April 20, 2016
By: Matt Petras
I remember sitting in a study hall during my senior year of high school, speaking with two friends of mine. They’re both politically moderate people who don’t have issues with gay people and who like thoughtful conversations. One of them posed a rather common question: What is going to be the next social issue to be debated by American society once homosexuality is accepted?
I told them that transgender rights and acceptance is the obvious answer.
Now, this isn’t to say that gay and trans issues aren’t often intertwined because they certainly are. Both groups face similar discrimination and prejudice for daring to challenge gender norms. An important point to make crystal clear, however, is that the level of progress made for the gay community is certainly not the same for trans folk.
Case in point, my high school discussion with these gay-friendly kids about trans people, which ended up focusing on the issue of bathroom usage.
The right of trans people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with is denied across the country, due to unfounded and bigoted concern about making others in the bathroom uncomfortable, or worse, opening them up to some form of abuse from the trans person who almost certainly is just there to pee. Maybe they need to take a number two, sure.
One of the boys I was arguing with told me he thinks trans people should only be allowed in the bathroom of the gender they identify with if they have already fully transitioning; by this, he meant that bathrooms should be divided by sex organ rather than by gender. The other offered a less thoughtful argument, simply saying he was concerned about [derogatory term] using this as an opportunity to abuse children in the bathroom.
At the time I didn’t have the words to effectively explain why the former boy’s argument didn’t work, so I’m going to attempt to do that now. Check out this 2015 article from The Advocate chronicling tweets from trans people brandishing the hashtag #WeJustNeedToPee: http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2015/03/14/trans-folks-respond-bathroom-bills-wejustneedtopee-selfies
In one of these photos, a trans man with full facial hair took a photo of himself in the bathroom with likely perplexed women around him. In another, a trans woman applying lipstick while her purse sits on the sink snaps a picture with urinals in the background.
This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it?
To my friend’s concern two years ago that these bathrooms should be divided by sex organ, there are two responses. The more nuanced response is that the genitalia of a fellow human being is not his business. The more simple response is that many trans people don’t get genial reconstruction surgery, including high-profile trans people like Caitlyn Jenner.
If someone saw Caitlyn Jenner in the men’s room, it would be pretty strange, right? It’s just common sense. America needs to get over this bathroom nonsense.