writersblock : NDTieTheKnot : Speck_ :
I think that you are arguing about different things here.
I’d like to wade in here and talk about three things: the difference between sex and gender; issues of harm and privacy; and what the bathroom represents in the American psyche. In the process of doing so I will hopefully agree and disagree with all three of you, thus befriending and alienating you all.
Bathrooms: there is a difference between sex and gender
When I refer to sex and gender I mean different things. Sex is a biological and genetic attribute. Most people genetically can be identified as male or female depending on whether they have an X and a Y chromosome, or two X chromosomes. This is not clear in every case. Some people have an extra or missing X chromosome or an extra Y chromosome. However, people with extra or missing sex chromosomes are rare. The overall picture is a little more complicated because we don’t understand genetics fully, so occasionally a baby who we might expect from genetics to be one sex has the genitalia of the other sex or the genitalia of both sexes. This could be to do with complicated interactions between genes or exposure to the mother’s hormones in the uterus.
When babies are born most are clearly male or female. In just over 1 in 100 babies the genitalia look a little different from what might be expected. In around 1 in 4,000 babies we have a situation where it is unclear whether the baby is a girl or a boy. When this happens the baby might be termed “intersex”. Depending on what country and medical establishment where the baby is born different things might happen. The doctors could quickly decide which sex the child belongs to and operate immediately. The child could decide at puberty and be treated surgically and hormonally. The grown-up child could decide on treatment on becoming an adult. In very poor countries non of these options are available.
Gender, on the other hand, is a social construct. (Whereas sex is genetic, gender is an internal sense of being male, female, or other. ) From an early age we are conditioned by our parents, relatives and society itself to be a particular gender. Blue for a boy; pink for girl. Etc., etc. We, in turn, perform the role of man or woman. This performance is constantly being adjusted and reinvented – something called performativity. An academic called Judith Butler has a lot to say on this and if you are interested in thinking about this a little more I’d recommend you spend 3 minutes and 15 seconds of your time looking at a short video on the internet.
It’s also worth thinking about terminology.
People who are transsexual are people who transition phenotypically (in terms of their body) from one sex to another. A person born as a male can become recognizably female through the use of hormones and/or surgical procedures; and a person born as a female can become recognizably male. However, genetically they retain their original sex because they still have their original XX or XY chromosomal makeup.
People who are born intersex and into a Western society may well have exactly the same medical and hormonal treatment and very similar medical procedures to someone who has voluntarily decided to change the outward appearance of their sex.
Transgender is a term for people whose identity, expression, behaviour, or general sense of self does not conform to what is usually associated with the sex they were born in the place they were born. Transgender is a multifaceted term. One example of a transgendered person might be a man who is attracted to women but also identifies as a cross-dresser. Other examples include people who consider themselves gender nonconforming, multigendered, androgynous, third gender, and two-spirit people. All of these definitions are inexact and vary from person to person, yet each of them includes a sense of blending or alternating the binary concepts of masculinity and femininity. Some people using these terms simply see the traditional concepts as restrictive. Less than one percent of all adults identify as transgender. Some trangender people decide to become transsexual.
Transgender people may be straight, bisexual, lesbian, gay, or asexual. Biological factors such as prenatal hormone levels, genetics, and environmental factors such as early childhood experiences may all contribute to the development of a transgender identity. People do not change gender on a whim. Considerable emotional distress can result from “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender.”
It is worth noting that transgender people are significantly less likely to commit sexual assault than the general population and significantly more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general population.
It is also worth noting that without having people strip and undergo genetic testing and medical examination it is difficult to identify who is transsexual, who is (or was) intersex and who is transgender. So any law affecting transgender people may inadvertently affect transsexual and intersex people too.
Bathrooms: harm and privacy
The argument against people who are transgender using bathrooms of their choice seems to be that of protection against harm. The gist of the argument is that allowing people to use facilities based on their gender identity will allow male rapists, molesters, paedophiles and peepers easy access to women and girls, thus putting them in danger. It also assumes that a trangender woman is really a man and is attracted to women (and possibly girls).
This argument presents men as uncontrolled sexual predators who left in a bathroom full of women will rape, molest and peep. This is highly insulting to men. It is interesting that those who use this argument are worried about a trangender women (who is biologically a man) in a bathroom full of women but are not worried about a transgender man ( who is biological woman) in a bathroom full of men. If we follow the logic then if we believe that men are uncontrolled sexual predators then the transgender man (who is a biological female) alone in a bathroom full of biological males is in much greater danger. But no one seems to think that this is the case.
Another argument is that a male heterosexual non-transgender rapist could disguise himself as a trangender woman in order to enter a female bathroom in order to rape a woman. Well, this isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility but it is unlikely that rapists would choose such a venue as they are very likely to be disturbed by other people entering the bathroom, and any screams from the victim would quickly be heard. If a male rapist was so determined he could easily get round Trump’s change in law by pretending to be a trangender man (who is biologically a woman). He wouldn’t even have to dress up as a woman; he could walk in dressed in male garb. After all who is going to give everyone a genetic test when they go to the bathroom.
So if it not about harm is it about privacy for women? Is it to do with men gazing at naked women? Again there is something odd in the logic here. People are worried about a lone biological male (transgender female) in a female bathroom gazing at many women. They are not worried about a lone biological female in a male bathroom being gazed at by many men. Is this because people think that it isn’t shameful for men to look but it is shameful for women to be seen? (In essence, the more women are seen the more shameful things are.) If so this is as misogynistic as it gets.
Is this about peeing and pooing in earshot of the opposite sex? Well possibly. But then so many people have an ensuite bathroom at home that I’m going to rule this one out. We only feel comfortable being heard peeing and pooing by people we know very well or people we know not at all, regardless of sex or gender.
Bathrooms: representation in the American psyche.
Here in the UK, bathrooms are just bathrooms. They represent porcelain and mirrors and sometimes a sense of huge relief.
In America they have also become a representation of something else. They are linked forever with the issues of racial segregation.
Bathroom freedom = freedom from discrimination. Mess about with bathroom laws and you spit on the Constitution and strike Abraham Lincoln in the face. Mess about with bathroom laws and you align yourself with those that American history would prefer to forget. Mess about with bathroom laws and you alienate not only African Americans but the LGBT community and a wide swathe of the American people.
This is why saying that we have better things to think about than bathrooms might be fine in some countries, but not in America.
So my objections to the change in the law are that:
1. It assumes biological men to be uncontrolled sexual predators (this insults men);
2. It assumes that biological women are shamed by being looked at by men, and not the other way around, and the greater the number of women that are looked at by a single man the greater the shame (this insults women);
3. The change in the law increases discrimination and segregation, and reduces equality and freedom (this insults African Americans, the LGBT community and everyone else).
I do have other serious objections too. I think that the change in the law will hurt individuals who are transgender and make life even more difficult for them than it is already. It will also increase the likelihood of transgender people being seriously bullied. Trangender people are just like everyone else. They are people. No one deserves to be bullied.