are there any reported incidents of men dressing as women and using that as a means to molest? Oh, there may be the odd one – especially as the religious right is now promoting that as a sure fire way to “get away with it”. Stupid, really, since a guy in heels is so much more noticeable, so much less able to escape.
But we all know the sad stats. Its trans folk – trans women espesh – who get attacked and beaten. Even more so when they try to use male facilities.
So bottom line. This is not a debate about who is “really” a woman. It’s a debate about how we manage and evolve our conventions. And the argument from safety alone is enough: it says trans women aren’t a threat to cis women. But forcing them to go elsewhere is a real threat to their safety.