Identity – the Other Side

Of course, there’s always the other side.

I thought of it reading the paper today. There is an editorial ripping into Initiative 1515, a proposal in Washington State to limit the liability of businesses that reserve their bathrooms for persons of one biological/genetic sex or the other and to require schools to deny permission to children who identify with the opposite sex to enter that bathroom, while making an attempt to provide them with suitable facilities.

You can read it here.

What gets me about the above article is this statement: “These laws (anti-discrimination laws from 2006) have functioned as intended, until socially conservative lawmakers this year ginned up absurd, fantastical scenarios about transgender people flashing their genitals at children in bathrooms and locker rooms.”

Um, that’s not quite right.

The scenarios don’t involve transgender people at all. They involve men, full men, men that identify entirely as men, using the law as a way to expose themselves to women and children, for whatever bizarre reason that men do this.

I’ve been flashed several times, and I still don’t understand why men do it. But I know that it makes women feel small and powerless, and a little bit afraid. It reminds us that it’s only a few steps up from a flash to a rape. So it’s illegal. How difficult would it be, honestly, for a man to flash a woman in a locker room, and then tell the authority that she imagined it, he was just minding his own business trying to get dressed. Behavior matters, like I said before, but it sometimes takes a while for certain behavior to be caught and punished. That’s how sexual harassment works: a woman has to endure it a long time, documenting it, before she can be believed.

I have known transgendered women, and one who was in the process. This guy, a coworker, told me that in order for him to be approved for the surgery, he had to live like a woman. He had to “live her truth” so to speak, and using the women’s bathroom was only one of the last stops in a long process. I am sure I’ve shared women’s bathrooms with a dozen men and have not noticed – because that’s the point. Behavior matters. If there’s no way to tell if your man is transitioning, if he/she makes no effort to “live their truth” and then exposes quite another truth to you, then how do you know? If you write the law and leave out protections that recognize this conundrum, then you’ve failed to protect at least 49% of the population from the kind of people who could use the law as a shield. That’s a real concern; it has nothing to do with hate. I have no interest in walking in on the full monty in the YMCA shower room and then trying to determine if it’s safe to take my clothes off.

Rather than accusing people who struggle with these issues of “hatred” we would do well to find a third way, one that does not involve entrenching ourselves in the purity of our positions. Those businesses working to improve the privacy of their bathrooms are to be commended. Schools can employ adult “bathroom monitors” to ensure that children are not violating one another’s privacy while allowing transgendered kids the freedom to use the restroom they need to. Whatever! Let’s just think practically and assume the best of those who care enough to argue about it.

Today I learned that the entire town of Fallujah, in Iraq, is starving to death. Literally starving to death, because two sides are entrenched in their positions and can’t agree long enough to get food to them.

We can do better.

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5 thoughts on “Identity – the Other Side

  1. Kathy, it’s such a pleasure to read you. You think. I know that I may or may not agree with you, but I will always be treated with respect, and I will always be better after listening to you.
    In this case, I am 100 percent behind your words. It’s not hatred, it’s just protection, that’s what laws are about.
    I’m adding the Fallujah conflict to my prayers.

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  2. YES! I agree with you — this is NOT about transgendered people. Truly transgendered people are already using the bathrooms and it’s not an issue. I hate that one is called hateful for wanting to protect women and children from men who will take advantage of these situations. 😦

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  3. Pingback: Five Quick Takes on Winners, Taking a Short Break, and MORE! | Afterthoughts

  4. To be really fair, we’ve had a law in place since 2006 allowing transgendered persons to choose, and I have not yet heard of any issues directly related to the law – flashers still do their thing wherever it suits them. What I think is amazing is that women are speaking up, loudly, publicly, and with cellphone cameras, when men engage in this sort of behavior, and that is having a greater effect than any protective law.

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    • That is something I’ve been trying to talk with my children about lately — that the children who *aren’t* kidnapped, for example, are the ones that are loudly kicking and screaming and doing whatever they can to draw attention to the situation. This is a parallel, I think.

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