Thursday, May 22, 2008

Focus on other people's genitals

So the gay-hating group Focus on the Family is up in arms about where people are using the toilet.

Not only are they fearmongering about "sexual predators", most of whom are heterosexual family members of those whom they assault, they are obsessing rather unhealthily over how and where people are using their genitalia.

To put it simply, if you are aware of what sex organs are possessed by the person in the restroom with you, then maybe you need to mind your own damn business and keep your nose out of the crotches of perfect strangers.

As a woman, I am going to be using a toilet in a stall, with the door closed, just like the other people in the stalls around me. If I am minding my own business, as I should be, then I will have no idea whether or not the person in the neighboring stall has a penis. The only case in which that would not be true is if that other person were engaging in harassing behavior, an instance already covered by existing laws.

Furthermore, if we're going to piss and moan (no pun intended, honest) about what gender is in what restroom, then I would like for someone to ban the little bratty boys from the women's rooms--I'm talking about the rotten little monsters that run wild, peeking under stalls at strangers. But that's just a minor point, really.

These "Focus on what's in everybody's pants" folks like to claim that the sexually oppressed are seeking "special" rights. "Well goshdarnit, they already gots the right to go into the bathroom that matches their DNA" is what they want us to believe. Transgendered people are not looking for a "special" right to go into all the restrooms; they are seeking the right to use the restroom that is proper for what they perceive to be their own true gender.

There is no "special" right about it; this is a matter of allowing people to decide for themselves what their proper gender is, according to how they feel about themselves. And that is the real problem, now, isn't it? It's something that a lot of people cannot really relate to, and therefore, it is regarded as wrong, or perhaps as purely imaginary.

What I really want in this world is for people to realize that, just because a characteristic is the result of neural activity, that doesn't make that characteristic not real. Whether we are talking about cisgendered people, neuropathic pain, depression, addiction, or sexual preference*, it doesn't matter. We have this overwhelming cultural meme which tells us that we should just be able to will ourselves to change these things, especially when the characteristics are inconvenient or upsetting to others. Well, it doesn't work that way, and even if you can make it appear to work by coercing or oppressing people with inconvenient or upsetting characteristics, all you're doing is damaging those people and marginalizing them. Stop--there is no excuse for doing so, and the sooner we accept people's differences, the better life will be for everyone involved.

* Please note that I am NOT implying that being cisgendered or having a minority sexual preference is a negative thing like depression, addiction, or other things. I am trying to say that these things are often perceived as choices--either a choice to consciously live in a depressed/pained/homosexual/addicted state, or a choice to refuse to change that about oneself (and by change, I am referring to people who just insist that depressed people "get over it" or "just be cheerful"). I do NOT consider sexual preference to be something that can or should be changed.


Anonymous said...

It's funny, because my partner, who is a transguy, says that she gets more problems in women's bathrooms than in men's. Women feel a real need to point out that she's in the wrong bathroom, whereas if she uses a men's, guys just mind their own business, do their business and leave. Because that's what a bathroom is for, right?

This is such a conundrum for me. I mean, I want women to feel safe in the community, but where have we gotten to feeling so unsafe that we feel we have the right to harass people for taking a piss? And this of course, does not just happen to people who are genuninely trans. There was a well-known case of a woman-identified-woman who was using the woman's bathroom somewhere in NYC -- and she's straight, even -- and the other more feminine-looking women got all up in arms about it. The non-feminine-presenting woman insisted she had a right to be there, and eventually she went into a stall to take a piss, and security busted into her stall and dragged her out, pants down and all. Even showing her ID didn't help. And this is a woman who identifies as a straight woman. So it's not even about actually being queer or trans anymore, it's just about looking the part, and being "scary."

It's a fucking toilet people. You are going to piss and shit in it. What is so sacred about it that everyone needs to protect it like it's thw Holy Grail?

Anonymous said...

Hear hear! I, for one, never got the whole separate bathroom thing to begin with. I mean, if you go to a party at someone's house, they don't make the men and women use separate restrooms. There are stalls, so it's not like we're all doing our business in front of each other anyway. So, mostly, we just don't think it's appropriate to wash our hands and fix our hair next to members of the opposite gender? Weird. So obviously, I think FoF is making a big ado about... something completely benign.

Anonymous said...

At Oberlin College in the beginning of the year the floor would vote to decide if their bathrooms would be gendered or co-ed. I think that's awesome.

I mean, I know I'm uber liberal, but frankly I could care less what the gender of the people in the next stall is. As long as everyone is minding their own business, it hardly matters. (I think the problem is that some people really DON"T just mind their own business. Which is unfortunate.)

Heather said...

You know I'm right there with you. The only time I care about who's in a public restroom with me is when someone's invading my privacy, like at Rio when a boy almost as tall as me was peeking into ALL of the stalls and I was treated like a pariah for complaining that he was old enough to be in the men's room. "OMG THERE ARE SEXULE PREDTORS THERE!" As if all men are out to kidnap ugly eight-year-olds.

I hate humanity.

Anonymous said...

Unisex bathrooms. Easy solution, but the "family" groups would probably throw a fit about it.