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  1. johanna
    johanna October 25, 2006 at 12:39 pm |

    Sometimes I get the distinct feeling that Our Friend Dawn is willfully ignorant.

    And I really don’t get the big deal about sex-segregated bathrooms. I’ve been in gender-free bathrooms and never felt unsafe or uncomfortable.

  2. spit
    spit October 25, 2006 at 12:42 pm |

    The whole “we must protect women by keeping the bathrooms pure!” argument pisses me off on more levels than I can count, and I will seriously never understand why bathrooms are such a taboo for so many people.

    And yes, no matter which bathroom I use, I frequently get the response that “I’m in the wrong one”. Now, people aren’t generally hostile about it or anything, but for fuck’s sake, what exactly would they like me to do to build my peeing cred? And why the hell do they care anyway, when all I’m doing is peeing, washing my hands, and leaving? But then, I remember these arguments even without the gender variance in high school — a bunch of girls flipping out about having to share the locker room with any out lesbians. Because, you know, all lesbians are checking you out while you put on your sweats — perverted, I say.

    A few years ago, I was in the women’s loo at Lyon’s or some stupid place, and this big butch dyke came out of the stall next to me. We looked at each other and she chuckled and said, “are you sure you’re in the right place?” with this big grin on her face. We both busted up for a good 10 minutes.

  3. jt
    jt October 25, 2006 at 12:51 pm |

    The big objection to this–apart from “Ew! I don’t want to pee next to a dude!”–is the idea that it will give license to predators. I suspect that Dawn Eden and her commenters have never been men dressed in drag, but it’s not an unproblematic cover for predation. It is dangerous for a man or a male-bodied person to walk down the street in women’s clothing. It is dangerous to present as visibly transgender … There are easier ways to sexually assault someone

    I’m not convinced this problem is so easily dismissed, to be honest. Granted, there is a social stigma associated with being visibly transgendered, but I suspect there are a nontrivial number of creeps who would brave that stigma to satisfy their specific fetish. There will, in fact, be men who will specifically want to use this means of assaulting a woman, regardless of whether there are easier means of doing so.

    I agree that a transwoman should be able to use the ladies’ room … but the reference to “gender expression” seems a bit vague to me. Do I actually need to do anything other than say “I’m a woman” to qualify as an expressed female, and therefore qualified to enter a ladies’ room?

  4. DAS
    DAS October 25, 2006 at 12:53 pm |

    And I really don’t get the big deal about sex-segregated bathrooms. I’ve been in gender-free bathrooms and never felt unsafe or uncomfortable. – johanna

    Neither do I.

    In my undergrad days, I lived in an on-campus housing complex where each “house” was an actual, big house, most centered around an academic theme (and some were the sorority and fraternity houses) … my particular house was a 2 story house with all the residents (16) except for the RA living on the second story. There was a gals’ side, with a gals’ bathroom and a guys’ side with a guys’ bathroom.

    In one year, they had to renovate the bathrooms. They first renovated the gals’ bathroom and we set up a schedule of alternating hours when what was originally the guys’ bathroom would be a guys’ bathroom, then reserved for the gals, then reserved for the guys again, etc. After about 2 or so days of this, it became obvious that nobody really cared about the schedule and we were all ok with it just being gender-free.

    But when the tables switched, and the guys’ bathroom was being rennovated, you could tell that many of the women were uncomfortable with us men having ’round the clock access to “their” bathroom.

    I think it was part of the smelliness factor: guys are allowed to stink but gals are “supposed to smell nice”. If a gal was, er, stinking up the guys’ bathroom, it could somehow be passed on more as “well, it’s the guy’s bathroom so it’s supposed to stink” but it made the gals nervous to have us guys walk into the gals’ bathroom when a gal was stinking up the place and the smell not being able to be blamed on either a man around or the general “manliness” of the bathroom.

    I wonder … other than the sorts of sexist asshats who would beat up on trans-people, would any guy really mind a non-sex-segregated bathroom? OTOH, women may have legitamate concerns about predators. Also, women are socialized that they cannot let the guys know that they smell too: so is there a discrepency in opinions due to that? Obviously (assuming, e.g., johanna’s name is an indication of her gender), not all women would object to gender free bathrooms, but I wouldn’t be surprised if more women object to them than men.

  5. mk
    mk October 25, 2006 at 12:57 pm |

    I love the way Dawn refuses to use appropriate pronouns. And one commenter really had it spot on–for a lot of people this isn’t actually about transphobia; it’s about hating on people who they don’t consider attractive, or “womanly” or “manly” enough in appearance.

    [drift: How can I increase traffic on my blog? I've blogged about bathroom issues, but my current readership is something like two, and I'd love to be able to muster the kinds of commenter discussions y'all have. /drift.]

    I get so mad at the way bigots are constantly coming up with these wild fantasies–“Rapists are going to start dressing up like women!”–to justify vitriol like this. Do they think women don’t get raped in bathrooms by men dressed as men?

  6. mk
    mk October 25, 2006 at 1:04 pm |

    DAS- I don’t think the smelliness is Really that big a factor in this. And the situation you describe is a little different from the one at hand, because presumably there were showers involved in those bathrooms. Women used to being in a single-sex showering environment often get comfortable enough with each other to be wandering around in various states of undress, if not total nudity. Introduce a dude into that mix, and women have to reconsider the way they do things. I can’t speak to how men would feel with the situation reversed, but I know I’ve seen women change their behavior dramatically when a male presence is introduced into an intimate space previously reserved for women. And it wasn’t just a safety issue–this was in a boathouse locker room, and the men in question were coaches and yoga instructors we knew and trusted.

  7. jt
    jt October 25, 2006 at 1:10 pm |

    I wonder … other than the sorts of sexist asshats who would beat up on trans-people, would any guy really mind a non-sex-segregated bathroom?

    I certainly wouldn’t, but that’s because I personally wouldn’t feel any more vulnerable doing my business in the immediate presence of females. I’m not sure to what degree the inverse is true.

  8. spit
    spit October 25, 2006 at 1:11 pm |

    Do they think women don’t get raped in bathrooms by men dressed as men?

    This is the thing that gets me, too. Women are assaulted in women’s bathrooms by men who didn’t stop to consider whether they were “qualified to enter” — they just did. It’s one of those cases where the bulk of the people you’ve actually got to worry about — predators — are the ones that don’t give a damn whether they’re being given permission in the first place. Seriously, the idea that there’s going to be some weird upswing in assaults by predators dressing as women so as to sneak into the bathroom is… an odd thing about which to be terrified, IMO.

    You know, as an aside, the thing that always gets me is when there are two bathrooms that are each just a single room with a toilet and a sink, and one is the “men’s” and one is the “women’s”. Then it can’t be argued that it’s about safety — there’s nobody in there with you, because you locked the door. So why not just have two bathrooms for whoever needs them?

  9. Red Stapler
    Red Stapler October 25, 2006 at 1:12 pm |

    I saw this reported on the news last night, and you know what? If I hadn’t been told Helena Stone was a transwoman, I never would have been able to tell.

    I’ve been in gender-free bathrooms, and they’re not as terrible as people seem to want to think. Yeah, it’s a little weird at first when you realize the feet in the shoes in the stall next to you are attached to a dude, but I’m okay with it.

    Furthermore, if people are afraid a man will dress as a transwoman in the effort to attack women in public restrooms, why not be just as nervous about that from biological women? There have been plenty of biological women I’ve encountered in public restrooms who have made my spidey sense go off.

    People, regardless of sex or gender, can be violent and scary. Let’s let the non-violent and non-scary transpeople pee where they want to.

  10. mk
    mk October 25, 2006 at 1:15 pm |

    jt – A fair number of women even feel vulnerable doing their business in the immediate presence of other women. (See BUST from a month or two ago for a humorous take on this subject.) At work I’ve started listening from outside the door to make sure nobody’s inside the multi-stall women’s room on my floor, just to avoid the hassles I regularly experience when mistaken for a dude. If we had a non-sex-segregated multi-stall bathroom, this wouldn’t be an issue; people would still mistake me for a guy, but they wouldn’t care.

  11. wolfa
    wolfa October 25, 2006 at 1:18 pm |

    9: I always just walk in to those. I used to get dirty looks from all the women — now I more often get women yelling at the men to wait in line with them for *both* bathrooms.

  12. twf
    twf October 25, 2006 at 1:23 pm |

    I loved the gender-free bathrooms in my undergrad dorm. It allowed me to continue whatever conversation I was having while we both did our business (important in a male-dominated field, where working with and socializing with men is necessary for success). Then again there was graffiti in one of the stalls: “nothing like hearing the girl you have the hots for straining to take a shit” but that’s based on a heterosexist assumption.

    What is it with some women being so protective of bathrooms? I just don’t get it. I know in times past it was an important center for women’s communication (e.g. union organizing unsupervised by the male managers) but I don’t see how allowing transwomen in threatens that space in any way.

  13. twf
    twf October 25, 2006 at 1:23 pm |

    I loved the gender-free bathrooms in my undergrad dorm. It allowed me to continue whatever conversation I was having while we both did our business (important in a male-dominated field, where working with and socializing with men is necessary for success). Then again there was graffiti in one of the stalls: “nothing like hearing the girl you have the hots for straining to take a shit” but that’s based on a heterosexist assumption.

    What is it with some women being so protective of bathrooms? I just don’t get it. I know in times past it was an important center for women’s communication (e.g. union organizing unsupervised by the male managers) but I don’t see how allowing all kinds of women, including transwomen, in threatens that space in any way.

  14. twf
    twf October 25, 2006 at 1:24 pm |

    Sorry for the double post: got an error after I pressed submit the first time. Could one of the mods fix? Thanks.

  15. DAS
    DAS October 25, 2006 at 1:25 pm |

    Women used to being in a single-sex showering environment often get comfortable enough with each other to be wandering around in various states of undress, if not total nudity. – mk

    You do have a point. From my experience, we men generally (probably a matter of social conditioning somehow or other) tend to wander around no more nude after our showers when women are around than when they are not. From my experience, in a typical men’s dorm bathroom (or even shared apartment) the men may wander about with a towel around, but generally would only be undressed in the actual shower (and these showers were single stall showers, so there was no privacy issue if you were only undressed in the shower). If the man would not be comfortable walking around only in a towel when women were around (as I am not comfortable doing such), he would not be so comfortable walking around when other men are around and would change entirely within the shower stall anyway.

    But you are not the first person to point out that women do things slightly differently.

    As far as the doing their business thing — that is true of men … I, e.g., have pee-anxiety (and already I have some problems with flow whenever I have allergy issues because I tend to get angio-edema, and one of the first parts of me that swells up is my prostate and urinary tract) and it gets very nerve-wracking peeing in the middle of everyone (I’ll often take a stall over a urinal if a stall’s available), especially if I’m already having problems with starting and maintaining my flow. But this is a non-issue in a mixed-gender bathroom, without urinals.

  16. spit
    spit October 25, 2006 at 1:32 pm |

    red stapler — I wouldn’t have been able to tell, either, but then I usually don’t thoroughly examine everyone in the restroom to make sure they’re in the “right place”. I generally assume that if they’re not women, and they’re in the women’s room, then they probably either made a mistake (happens to the best of us) or don’t feel comfortable in the men’s for some reason (I’ve known quite a few effeminate gay guys who use the women’s for -very good- safety reasons in certain places). At any rate, unless somebody is being creepy — and that can happen regardless of their gender expression — I just don’t see any reason to give much of a damn.

    wolfa- I usually just walk into those, too — though usually I point out the empty men’s room to whoever’s in front of me in line. Some women won’t do it. Others are like, oh, you’re right! and go for it.

  17. belledame222
    belledame222 October 25, 2006 at 1:33 pm |

    god, she’s so annoying. yes, not harassing women who look like they might be transgendered will really add to the line time. that’s what it’s all about. yes.

  18. mk
    mk October 25, 2006 at 1:39 pm |

    DAS- good point. From what I’ve heard, nudity is much more prevalent in all-women environments than in all-men ones (excluding bathhouses, I guess… do they still have those? Or steam rooms, which I’m told are still important parts of some upscale gyms and clubs) so women would have more adjustments to make with sex integration. Interestingly enough, I’ve never experienced the “ew, there’s a lesbian” in the room issue–if anything, I was far more uncomfortable when women would carry on conversations with me totally naked than anyone seemed to be with the prospect of me checking them out.

    But back to the issue of public bathrooms, which usually don’t even have to deal with the question of nudity–I find it interesting that these discussions often come down to freaked out women offering hypothetical situations involving predators and transfolk versus transfolk and individuals with somehow gender-variant presentation offering real examples of getting harassed in bathrooms.

  19. Sailorman
    Sailorman October 25, 2006 at 1:39 pm |

    I’m curious: is there anyone out there, particularly anyone in New York, who does not understand the basic concept of “sex change?”

    Apparently, Helena was preop. So no sex change, at least not yet.

    Does it not follow that Helena, who now lives as a woman with a woman’s name, must at one point have lived as and been known as a man with a man’s name? Why do all of these articles make a point of our birth names?

    I assume they use the original name and give history to help confused folks: is a “transwoman” a woman who transformed to a man, or a man who transformed to a woman? It’s not immediately obvious from the term itself. Lots of people mix them up. I know I did, and I know many others who do. I was always glad for those cues.

    This measure was undertaken because transwomen are justifiably terrified of using the men’s room. They’re being let into the women’s room because they are not allowed to use the men’s room. Attempting to use the men’s room means risking physical harm.

    Everyone should keep their bathrooms safe for all. But once you get past the issue of “who is responsible for assholes that beat folks up” (an interesting legal question), are they “not allowed” by the people who own the bathroom? Because that’s what I usually think “not allowed” means.

    It’s an important semantic distinction: Legal intricacies aside, if someone isn’t “allowed” to use the bathroom, then that suggests they need to complain to management. If someone is scared to use the bathroom, that suggests they need to complain to police. It’s a whole different set of hoops/prejudices/etc and we should not confuse them.

    Dawn Eden takes the position that the boundary should be set according to genitalia: if you have male genitalia, you have to go into the men’s room. This is idiotic. Why? Well, that’s not the standard and it never has been the standard. The rule is based on appearance. If you look like a man, you use the men’s room. If you look like a woman, you use the women’s room. As any butch dyke can tell you, as any passing transwoman could tell you, and as Dawn Eden could tell you if she were ever to buy a soft packer, genitalia don’t matter. No one can really see them, and no one cares. That’s why I don’t use the women’s room.

    People who get arrested are judged by a legal standard. You now seem to be talking about a social standard.
    Legally speaking, AFAIK things like genitalia and genes underly sex selection laws. This makes sense. Laws need to be clear and predictable; how to you legally define the border of “I can pass as ___”? So if Dawn is addressing the legal aspects, it’s not idiotic at all.

    Socially speaking your argument makes more sense.

    Of course, socially speaking there are lots of reasons for mixing genders in bathrooms. (what I wouldn’t give to be able to take my young daughters into the ladies’ room–men’s rooms are NASTY!).

    …All we really want to do is pee and freshen up.

    I do not generally think any particular group of people are inherently criminal. And therefore I don’t think transmen or transwomen are inherently criminal.

    However, I don’t think of them as being inherently NON-criminal, as you seem to be suggesting. Obviously most people (trans and not) who use bathrooms are not doing so maliciously. But some folks (trans and not) are malicious. It could be slightly more difficult to deal with that as a result of this policy.

    The percentages are small, so they may well be outweighed by the social benefit. I’m inclined to believe that’s the case.

    Not incidentally, from what I’ve read on other blogs, some people seem to feel that a transgender woman (who gets the size benefit of a male physique) is, on average, more dangerous to other women than a transgender man is dangerous to men. Do you think this is a valid concern?

    It’s also worth pointing out that there is no policy against notifying security when something is wrong, or when there is someone in the women’s room who seems dangerous.

    My main problem with this aspect of your response is that if this is a viable solution, it would also have been available to Helena in the men’s room. You suggest earlier that this wouldn’t work–so I don’t think it’s fair to claim it as a solution here.

  20. Cassandra
    Cassandra October 25, 2006 at 1:42 pm |

    I can sort of understand being weirded out by a transman using a men’s room–not that I think it should matter, or that they shouldn’t, but men’s rooms are so exposed. But I really do not understand why transwomen should not use women’s rooms. THEY HAVE STALLS, PEOPLE. Who really cares what the person in the stall next to you is doing?

    (Incidentally, I really don’t get how men pee in front of each other. I’d feel weird peeing in front of another woman. But that is neither here nor there).

  21. johanna
    johanna October 25, 2006 at 1:56 pm |

    People, regardless of sex or gender, can be violent and scary. Let’s let the non-violent and non-scary transpeople pee where they want to.

    Yes, Red Stapler, yes.

    I’m still trying to understand why this is becoming such a big deal to Dawn and her ilk. Are they really that terrified of the loosening of gender roles/stereotypes/expectations that they are taking it out on an old lady who needed to pee? That they find people who transgress those roles so terrifying that they have to block them from public restrooms?

    It’s got to be hard to live in fear like that.

  22. mk
    mk October 25, 2006 at 2:00 pm |

    sailorman- while the option would have been available to Helena in the men’s room, it most likely wouldn’t have worked. A 70 year old transwoman doesn’t stand much of a chance if a young man or a group of young men decide to beat the shit out of her.

    Beyond that, don’t you think it’s much more likely for a woman to go to security/police saying “There was a man in the women’s room” than for a transwoman to go to them saying “The men in the men’s room harrassed me because I’m a transwoman”?

  23. Ellie
    Ellie October 25, 2006 at 2:01 pm |

    I’ve used unisex bathrooms, and while it was a little startling at first to have to walk right past the guys using the urinals (right next to the door with no blinders) to get to the stalls, I dealt. It didn’t make me feel unsafe or weird or anything. And these days, when I get sick and the ladies’ room is occupied, I go into the men’s room. (Boy, I’m so freakin’ sick and tired of having one stall/room for each sex. I’d rather have a unisex bathroom with two stalls than gendered bathrooms with one.)

    I know I’m not alone on this. I’ve known plenty of women who will go to the men’s room if the ladies’ room is full or occupied. No one died. When I was a kid, sometimes it was just easier (esp. at public events) for my dad to take me to the men’s room rather than wait in the mile-long line with my mom. The world didn’t end. And maybe if bathrooms were genderless, we’d stop hearing about how women have it soooo much better because of this or that.

  24. mk
    mk October 25, 2006 at 2:03 pm |

    (I realize that my wording above could be confusing–I don’t mean to imply that transwomen aren’t women. I probably should have said a cisgendered woman to go to security/police.)

  25. spit
    spit October 25, 2006 at 2:03 pm |

    sailorman —

    Before the legal level is involved, a social one has to be. Because if I pass perfectly well as a woman in the woman’s bathroom, nobody’s going to bat an eye — but if somebody suspects that I’m “not a woman” in their view, then is it fundamentally their right based on that alone to subject me to some kind of check? I mean, even if “genitalia” were IMO an okay standard to use, which they’re not, the fact still remains that we don’t flash our genitals like some kind of badge on our way into the restroom. So yes, it is about gender performance.

    As for any threat involved, IMO the more pertinent fact is that bathrooms can be dangerous, and that has absolutely zero to do with the presence of transfolk — some random guy can walk in to the restroom while I can’t see him, because I’m in a stall peeing, and there’s pretty much nothing I can do about it. The bathroom is not being made significantly more safe for women by denial of access to other people identifying as women. So I don’t see where there’s any social benefit that can potentially outweigh the rights of the “small percentage” of people, even if I took such an argument to be valid in itself (it doesn’t matter to me how small the minority is, its members still have rights, including the ability to pee without being subjected to a strip search or genetic testing).

    On this:

    Not incidentally, from what I’ve read on other blogs, some people seem to feel that a transgender woman (who gets the size benefit of a male physique) is, on average, more dangerous to other women than a transgender man is dangerous to men. Do you think this is a valid concern?

    No. I don’t. For one, the size differences are not universal — some women are bigger and stronger than some men, there’s a lot of overlap. For two, the teensiest little weak guy ever wins if he has a gun. It’s a bogus argument IMO.

  26. sophonisba
    sophonisba October 25, 2006 at 2:07 pm |

    Um, holy fuck. I use the men’s room whenever the women’s room is occupied or the line’s too long, I’ve been doing it for years. Women feel free to bring their male children into the women’s room, and always have. But of course that isn’t a problem, because it doesn’t create Transexual Panic.

    some people seem to feel that a transgender woman (who gets the size benefit of a male physique) is, on average, more dangerous to other women than a transgender man is dangerous to men. Do you think this is a valid concern?

    Fuck no, it’s not a valid concern. Anyone who thinks it is will have to present evidence that transwomen are as likely to attack other women as men are, not merely capable of it, unless they would also like to selectively ban women from the bathroom on the basis of height and muscle mass. And then, presumably, small and delicate transwomen would still get to come in, while big strong cisgendered women would be shut out. I do hope that sounds as asinine to you as it does to me.

    What is a pressing threat to me and to all other women is any rule or law that prevents people from going in the “wrong” bathroom, since it threatens our ability to duck in the men’s room at crowded venues. I am afraid that the Spectre of the Transrapist pales in comparison to the Threat of Long Lines.

  27. zuzu
    zuzu October 25, 2006 at 2:16 pm | *

    I kid, I kid! Seriously, though, I am a transgender man. Helena, and the women covered under this new policy, are transgender women. It is inappropriate to refer to them as “men,” or by male pronouns. I’m curious: is there anyone out there, particularly anyone in New York, who does not understand the basic concept of “sex change?” Does it not follow that Helena, who now lives as a woman witha woman’s name, must at one point have lived as and been known as a man with a man’s name? Why do all of these articles make a point of our birth names?

    Well, you know. Long Island.

    Plus, I think the problem may have something to do with the male credentials that the AM article mentioned. Helena may have been living as Helena for years, but working for Verizon and its predecessors for a lot longer, and the credentials may still say Henry.

  28. spit
    spit October 25, 2006 at 2:22 pm |

    *sigh* and now I’m again misusing terminology. Above, I’m talking assigned “male” and “female” bodies in reference to size. That people who are assigned “male” have a higher average body mass does not translate into “all males are bigger and stronger than all females”. It’s a thing with a huge amount of overlap.

    And again, it’s totally moot anyway.

  29. wolfa
    wolfa October 25, 2006 at 2:29 pm |

    Spit:
    I usually just say “Is anyone using that bathroom?’

    Where are all these unisex bathrooms with multiple stalls? I’ve never seen one.

  30. wolfa
    wolfa October 25, 2006 at 2:35 pm |

    I also wonder: who is checking out the other people in the bathroom? When do they have a chance to do this? Not in the stalls. When tehy’re washing their hands?

  31. Sailorman
    Sailorman October 25, 2006 at 2:40 pm |

    # piny Says:
    October 25th, 2006 at 1:58 pm
    Actually, “sex change” does not refer only to The Surgery. This is only sensible, since so many of us change sex without getting The Surgery.

    I will defer happily to your expertise. But are you saying that in common use, “sex change” doesn‘t mean The Surgery? I was certain that for most people “sex change” = “sex change operation”. Without side tracking, isn’t that sort of the distinction between sex and gender? Or am I entirely confused?

    This is how you help confused folks: “someone who was assigned male at birth and transitioned to female.” You also use the correct pronouns for someone named Helena; how much do you want to bet lapses like that contribute to confusion about what “transwoman” means?

    That might work. Though folks may not expecially go with “assigned male” as opposed to the commonly used “born male”. Pronouns are trickier. Most folks link them to genitalia. If you switch that, then I don’t know if it will help or hurt the “confused folks”. (I was, and still ocassionally am, in that category)

    No, you would complain to management first; then, if management refused to implement policies that made you safer, you’d complain to the police. Not just that, but management was using the police to enforce the not-allowed policy; did you miss the part about how these women were brought up on criminal charges?

    No, I didn’t miss that. The part of my post you were responding to was addressing the “Helena scared to use the bathroom” issue. I know that the security/cops were the ones enforcing the rule. (I don’t think the enforcing is a bad thing per se–that is their job).

    No, you’re drawing a line that doesn’t apply to the enforcement of the law. The legal standard for gender–which is sometimes but not always based on genitalia–is not what causes civilians or the cops to suspect someone. Appearance is their criteria. A passing transwoman who had not undergone genital surgery could use the women’s bathroom without any fear of criminal charges; a non-passing transwoman who had undergone genital surgery could not. Cisgendered people can pee without proving their gender. You are not required to produce identification or strip in order to pee, and no “legal gender” rule would apply clearly and predictably to transpeople.

    I don’t think we’re diasgreeing. I think you’re saying, in essence, that physical gender cannot be determined with clothes on–so that enforcement goes by physical appearance while dressed.

    I agree. But it doesn’t change the fact of what is or is not illegal, it just changes enforcement. Even if I could pass perfectly, it would still be illegal for me to enter a women’s bathroom. That I wouldn’t get caught doesn’t change that.

    No. I don’t think that it’s fair to see transgender women as generally different than cisgendered women in that sense. There’s no evidence to support that.

    The only evidence I have ever read is the fact that men are, on average, physically stronger and larger than women. Therefore, some suggest transwomen are, on average, physically stronger and larger than cisgendered women. I have no opinion on the “is this a danger worth discussing?” issue, and was merely raising it out of interest.

    And that’s not the question, is it? It’s whether a transman would be more dangerous or objectionable to women in the women’s room.

    Sorry, I don’t understand in context. Can you explain?

    Even though law enforcement already claim it as a solution for women, period? If they have the option of reporting transgender, they have the option of reporting creepy. Helena was not in danger merely because she had to make herself conspicuously transgendered, either, but because she had to do so in a hostile environment.

    Although I agree with the general premise of your post, I think this remains a weak point. You have to start from a single premise: Either police are available on request and effective at preventing harm to people in bathrooms, or they are not available on request and effective at preventing harm to people in bathrooms.

    If they are effective (as is an assumption of the “women who are nervous can summon security” claim), then they should be able to protect Helena if she is assigned to use the men’s bathroom.

    If they are not effective (as is an assumption of the “Helena cannot use men’s bathrooms” claim) then they will not be able to protect women or respond to the worries of women who feel threatened.

    By and large, I think police are genrally not available. And i think the threat to helena in this particular instance is more “real” than the women’s concernes. So–as I said–I agree with the substance of your post. I just don’t think you can use both these arguments at the same time.

  32. Kim
    Kim October 25, 2006 at 2:43 pm |

    In my dorm days, there were sometimes guys in the girl’s bathroom. I didn’t really mind, unless they were very cute and I was just out of bed, with my hair all over the place and gunk in my eyes.

    More on topic though, maybe it’d be better if bathrooms just became unisex. For adults, anyway. Because I mean, there are *gasp* gay people who use the bathroom with straight people, so you can just forget about the whole “I don’t want to pee next to anyone who might be sexually attracted to me” thing. I mean, if that’s the goal, we’re gonna need to divide restrooms by sexual preference (and where will the bisexuals pee???).

  33. Tapetum
    Tapetum October 25, 2006 at 2:46 pm |

    Where are all these unisex bathrooms with multiple stalls? I’ve never seen one.

    My college had several. Being a women’s college, there were very few male-designated bathrooms. Why bother when there are only a few dozen men on all of campus? Instead, some bathrooms were designated women only, while others were unisex.

  34. DAS
    DAS October 25, 2006 at 2:48 pm |

    AFAIK things like genitalia and genes underly sex selection laws. This makes sense. Laws need to be clear and predictable – Sailorman

    I understand your point about genetalia here, but genes? As the Olympic committee has found out time and time again, relying on chromosomal standards for identifying sex is, um, a very tricky process. There are many reasons why someone can be “genetically” male but be phenotypically female. And possibly even a few reasons things could go the other way.

    I know, even genetals can be ambiguous, but this is less likely than genes being ambiguous.

  35. spit
    spit October 25, 2006 at 2:49 pm |

    If they are effective (as is an assumption of the “women who are nervous can summon security” claim), then they should be able to protect Helena if she is assigned to use the men’s bathroom.

    If they are not effective (as is an assumption of the “Helena cannot use men’s bathrooms” claim) then they will not be able to protect women or respond to the worries of women who feel threatened.

    No, no, no. What you’re missing here is that police are usually variably effective — meaning that while they may be perfectly available for a bunch of cisgendered women feeling threatened in the bathroom, they may not be perfectly available/take it seriously when somebody like Helena says hey, I’m not safe in the men’s room. Whether you understand the police as existing to protect you depends a lot on your social status, the attitudes of police, so forth. Frankly, there’s a lot of history for a lot of queers in which the police have been every bit as dangerous as the people from which they’re supposedly offering protection.

  36. Auguste
    Auguste October 25, 2006 at 3:01 pm |

    Stone sued after cops, reportedly hurling abuse, busted him (sorry, I use the male pronoun when a person has a penis)

    An excerpt from the forthcoming book, Now I’m a God-Blessed Asshole: What Catholicism Did For Me, by Dawn Eden.

  37. zuzu
    zuzu October 25, 2006 at 3:04 pm | *

    I also wonder: who is checking out the other people in the bathroom? When do they have a chance to do this? Not in the stalls. When tehy’re washing their hands?

    The bathrooms at Grand Central Terminal, where Helena was working, typically have very long lines after the trains pull in, and one of the bathrooms (and thank GAWD they opened a second toilet) is often half-shut-down due to leaks and dirtiness and flooding. You get plenty of time to check out your fellow bathroom-goers on line.

  38. anacas
    anacas October 25, 2006 at 3:17 pm |

    Sailorman Says:
    You have to start from a single premise: Either police are available on request and effective at preventing harm to people in bathrooms, or they are not available on request and effective at preventing harm to people in bathrooms.

    If calling the police successfully functioned as an immediate “stop harm now!” button, that would be a fair starting point. Except that they’re all too human, so the first barrier to getting the police to do anything is convincing them that a) you are a person that deserves protection, and b) a situation is occurring in which protection is needed. It’s been demonstrated over and over again that NY law enforcement either doesn’t think of trans people as deserving protection, or doesn’t think their right to piss (in any bathroom, let alone the appropriate one for their gender identity) without harrassment is worth protecting.

    If they are effective (as is an assumption of the “women who are nervous can summon security” claim), then they should be able to protect Helena if she is assigned to use the men’s bathroom.

    Unless they are perfectly able to protect Helena but don’t because they think she’s a freak who deserves what she gets for “pretending” to be a woman, an opinion which would be completely validated by any rule which required her to use the men’s bathroom.

    If they are not effective (as is an assumption of the “Helena cannot use men’s bathrooms” claim) then they will not be able to protect women or respond to the worries of women who feel threatened.

    Human beings are often much more effective when called upon to protect people they are more sympathetic to. Transphobic police officers unfortunately seem to need special inducements to remember that transpeople deserve police protection too.

    What would you have someone do who passes half of the time? Two thirds of the time? Three quarters of the time? 99 times in 100? Someone who passes inconsistently has to be afraid of harrassment no matter what they do, so why not do the sane thing and let them use the bathroom that matches their identity? (as long as we’re being dumb enough not to have gender neutral bathrooms, *grumble*)

  39. Sailorman
    Sailorman October 25, 2006 at 3:21 pm |

    # piny Says:
    October 25th, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    In common use, “sex change” refers to what transsexuals do; I am happy to believe that most people (erroneously) believe that transsexuals all undergo The Surgery. The fact remains, however, that The Surgery is one of many different aspects of transition, that many transpeople do not obtain it, that it does not decide presentation, and that it is not always necessary for legal transition.

    As a fairly nonpartisan FOSCP (Former and Occasionally Still Confused Person) who often stumbles in this area, I have to ask: Isn’t there some other term (e.g “gender”) which would eliminate or reduce the problem of transpeople using terms which are at odds with most of the rest of the population? Confusion = bad. Communication = good.

    And BTW, while you may think I’m a blithering idiot for not understanding this stuff, I actually am trying. I just find it confusing.

    If you don’t switch that, you make it impossible to introduce concepts like, “woman with male genitalia,” and, “women who was assigned male at birth.”

    those are not necessaily any easier for a FOSCP. I can’t tell whether the first one is
    “someone who possessed an XX chromosomal pair and a vagina at birth, but who has since gone through surgery to change genitalia”
    or
    “someone who possesses an XY chromosomal pair and a penis but whose gender identity is that of a woman.”
    and I can’t tell whether “woman” in the second example refers to gender identity and appearance or to genitalia.

    which is why I am always hoping to see things like “male-gendered transwoman” or “male-gendered woman” or and so on.

    It does, however, make it a moot point in this discussion. Something that is technically illegal but totally legal in practice is not illegal for purposes of enforcement. Helena was not accosted because she was doing something illegal, but because she was visibly transgendered.

    Yes, But once accosted, she was held/charged because she was, apparently breaking the existing rules. So a drag king, for example, would in theory be accosted but then released.

    Should women be forced to share the restroom with transmen? And are transmen safer than transwomen?

    I will say that on feminist blogs and in feminist circles, there seems to be a pretty wide belief that men are, inherently, more dangerous and/or violent than women. (this comes up most often in the context of rape). I have never been sure I accept that fact–and therefore I am inclined to believe transfolk can share bathrooms with impunity.

    I think, though, that ths “men are more dangerous” is a pretty common belief. I think it’s a belief many women support, and which many feminists also support. So given that I don’t think it’s unreasonable for some women to be nervous about a male body in their bathroom. I think this is especially the case when the male body has a penis attached to it.

    From what I have read about “triggering” it seems like the awareness that someone in the same bathroom had a penis might well be a triggering moment. Maybe I’m wrong. I am still readong on this.

    I don’t think the reverse is true. Men may be embarassed to have someone perceived as female in the bathroom. They may feel sexually uncomfortable, in the same manner that some men feel uncomfortable if they know there are gays in the bathroom. But they won’t as a general rule feel threatened, I don’t think.

    I can argue that they are available to cisgendered women complaining about Helena but not to Helena, for example.

    OK. Is that what you’re arguing, or is that a hypothetical?

  40. prosphoros
    prosphoros October 25, 2006 at 3:23 pm |

    It’s maddening that things like this still happen, that it matters so much to people that the awful, unrestrainable penis (and it’s bearers) be kept away from the pure, virginal vagina (and it’s almost but not quite human bearers). It’s just a place to use the bathroom, and yet it’s become another divisive issue in which the ‘us’ is always clearly differentiated from the ‘them’.

    On the one hand, it’s gratifying to see Helena be the granted basic human dignity to pee in peace. On the other hand, I’m not at all pleased that this human right is based on membership (legal, social, what have you) in the category ‘man’ or ‘woman’. If the rules are that one uses the restroom based on appearance, the question then becomes, who judges? Who is to say what constitutes an acceptable, understandable image?

    I’ve a dog in this fight, as not everyone is, or looks, clearly identifiable as one or the other; I’m one of those people. I desperately wish there was a way to defend the rights of transsexuals (which clearly need and deserve defending) without reinforcing the binary structures that make life so painfully difficult for some other trans people.

  41. Grog
    Grog October 25, 2006 at 3:24 pm |

    The ignorance of Dawn Eden is astonishing and disappointing (but not unexpected).

    I don’t know what the “risk” is for a FTM entering the men’s washroom is (Piny – thoughts?), but certainly a MTF entering the men’s room in most public situations is going to be humiliating at the least, and downright deadly in some situations.

    (Women seem to be much less “threatened” by transgender people than men – the reason for this eludes my pithy abilities to reason out)

  42. human
    human October 25, 2006 at 3:31 pm |

    so you can just forget about the whole “I don’t want to pee next to anyone who might be sexually attracted to me” thing. I mean, if that’s the goal, we’re gonna need to divide restrooms by sexual preference (and where will the bisexuals pee???).

    They get a Very Special Bathroom all to themselves. *cue porn music*

  43. Cassandra
    Cassandra October 25, 2006 at 3:40 pm |

    I missed the fact that it was the bathrooms at Grand Central. If you’re using the Grand Central bathrooms to begin with, the gender of your fellow bathroom users really should not be your biggest concern.

  44. angiecita
    angiecita October 25, 2006 at 4:22 pm |

    Why don’t we just have a third private bathroom for people uncomfortable in the gendered bathrooms for whatever reason?
    I kinda like having a ladies room. Who else is gonna tell me when my skirt is caught in my panties?

  45. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom October 25, 2006 at 5:01 pm |

    It’s my impression that a good number of the regular commenters over at Dawn’s place don’t believe in the whole concept of transsexuality, or, possibly, they believe in it and don’t want to believe in it. There’s almost a fear reaction at the idea of Women With Penises.
    On the plus side, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “penis” show up so many times in a Dawnite comment thread. Penis penis penis. It’s kinda like sixth-grade sex ed class, but without the pimples. Penis penis penis. It loses its meaning after a while, starts to sound like a rare bird – “The little-seen Lesser Red-Headed Penis lives in the Amazon basin, where it eats fruit. And piranhas.”

  46. Sara no H.
    Sara no H. October 25, 2006 at 5:30 pm |

    I’ve never understood the purpose in segregating the bathrooms to begin with. If you just put in stalls it’s not like anyone’s going to be able to watch you do your business anyway. I mean, they might see you wash and dry your hands (teh horrors!), but hopefully we’re all out of our “cooties” phases.

  47. Lorelei
    Lorelei October 25, 2006 at 6:05 pm |

    Sailorman,

    What about the pronouns confuses you? I just use whatever pronoun people prefer I use to address them (i.e., someone who identifies as female will probably prefer I address her with female pronouns, whether she has a penis or not).

    That wasn’t supposed to sound condescending, btw, I’m just confused about what you’re confused about, lol.

  48. little light
    little light October 25, 2006 at 6:09 pm |

    No, no, no. What you’re missing here is that police are usually variably effective — meaning that while they may be perfectly available for a bunch of cisgendered women feeling threatened in the bathroom, they may not be perfectly available/take it seriously when somebody like Helena says hey, I’m not safe in the men’s room. Whether you understand the police as existing to protect you depends a lot on your social status, the attitudes of police, so forth. Frankly, there’s a lot of history for a lot of queers in which the police have been every bit as dangerous as the people from which they’re supposedly offering protection.

    Thank you, Spit. Thanks. I’ve seen some of those police abuses myself, bad ones, and long ago accepted that as a trans woman, I cannot reasonably assume that law enforcement personnel will come to my aid if I need it. And I still have people telling me I’ve got nothing to worry about, because they don’t understand this basic fact we have to get through our heads, if we want to make it okay in a lot of places.
    Sailorman, you may be interested in reading this, from my own place. It also might help you to know, if you’re not aware, that a trans woman on hormonal treatment, especially if she’s been on the protocol a long time, loses any sort of average-muscle-mass advantage over cisgendered women. Anti-androgens take care of that with a vengeance.

  49. Lorelei
    Lorelei October 25, 2006 at 6:13 pm |

    There’s a woman who lives/lived in my area (not sure anymore), Kingston NY. We’re a rather conservative area. She was a transwoman who didn’t ‘pass’ and she used the women’s restroom at the mall. I was in 7th grade the first time I saw her, and as non-conservative as I thought I was, I still didn’t understand the trans* issue, so my friends and I were shocked and found it funny (I still feel like an asshole because of it). Looking back, she was very brave to use the women’s restroom. People gave her all sorts of horrible looks and made dirty comments.

    I haven’t seen her around the mall in awhile, though. I wonder sometimes if maybe someone called security on her or maybe she moved because of the transphobia around here.

  50. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon October 25, 2006 at 6:30 pm |

    I don’t think the smelliness is Really that big a factor in this

    I don’t know about that… have you ever had to clean a men’s restroom? I have at 3 different jobs and they all smelled like horse stalls! P.U. There wasn’t enough airosal in the world to cover up that stench and I tried.

  51. AM
    AM October 25, 2006 at 8:33 pm |

    54 posts and I don’t think anyone has seriously considered yet how a ciswoman who had survived an attack by a man (cis or trans) would feel to have an unfamiliar man in the bathroom with her.
    “the size differences are not universal — some women are bigger and stronger than some men, there’s a lot of overlap.”

    There’s not that much overlap really and the instances of women attacking men are quite low. The same can not be said of the converse. It has been noted on this site before that men in this culture are raised to feel entitled to women’s bodies, hence the higher rate of men against women attacks.
    While don’t think belive someone like Helena would be safe in a conventional men’s room, I can’t get on board with gender neutral bathrooms. It lowers the likelihood of anyone reporting someone who was creeping them out in a restroom to a cop/security guard and it lowers the likelihood of the cop or guard actually doing anything. They would fear a law suit. This is really the big problem here.
    There actually are some unpleasant trans people given to hostile behavior. I happen to know two such people better than I’d like to. Yes, any ciswoman in the bathroom who decides to attack is also a problem but she isn’t the sort of problem that was exposed to testosterone in their developmental years. You can think you’re tough cause you’re a big woman or maybe even you’ve had some kind of training but the unfortunate truth is if a man takes you by surpise and gets his arms around you it’s pretty much all over.

    Given the seeming shortage of public restrooms that already exists why not go with a third option? Are we not going to talk about how most people will bring a little boy into the women’s room but they won’t bring a girl into the men’s room.

  52. Frumious B.
    Frumious B. October 25, 2006 at 8:35 pm |

    Anyone here ever been to France? They have non-gendered bathrooms with urinals. I was unable to enter due to extreme lack of desire to see any penis except the I happen to be fucking. So sue me, I’m a prude.

  53. evil fizz
    evil fizz October 25, 2006 at 8:44 pm | *

    AM, I’m not sure what your point is. That transwomen are somehow going to take over women’s bathrooms and perpetrate assaults? That people who loiter in bathrooms and make creepy comments will not be dealt with?

    I could understand that a woman who’s been the victim of an assault might not want to be in close quarters with a strange man, but if it’s a well trafficked bathroom, is that likely to be a problem?

  54. Frumious B.
    Frumious B. October 25, 2006 at 8:44 pm |

    oh, and in Lisbon there was the corner with a metal half wall (from above head height to about knee height) with a cutout of a baby boy peeing. I don’t know if that labelled it as the men’s corner or not, but I declined to pee there, too.

  55. spit
    spit October 25, 2006 at 10:34 pm |

    AM-
    There’s not that much overlap really

    Go take a look at the charts here. For weight especially — less so with height — there’s a huge amount of overlap.

    I don’t mean to nitpick, and in reality of course, if anybody catches you off guard, grabs you or whatever, or is armed — it doesn’t really matter whether you’re man or woman or big or small, you’re probably screwed. The particular point I was making had to do with whether men were safer from FTMs than women were from MTFs because of size/strength/whatever. It’s a bunk argument — and I’m not trying to say that women’s violence against men is anywhere near as statistically significant as men’s violence against women. But size and weight have nothing really to do with it.

    Bear in mind also that you’re making an assumption that those of us in this comments section have not been assaulted by men — which isn’t true for me at all. I understand your concern, and I understand feeling vulnerable about such situations. At the same time, I tend to think strongly that men who are predatory aren’t the ones that are dissuaded from going into the women’s bathroom because they’re not supposed to — and frankly, I also tend to think that any well trafficked bathroom is safe, and any lonely, quiet is not, regardless. That’s true for both men and women and has to do with predators or muggers or generally nasty people for whom boundaries are the least of the issues involved, not because men sometimes go into the women’s loo or vice versa.

  56. Tapetum
    Tapetum October 25, 2006 at 10:59 pm |

    AM – a lot of the perception that men are universally bigger than women comes from exactly that – perception. We tend to read men as taller than they are, and women as shorter. I never realized this until a) I looked my own height up, and discovered that I was exactly as tall as, and somewhat heavier than, the average American male, and b) I took up karate, and actually started evaluating people on reach and leg length, and discovered, lo, that I am indeed bigger than about half the men I run into. Prior to that, if you had asked me, I would have said about 3/4ths of the men out there were bigger than me.

    Interestingly, on almost any “women need men to protect them” post where I mention this, it is instantly denied, or ignored altogether.

    You are making a definite assumption about who has or hasn’t been assaulted by men – and it’s not accurate. Bathrooms are already a favorite spot for predatory men. Avoid lonely ones if at all possible. The men who use bathrooms this way, though, are not exactly likely to change their habits because we decide not to let transwomen in.

  57. Dan S.
    Dan S. October 26, 2006 at 12:45 am |

    ” “The little-seen Lesser Red-Headed Penis lives in the Amazon basin, where it eats fruit. And piranhas.””

    Damn it, Ledasmom! I just woke up the rest of the house trying not to laugh and ending up making weirdly-amplified nose-snorts, possibly like the Lesser Red-Headed Penis makes. (Although other accounts have it making a high-pitched whistling noise).

  58. Holly
    Holly October 26, 2006 at 12:47 am |

    Not only that, but there seems to be some misinformation about things like “exposed to testosterone during their developmental years” causing some kind of huge difference in strength. It’s just not true for trans women who’ve switched up their hormone balance to an estrogen-dominant one for any length of time. Doctors and official committees all the way up the IOC have been investigating this for a while and have concluded that as far as things like muscle mass go, trans women are well within the norm.

    Here are some other things to consider before anybody assumes that “most trans women are larger / more physically powerful than most non-trans women.”

    First of all, what pops into your head when you think of what a trans woman looks like? If you’re anywhere close to the average on this, or even if you’re just strongly influenced by media representation, chances are good that you might have a perception that trans women are taller than the average non-trans man, because of depictions of towering drag queens and other “glaringly obvious” portraits of trans people. There are plenty of trans people who are well within the margins of “ordinary size and height” for their gender — but accordingly, they’re less likely to be gawked at, less likely to be visibly ID’d by random strangers as trans, etc. So perceptions are skewed. Similiarly, why is it always the “crazy trannies” who stand out in people’s minds? A combination of stereotype, exceptional behavior (crazy people of any type would tend to stand out), and subtle prejudice.

    Second, trans women take a lot of shit for being masculine in any way at all — even from other people in trans communities. There’s a lot of pressure to be less muscular, less masculine, smaller, thinner, etc. Just like there is for any woman, really, but all lot of specific dangers, ostracism, and double-binds exist for trans women, to the extent that a lot of trans women get accused of being hyper-feminine caricatures. What does this mean? There are not a lot of trans women pumping iron in order to increase physical strength; if anything, the contrary.

    A lot of this stuff is based on false conceptions, a really dim understanding of what medical transition actually does, stereotypes (the quote “why is it that the tallest boys always decide to be girls” from How Loathsome jumps to mind) and a persistent need to find a bogeyman and scapegoat to preserve gender-segregation at all costs.

  59. thegirlfrommarz
    thegirlfrommarz October 26, 2006 at 8:34 am |

    I’m quite disturbed by the obsession the commenters on Dawn Eden’s blog have with the bathroom habits of transpeople. Or actually with bathroom habits in general. I simply can’t believe how much energy they’ve wasted getting angry about people going to the bathroom. It boggles the mind.

    Well done to all of you who’ve managed to stay the course and argue with them (particularly after Leif’s barely-concealed argument that if Ms Stone had had any violence directed towards her, it would be her own fault).

    The obsession with men dressing as women and then assaulting them in the bathroom is beyond fantastical. I can only conclude that Dawn Eden invited them all round for a screening of Dressed to Kill the night before she posted…

  60. prosphoros
    prosphoros October 26, 2006 at 8:53 am |

    AM, what’s your point, exactly? By invoking the potential cisgendered woman victim afraid of men in the restroom, are you meaning to imply that transpeople will be read as men by this strawvictim, and should be banned for that reason?

    Your claim to know two unpleasant transpeople is also a bit confusing; are you meaning to judge all transpeople by these two, and hold all accountable for their alleged transgressions?

    If those aren’t your points, what is, exactly? It’s a little unclear from your post.

  61. Jill
    Jill October 26, 2006 at 10:27 am | *

    I’ll admit it: The idea of only gender-neutral bathrooms makes me uncomfortable. I like having a women’s room and a men’s room. If men were using the bathroom with me, I would feel uncomfortable.

    But that’s my issue. And my personal discomfort doesn’t justify using dehumanizing language or leaving other people without the option to use public restrooms.

    And I don’t think that’s what the MTA is even doing here, is it? People who identify as women can use the women’s room. People who identify as men can use the men’s room. I don’t see the issue.

    However, I would like to see a greater emphasis on creating gender-neutral bathrooms along with sex-segregated bathrooms. NYU passed a university-wide rule that any new construction has to include at least one single-stall gender-neutral bathroom — it’s not all that difficult, and it creates a safe space for all kinds of people. Transgender people who feel uncomfortable using sex-segregated bathrooms can use the neutral one; women or men who want more privacy, or who have issues using public bathrooms (the one example I can think of is the NYU woman who survived an attempted rape in her dorm bathroom) can feel safer; parents with small children are better able to help them use the bathroom. Additionally, transgender people are obviously free to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. It’s not a perfect solution, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.

  62. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom October 26, 2006 at 11:25 am |

    However, I would like to see a greater emphasis on creating gender-neutral bathrooms along with sex-segregated bathrooms. NYU passed a university-wide rule that any new construction has to include at least one single-stall gender-neutral bathroom — it’s not all that difficult, and it creates a safe space for all kinds of people. Transgender people who feel uncomfortable using sex-segregated bathrooms can use the neutral one; women or men who want more privacy, or who have issues using public bathrooms (the one example I can think of is the NYU woman who survived an attempted rape in her dorm bathroom) can feel safer; parents with small children are better able to help them use the bathroom. Additionally, transgender people are obviously free to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. It’s not a perfect solution, but I think it’s a step in the right direction

    Having more neutral bathrooms would be wonderful. I used to have a lot of trouble peeing in public bathrooms (something to do with other people hearing it – yes, silly, but painful) and having a single-person bathroom would have saved a lot of discomfort.

  63. Older
    Older October 26, 2006 at 2:37 pm |

    I am a woman; I’ve always been a woman, I was born female, and at times in my life, I understand, I’ve been considered an attractive woman. But still, there have been times when I have had trouble passing as a woman. Looksism of all kinds really sucks, especially when it allows others to impose their behavioral expectations on you.

    As to men “being” larger than women, many years ago there was a study done in which observers compared the heights of a) couples walking along a city street, and b) a randomly selected person and the next person seen who was of opposite sex. Turned out that men were usually larger than their women companions, but the randomly selected “couples” showed no such relationship. The statistical largerness of men was not evident in the data.

    Personally, I am taller, heavier, and (he says) stronger than a little guy I’ve been totally crazy about for going on 60 years now. He’s totally a man, and it’s not about size.

  64. Holly
    Holly October 26, 2006 at 3:32 pm |

    Jill’s point is really spot-on, and is also what a bunch of “toilet activists” in a lot of different places have been working towards: more bathrooms for everyone. Specifically, single-occupancy lockable bathrooms. These can serve:

    – trans people who might not feel safe in gender-segregated bathrooms
    – non-trans people who “feel uncomfortable” potentially sharing a bathroom with people who might be trans (seems a little paranoid to me, but fine, use the single-occupancy one!)
    – women who would feel safer going to the bathroom in a space they can lock (and really would be safer, as a lock provides more safety than a sign with a skirted-stick-figure on it)
    – parents who want to take their child to use the bathroom but don’t feel comfortable violating the gender-segregated space with a child
    – and these additional restrooms can often be added to fulfill ADA disability-accessible requirements too

    It’s really a win-win-win-win-win situation; and even without considering the first three benefits, you already see many single-occupancy bathrooms in public places that have both features for mobility-impaired people and parents (like changing stations). The only reason I’ve heard that institutions don’t want to make this kind of bathroom available is the idea that people will lock themselves in to do drugs / have sex. Somehow many businesses and organizations cope with this potential just fine, in various ways, so hopefully it’s still a good solution.

    One more thing caught my eye in piny’s response above:

    Yes, But once accosted, she was held/charged because she was, apparently breaking the existing rules. So a drag king, for example, would in theory be accosted but then released.

    Which, again, is kind of a moot point: the law is not enforced based on legal gender identity if people are not targeted based on legal gender identity.

    Not only were the recent harassment and arrests of Helena and other trans women made purely based on “visual profiling” of people suspected to be “breaking the existing rules,” as piny points out… what’s more, there are no laws against using the “wrong” bathroom in New York City. Some people think there are, and feel like it’s just common sense that there would be, but really there aren’t. Trans people who have been arrested for going to the bathroom in this city have usually been charged with “trespassing” (the kids at Port Authority) or “creating a public disturbance” or “disorderly conduct” (Helena Stone) even in situations where they’re in a public place, nobody has complained about them, they’re just minding their own business and trying to go to the bathroom, etc. Clearly, there are other laws that do exist to protect people from harassment, assault, from someone of any gender trying to peep into your stall, whatever. But trans people are getting slammed with what are basically trumped-up charges, at least according to legal opinions I’ve heard, because there’s no real law to use. Tellingly, in many cases the charges have been dropped because they’re simply not real.

    There’s no law, at least not here. People are targeted based solely on what they look like; the police are visually profiling. It’s straight-out discrimination on the basis of gender expression, and it’s been known to affect non-trans people who don’t “pass” as non-trans too. A whole bunch of bullshit!

  65. RachelPhilPa
    RachelPhilPa October 26, 2006 at 11:02 pm |

    Well, I’m a bit late to this thread, but I’ll comment anyway…

    I am a transwoman. I pass less often than I am read as trans, because I’m early in my transition. The bathroom issue is so scary for me that I do not travel – my choice is being arrested for using the women’s room or being beat up for using the men’s room. So, Sailorman, what would you tell me to do? Pee myself? Quite frankly, I don’t care if you are FOSCP or not – I need to use the bathroom as much as you do, and I have a right to do so safely.

    I really don’t understand why you are making such a big deal over pronouns. What is so hard about using the pronouns that people prefer you to use? Why do you have to pop a vessel over it? Just get over it!

    As far as size issues – I am 5’10” – above average height for women, but there are plenty of cisgendered women taller than me (I work with one who is 6 feet tall). I’m also quite slender. And nearly a year of estrogen and anti-androgens has reduced my muscle mass to the point that it is difficult for me to lift the roll-gate at my workplace. There are lots of women who can kick my ass, so don’t give me business about how much “danger” I present to other people.

    To Jill’s point – Frankly, I feel most comfortable in a locking single-stall bathroom, and always did. I’ve always been pee-shy. So I always head to one if it is available.

  66. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom October 27, 2006 at 5:29 am |

    Well, I just got banned over at Dawn’s again. I don’t think I actually have the energy, this time, to find out if it’s the usual mistake on the part of Dawn or finally for cause.
    On the plus side, if it is for cause I just won that contest with Tapetum. Woooooooo!

  67. Tapetum
    Tapetum October 27, 2006 at 7:57 pm |

    Oh drat!

    The “discussion” at Dawn’s has veered into the weird area of comparing transexuals with people who have apotemnophilia (a desire to have a limb amputated).

    The barest bones of the argument are as follows: If the brain holds a different concept of the body, than the body actually is (which is the case for both transexuals and apotemnophiliacs), then the brain is delusional, and the body always trumps it. Therefore people with these conditions should not be indulged in their delusions, nor should anybody ever, under any conditions accede to their desire to be different than they were phenotypically born.

    Rather than fighting the analogy (which I don’t necessarily think is a good one), I’m pointing out to them that even in the case of apotemnophila it’s a stupid position to hold because we have NO TREATMENT psychologically for apotemnophilia. In extreme cases, the psychological treatment is literally to lock them up under 24 hour surveillence for the rest of their lives. Likewise gender dysphoria (term?) – we have no psychological treatment, so denying every attempt to solve the problem by altering the body just leaves a lot of miserable people with no answers at all.

    And yes – somebody is arguing back that it’s more loving to lock somebody up for life than to let them live a happy life as an amputee.

    I hate absolutists.

  68. AM
    AM October 27, 2006 at 8:18 pm |

    My point was right there
    “While [I] don’t think belive someone like Helena would be safe in a conventional men’s room, I can’t get on board with gender neutral bathrooms. It lowers the likelihood of anyone reporting someone who was creeping them out in a restroom to a cop/security guard and it lowers the likelihood of the cop or guard actually doing anything. They would fear a law suit. This is really the big problem here.”

    I did not assume no one here had ever been assaulted, I just pointed out that a certain perspective was not being considered.
    I was not saying that all trans people are unpleasant and hostile but I am contending that they aren’t all saints either.
    I ended by advocating a third option. Gender neutral restrooms in addition to sex segregated ones seems to be a better idea. I would feel a lot better if the aggrivating FTM I knew didn’t go into men’s rooms because despite his best efforts he’s still only 5 ft and 110 lbs. Private locking stalls are always ideal but usually to costly in terms of space to implement.

    I’m glad there are so many large women out there who think they’re tough. I’m not being sarcastic, it’s good to feel confident about your body and your ability to defend yourself. I remember that. I am on the small side of medium and have joint problems. I do not want gender neutral restrooms to become the only option available and I do not believe that this desire makes me a tyrant of any sorts.
    I also don’t think we know each other piny.

  69. Cecily
    Cecily October 28, 2006 at 9:35 pm |

    And the debate spreads to Italy… BBC article.

    The complainer (a member of parliament) said that finding a transwoman MP in the ladies’ room “felt like sexual violence” (and, naturally, referred to Ms. Luxuria as ‘he’.) Grrrrrrrrr.

  70. AM
    AM October 28, 2006 at 10:45 pm |

    So it isn’t insensitive to insist that every one (cis, trans, female, male) be forced into using the same restroom regardless of how they feel about it?

    Aggravating typos do happen but I see they aren’t allowed here.

    If you’d like to hear insensitive then here you go – this “overlap” between men’s and women’s sizes doesn’t corrospond to an overlap in muscle mass. There are a lot of overweight women who think they’re bad asses and That is a misconception. Men and women are not on par when it comes to physical strength. You seem to believe that they are. So you do think that women who get attacked and overpowered by men just aren’t fighting hard enough?

    You don’t seem willing to consider how this all might turn out practically ie cops / guards not wanting to throw anyone out of a restroom for fear of a law suit. I am not saying trans women are going to attack cis women, don’t know why everyone seems to think that’s what I’ve been saying. I am saying that predators are oppurtunistic. Fixing it so the cops don’t even want to know who’s going into the women’s room is an oppurtunity a predator would cherish.

    I am sorry that someone gave Helena a ration of shit. But you know I bet even Helena wouldn’t want wide spread gender neutral restrooms either. She was using the women’s room for a reason. Would you call her insensitive or misinformed because of it?

    What’s really interesting is that you’re going to start with the naming calling on the one person who tries to call attention to the fact that some assault survivors would find it nearly impossible to use gender neutral restrooms. My apologies I thought this was a feminist blog. Guess I should’ve known better given the way women who indulge in the “trappings of femininity” were dumped on a couple of weeks ago here.

  71. AM
    AM October 30, 2006 at 10:16 pm |

    From “about piny” – “I’m a little anxious about posting on feminism in general. I’ll do some thinking and see if I can find something interesting to say”

    You need to do some more thinking.

  72. AM
    AM October 30, 2006 at 11:02 pm |

    “You mean, to create one facility for everyone to use? Well, no, not necessarily.”

    One facility for everyone to use would be insensitive. That you can’t grasp that makes you too insensitive.

    “We don’t segregate based on strength any more than we segregate based on size. And for an answer to the muscle mass issue, see above.”

    Actually we do segregate based on strength and size. Wasn’t that noted in the post about Tyson?

    “I’ve considered it. I’ve rejected the idea that the fear of litigation will cause the MTA to be less concerned with detaining people who seem predatory.”

    Wow you’ve rejected it therefore that must be how things will turn out. I’ve considered it and I’ve rejected it – what a fantastic arguement! Don’t tell me, you’re related to Kant.

    “She was using the women’s restroom because she is a woman, and because, for reasons entirely unrelated to predation, she was not able to use the men’s room.”

    So are you saying that if you’re a woman you have to use the restroom designated for women? Could you elaborate on those reasons? Still don’t think she’d be happy with one big gender neutral bathroom.

    “Your typos don’t interest me one way or the other.”

    Yeah, I always comment on things that don’t interest me.

    “Again with the implication that you’re the only assault survivor here, and that neutral bathrooms will not prevent assault. And, whatever. You sound more like RainSong than a feminist, yourself.”

    So where did you learn to read? I don’t see that implication anywhere in my statement. I do see you refusing to acknowledge what you’re doing – rushing to slander someone who is talking about a valid issue. At no point have I said that I’m an assault survivor. You are the one making assumptions here. Wonder why?
    “And , whatever.” Gosh, you should try law school.
    I have no idea who or what “RainSong” is. I do know I was doing clinic defense before you write your name.

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