How Many Changing Rooms Do We Need?

washroom_sign-img-1216In January Christina Blizzard of the Toronto Sun published an excellent piece called Political Correctness Shouldn’t Trump Common Sense.  I heard her interviewed on the radio, and was impressed.  She took the Ontario Human Rights Commission to task.  It seems that she had been in the changing room at her health club, and a ‘woman’ – in quotes because it was actually a man who claimed to identify as a woman – who despite whatever he/she might identify as had a very male anatomy, and from what she could tell all of the bits worked perfectly; this she claimed because he/she was hitting on another woman in the locker room, and the male bits got… as male bits tend to get when its owner is sexually aroused.

In February there was another case where a ‘self-identifying woman’ was taken into a shelter for battered women, but it turned out that the ‘woman’ was actually a sexual predator who proceeded to take advantage… as sexual predators will.

Following these two incidents I reached out to a number of friends who are more knowledgeable about the whole ‘wrong chromosome identification’ situation – they have friends who self-identify as being of the gender that their natural bits are at odds with.  They admit that there are certainly bad people out there who will abuse the system, but all in all the transgendered community are a misunderstood lot who are persecuted and need to be protected, and need society to respect that them as what they want to be, rather than as what they are.

Transgender_symbol_HiResI want to be clear… I respect a person’s right to choose in almost every respect.  If a man wants to sleep with women or men that is their own lookout, I will not judge or persecute.  However when it comes to what bathroom they should be allowed to / forced to use when in public I am of a mind that the needs (and rights) of the many should outweigh the needs and rights of the few.  I also strongly believe that one bad apple will eventually spoil the whole bunch, and the best way to prevent spoiling the whole bunch is to leave all apples in the right bushels.

I have changed or at least softened my opinion somewhat over the years – I tended to believe that if you are born with male bits then I am going to call you a HIM; over time I have realized there is no harm in referring to a man who wants to identify as a woman as a HER… it does not change who I am and it doesn’t hurt anyone.  However that is a far shot from saying ‘Hey, you have a penis but you say you are a woman so you can use the changing room where all of the women are walking around naked.’

So in response to that argument one friend argued that the man who identifies as a woman will feel embarrassed changing in front of all of the men in the men’s changing room.  The simple solution to that is use a bathroom stall to change.  If you think that person’s rights are being trampled on because they are being made to change in a room full of men, why would it be more acceptable to force every woman in the club to change in a room with one man?  It doesn’t matter if the man has an erection or not, those women should have the right to not be exposed to the male bits as they change.

The entire concept of political correctness in today’s society seems to completely discount the rights of the many – I have a right to be whatever, despite what anyone else thinks of it.  Leaving aside the two obvious cases of abuse called out herein, why should my wife or mother or niece forfeit their rights as women because  we have to accommodate everyone?  Wouldn’t that be the same as discriminating against them?

toilet-signs (35)[9]I joked recently with a friend (regarding the Changing Room case) that if I was ever to open an establishment with public restrooms I would forego the ‘Men’s Room’ and ‘Ladies’ Room’ of old and instead have one washroom marked ‘For people born with external plumbing’ and ‘For people born with female plumbing’.  As ridiculous as this may sound, it is in response to a ridiculous set of circumstances.  Thirty years ago who would have imagined there would be a circumstance where someone would actually argue which washroom was appropriate to use, and to actually sue for the right to use whichever they chose?

At the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory in Tel-Aviv (which I am told has since closed) they used to have a sign at the back that read ‘To the Johns…’ behind which there were two doors: ‘Olivia Newton’ and ‘Elton’.  Discounting the fact that these two ‘Johns’ are among the most ambiguous they could have selected, we always thought it was rather amusing.  In today’s politically correct society these signs might as well be changed to: ‘People who liked Grease’ and ‘People who like Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting’,.  Please, leave the musical theatre jokes out of it… I like musical theatre, and I am very much a straight male – although I might soon have to stop admitting that too loudly because we are among the only groups that is seems politically-correct to persecute and deride.

Another Opinion

Before publishing this article I asked a couple of people with different points of view to review it, and got a couple of answers that really shocked me.  I am not sure what I was expecting, but one person, who studies gender issues at university, wrote the following:

From a radical feminist perspective, the whole concept of gendered bathrooms is ridiculous and just another tool used to reinforce the binary concept of gender. All humans have genitals, no matter what form they take. We don’t ask men with small penises to change in different rooms. Or what about women with large clitorises? Should they also be shunned?

feminismAll humans (poop and pee). They all do. It transcends gender because all bodies need to excrete waste. Why are our washrooms divided, split, along binary gender lines, when we are all doing the same things in there? Aren’t separate stalls enough?

Why are we so ashamed of bodies that we must segregate when changing? Doesn’t this just reinforce the binary genders?

If we taught tolerance, of all gender expressions, women would not be alarmed when a man who identifies as a woman changes in the women’s change room. It is about tolerance. It is always about tolerance for the things we do not know enough about. It is always about the conversation that can help us learn, help us become more tolerant.

Wow… this answer completely shocked me.  I had never even heard the term ‘binary gender lines’ before.  Now that I have had nearly a week to consider this position I am ready to completely disagree with it, but I am not going to disrespect her point of view.  Call me old fashioned or traditional, but I still think that there are some things that we should be allowed to do privately, and while I consider women to be completely equal to men, I am nowhere near ready to say that we are all the same.  However I did ask for her opinion, and I am glad to share it, word for word (I reworded the words in brackets).

For the record though, as someone who has never studied gender studies nor read any feminist literature that I can think of, I would be surprised if this view was shared by the majority of feminists.  I was going to continue on to say what I thought they might think, but then realized that as I am not a feminist, I will not take the liberty of trying to speak for them.

Conclusion

I am all for giving people whatever rights they need to get by and not feel bad about themselves… but as a society shouldn’t we demand a little give and take? We can call men who want to be women ‘Her,’ ‘She,’ and ‘Madam,’ and in return they use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with the physical?  I don’t think this would really be too much of a problem – as I suggested earlier they are welcome to use bathroom stalls to change, and from experience I know it is possible to avert ones’ eyes so as to not see anything they are uncomfortable looking at.  Here’s a little secret I’ll share… most guys are as uncomfortable looking at other guys’ male bits as you ever would be.

In this world where common sense is uncommon, why can’t we try to muster it… rather than taking these issues to court and tribunals, lets just all try to do the right thing… and yes, that includes those people who are demanding we recognize their rights.

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