Transgender Bathroom Laws: Kind of Useless

Posted on May 2, 2016


Which bathroom should a transgendered person use, and should the rest of us even care?  Would we even know?  If we don’t know, how can we know if a law is being broken, and how can we be traumatized?

There are several variations on this, and Lila’s feelings range from “meh” to  “it’s complicated.”

The first variation is public bathrooms out in the real world.  Gas stations, malls, Wal-Mart, restaurants.  I wonder why any of these entities sees the need to put out a policy on who may or may not use the restrooms.  It seems enough to say:  men here, women there.

"The Crying Game."  Seeing this person come out of a male bathroom would be confusing.

“The Crying Game.” Seeing this person come out of a male bathroom would be confusing.

But what about transgenders?  My God, what if some little girl is traumatized by seeing a MAN in the women’s restroom?

Here’s Lila’s take on that:  YOU ALMOST CERTAINLY WON’T KNOW ANYWAY, and therefore will not be traumatized.  Transgendered folks, please jump in and comment on this, but – I mean, I was totally surprised in The Crying Game when the chick turned out to have something most chicks don’t have.  Even after I knew, she still seemed like a chick.  If I saw that person walk into the men’s restroom, that’s when I would feel confused.

Second point, THEY ARE IN A STALL, SO YOU WON’T SEE ANYTHING ANYWAY.  If you are seeing something you shouldn’t be seeing, avert your dirty little eyes.   The restroom may be “public,” but the stalls are most definitely intended to be private.  You’re in a stall, too.  It’s not like you’re sitting nekkid on a toilet in the middle of a room with everyone gawking.

To sum up the issue where public restrooms are concerned:  meh.

The next variation is school bathrooms, and I have a little more trouble with this one.  There are still stalls for privacy, but we are dealing with kids here.  What does that mean?  Minors, for one thing, who cannot make their own legal decisions; juveniles, who are immature; and a school situation, which means essentially no privacy and no secrets.  It might be a thought to simply say, “Jane has a medical condition and can’t take gym class,” but you can bet that administrators talk, parents talk, kids overhear and repeat, and next thing you know, word has gotten around… with a lot of opinion attached… that Jane is “really a boy.”  Cue the outraged parents of girls who don’t want a boy in the girls’ bathroom.  Worse, if John is using the boys’ room and word gets around that “John is really a girl,” – well, remember, we are dealing with juvenile males here.  That’s bad juju.

Then there is a third variation, and that is locker rooms in general.  This is a much less private arrangement, and it seems to me that that brings significant problems for transgender integration.

Most locker rooms I have been in feature a big open area with benches and lockers, and this is where you change in front of everyone else.  Everyone strips down at least to their underwear, if not their actual birthday suit.  Sure, there are a few shower stalls with curtains (unless you are unlucky and have the large “gang shower”), but there are nowhere near enough private dressing rooms or curtained shower stalls for everyone to hide their business they way they can in most bathrooms.  How does the transgender person stay under the radar in this situation?  What happens to transgender John Doe in a herd of juvenile males in a school locker room?  What happens when parents learn that their teen daughters have been stripping down right next to transgender Jane Doe?  Do we think that – when stripped to the underwear, or less – transgendered people can keep their secret?

Maybe, you argue, they should not have to “keep their secret.”  In an ideal world that would be great.  But we are not in an ideal world, so – it seems to me that living successfully as a transgendered person means simply going about one’s business as a man / woman with some anatomical and physiological anomalies.   Unfortunately, those anomalies cause everyone else to conclude that you are running around in drag, a pervert, a pedophile, etc. etc. etc.  Okay then.  Best that they not know, right?  And that means:  try not to strip down in front of other people.  Right?   Bathroom stalls, no problem.  Locker room?  Problem.

Basically, the less privacy one has – whether that is because of blabby people in a school situation, or because everyone is getting naked together in the sauna – the more likely that one’s transgender status will become an issue.   How do we get around this?  Transgender readers, how do you approach these issues in a practical way?