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The Bathroom Monitors

Many years ago, a friend of mine was running for an office in an organization we both belonged to. As a joke, one of the credentials she listed was “fourth grade bathroom monitor.” But nowadays that’s no joke; in fact, to be a bathroom monitor now she would apparently have to be a state legislator!

All right, I had been trying not to write about this issue. At first it looked as though North Carolina was just experiencing temporary insanity. But the darn thing won’t go away. Companies and nonprofits all over the country are canceling plans to hold events or do business in North Carolina. These actions are starting to take a real economic toll on the state. The legislature said no, you have to use the one for the gender on your birth certificate. And now Ted Cruz, ever the guy to make a bad thing worse, has actually said that transgender people should only go to the bathroom at home!

That is what convinced me to break my silence and take my stand on which bathroom people should stand (or sit) in when nature calls. First of all, despite the apparent silliness of this whole tempest in a chamber pot, bathrooms are a really serious issue to transgender people. These days, the issue often first looms large in grade school, when a biological boy who self-identifies as a girl wants to use the girls’ room, or a biological girl wants to use the boys’ room. Right from earliest childhood, we are all conditioned to think that one of the major aspects of being a girl or a boy is which bathroom to use. No matter how old you are when you figure out that you are not the gender other people think you are, you automatically feel that you belong in the one for your true gender. Heck, now that I realize I am a woman in spite of having a male body, I can’t help feeling that I don’t belong in the men’s room. But I use it anyway, because I know that I look like someone who belongs there and that trying to use the other one would make people uncomfortable and even create a commotion. Since I have chosen to accept my male anatomy and continue to dress and generally appear as a man, I can deal with the moderate discomfort of using what I cannot help feeling is the wrong room. But it is a different story for the many trans people who work very hard at looking and acting the way that is expected of people with their self-identified gender.

For them, being forced to use the bathroom intended for their biological sex is a fundamental denial of who and what they are. And it goes farther. For a male-to-female transsexual who appears to be female because of clothing, hormone treatments, surgery, or anything else, the bathroom dictated by her sex at birth is the one where she would stand out and cause a commotion.

That is what the proponents of the bathroom law do not appear to understand. Although they claim to fear that hordes of men are going to say they are women just so they can enter the women’s room and create mayhem, the main effect would be just the opposite. A lot of trans men, who look, sound, and act like other men, would now be require to use the women’s room, and would have the law squarely on their side. The situation would be very uncomfortable for the women, but requiring the trans men to prove they belonged there would constitute an immense invasion of their privacy when all they were doing was following the law. And the other side of the coin would be even worse. Trans women, some of whom pass as genetic women routinely, would be forced to use men’s rooms. If told they were in the wrong room, they would have to explain that they are trans and are not allowed to use the women’s room. That could put them in a situation not just embarrassing, but very dangerous. The already alarming number of trans women who are assaulted or murdered every year could only be expected to rise, perhaps very dramatically.

Of course Ted Cruz has the solution for that. If you are trans, just stay home. We talk about the marginalization of minorities, but this goes beyond marginalization. Cruz does not just want to keep us on the sidelines. He wants us completely out of sight. We will not give him what he wants.

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