Transgenders in bathrooms: a thinking person’s guide

Transgenders in bathroomsThe new political football in the culture wars is transgenders in bathrooms. In fact, the rapid-fire reactions by local governments and social media would make one think this is a bigger threat to national security than the ISIL caliphate.

I don’t know how I feel about bathrooms and who should use them in America. Frankly, the notion never occurred to me before our current collective dialogue. That alone is the first reason not to jump to conclusions, good or bad, pro or con.

But to actually explore and understand how I might feel about transgenders and the bathrooms they use, the first thing I’m going to do is learn up on the subject. 

Look it up … in a science book!

Go look it up, my parents would always say about a newly-discovered word or topic. Good advice then and now, only nowadays, the library is as big as the entire world.

That’s going to lead me to scientific discoveries, like being trans is not a choice, and the discovery of what science now calls intersex, people who were born with ambiguous genitalia, then surgically (and arbitrarily) assigned unambiguous genitalia after birth, then the surgery was never spoken of or relayed to the person.

I’m going to learn that science has figured out that most children who are born intersex have a built in, already-wired gender identity regardless of what is essentially a coin flip of a decision made by parents and doctors.

I’m going to learn that the child who was hardwired to be of the male gender will want to be of the male gender, regardless of the shape of his genitalia or whether or not he’s given blue or pink clothing, or G.I. Joe action figures or Barbie dolls.

Then I’m going to realize that intersex folks are as common as redheads, which means we, as a modern society, have barely begun to meet the transgenders, be they born intersex or not.

America, meet the transgenders!

We’ve barely begun to hear the stories of transgenders, to understand their journey, understand how and why they might exist within the context of science and nature.

We’re in the infancy of a collective revelation that these people are real, they’re already in our families and they deserve to be treated like human beings and fellow Americans with equal rights.

Something’s starting to sound familiar to me — oh wait, I remember another time when America was just getting to know a group of people, just starting to understand that they should not be the subject of ridicule and rejection. Faggots (who didn’t even have a respectable name until roughly 40 years ago).

When I was a faggot …

Roughly 40 years ago, I was a faggot in high school and terrified of going into a certain restroom in my school. Not so much because I was a faggot but because that was where all the juvenile delinquent smokers were being delinquent and smoking up the bathroom, making it resemble a crowded, smoky speakeasy more than a place to pee.

But that bathroom was an important one for me: the only logistically convenient bathroom during a certain stretch of my daily schedule.

I dreaded going in that bathroom and only did so when my bladder could no longer keep up the fight. Somedays, I spent more time trying to hold it in than getting my education.

My aversion: I saw everyone of those rule-breaking delinquents as a potential source of chaos and disorder for a chubby, faggy, high-honor-roll, socially-retarded geek like myself.

Of course in retrospect, they were the problem. Of course, I and every other student deserved to feel comfortable and safe using any school bathroom. Of course, it was on the high school and the adults who ran it to keep me safe and to create an environment in which I felt safe.

Transgenders in bathrooms: the first question to ask yourself

Transgender kids go through a certain kind of hell not even I can understand. So I’m going to keep that in mind, and here’s the very first thing I’m going to consider and ask of myself and anyone else when it comes to this matter:

How would you feel if YOU were the parent of a child who self-identified as transgender and was suffering all sorts of trauma trying to go to the bathroom at school?

From there, I’m going to conclude that I want to protect those kids the way I should have been protected in school. That means making the bathroom, and by extension the school, a safe space for everyone.

Can it work? Of course, it can. Atherton High School in Louisville, Kentucky, is a prime example, as seen in this video report by the PSB NewsHour. In the video, a transgender student explains why creating a separate bathroom for transgenders isn’t good enough. To paraphrase her words: separate but equal doesn’t feel any better for transgenders than it does for people of color.

How would you feel if you had to use facilities designated for you and your kind, so as to keep you from mingling (and peeing!) with “normal” people?

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