This is, in a nutshell, why formalizing the informal rules about transgendered use of the bathroom they identify with was probably a bad idea.
Every woman who exited a stall and immediately zeroed right in on him…said nothing. And why? B/c I and I’m sure all the others were scared of that “what if”. What if I say something and he says he “identifies as a woman” and then I come off as the intolerant asshole at the happiest place on earth?
As I noted elsewhere, the problem with formalizing transgender rights to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with is that you now have the legal problem of defining who is transgendered–a thorny problem which would stump even King Solomon.
Previously, the informal rules handled the problem well enough: in our society we have come to find that the well-considered exception to formal rules are okay for handling issues which are not well captured by existing rules. (As a concrete example, while at the Apple Store replacing my iPhone, a lady asked to use the bathroom in back. She was visibly sick, and after a little thought one of the Apple employees helped to lead her to the bathroom. She threw up just before reaching the bathroom, but his quick thinking and handling of this exception to the rule that Apple bathrooms are for Apple employees only prevented her from throwing up in the middle of the store.)
Of course the problem with the informal rules is that they require judgement on the part of people to know when the rules can be violated.
But the real problem of transgendered bathroom usage is one of cultural acceptance: if someone starts throwing a screaming fit, then there are no rules to appeal to. If someone who just started the transformation from a man to a woman (and who still has significant male characteristics) tries to use a woman’s bathroom, they have the double-problem of violating the cultural norms that are strongly ingrained, and dealing with disapproval from others who may take exception.
That problem–of the close-minded bigots who take exception to everything–do not go away simply because a law is passed.
Just look at racism and sexism. Despite laws to the contrary both are still alive, and still find traction even in states which have strong laws preventing racial profiling or sexual discrimination. That’s because the law only establishes punishment after a crime is proven; laws do not change the heart of a bigot.
Now that we are in the process of trying to codify laws to permit transgendered bathroom usage–and getting push back from people trying to codify laws preventing mixed-bathroom usage–we are starting to see a flood of stories confirming the biases of both sides of the argument.
Confirming the argument that laws restricting gender access (such as North Carolina’s HB2) unduly burden people:
Confirming the argument that laws granting access regardless of gender unduly threaten people:
And of course, confirming… well, whatever the hell you want:
The problem is more than enough to tax King Solomon–and unfortunately we’ve crossed the line. Pandora’s box has been opened and we cannot go back to the informal rules of yesterday.
Worse, reality doesn’t help with crafting rules forcing liberal acceptance of transgendered individuals. Laws do not shape culture; culture help shape the laws–and in this case, it would be impossible to define who is transgendered, and thus deserving of the protection of the law, and who is simply off their rocker, such as some of the men in the stories above.
It does get worse from here. Already we’re seeing pressure to allow pre-op transgendered individuals use high school locker rooms.
The problem here is simple: while a bathroom (with individual stalls) permit a modicum of privacy–even men’s stand-up urinals often have dividers to permit privacy–a locker room requires one to be naked in front of others. In many utopian visions of the future we see movie makers theorize a future when both genders use the same showers: Starship Troopers contained such a scene, as did the TV show Legion. But we don’t live in that utopian reality–and sadly our inability to live in such a mixed-gender world is well illustrated by how filmmakers treat such scenes: not as simple reality, but as “nekked fun sexy time”.
Notice how long cameras in Legion linger in the shower, with extreme closeups showing nude flesh. The camera doesn’t simply record the scene: the camera leers–making the supposed “just the way it is” reality of that world into an excuse to push the TV-MA rating of that show.
Now consider that not only are we not ready for mixed-use gym bathrooms–but we’re considering it for high school boys and girls, people who are not known for their emotional or intellectual maturity.
King Solomon’s head would go tilt at the present problem. And it’s clear to me we will never solve the problem of balancing personal privacy and the desire for one not to be objectified as a sexual object in public, with the need to allow mixed-gender use of bathrooms and gym lockers by those who are transgendered or who suffer from gender dysphoria.
Perhaps one way we can handle this is to have psychologists provide some sort of identity card to transgendered individuals. But this only solves the limited problem of transgender bathroom use, only for those who are seeking eventual reassignment surgery, and only solves the legal issue after the fact: the law does not protect against discrimination; it only defines punishment for those caught engaging in discrimination.
It does not help those too young to seek reassignment, it does not help those who do not wish to seek psychological assistance, and it certainly does not help high school students: teenage boys and teenage girls are terribly cruel, and no law, no mandate from a teacher, no school assembly lecture will ever change that.
Sadly, though, the door has been opened. We cannot roll back to the informal rules of yesterday, but we cannot pass laws which solve the problem.
Meaning in this case, the liberal progressive ideal of social acceptance is truly and roundly fucked.