The Great Bathroom Debate – What Are We So Afraid Of?

by Diane Dimond on May 30, 2016

The Great Bathroom Debate

The Great Bathroom Debate – How Does it End?

This too shall pass from the headlines in time, but while the issue of who-can-legally-use-what-public-bathroom is still red hot here are some thoughts.

We are a nation of almost 320 million people. Statistics are not plentiful. There are no national figures kept but it’s estimated the number of transgendered Americans is about 700,000 or 0.3% of the population.

Since the biggest controversy these days seems focused on transgender students and what might happen in their school bathrooms or locker rooms perhaps the best statistic to focus upon comes from a 2014 survey of millennials by the Public Religion Research Institute. That survey found 1% of young people identify as transgender. 

The point here is that it’s a relatively small number of people considering the population as a whole. But this is not to say the needs of a minority should be ignored. Not at all.

Maybe All Toilets Should Be Unisex

Maybe All Toilets Should Be Unisex

Without so much as one troubling school incident being reported concerned citizens and lawmakers in more than two dozen states jumped to propose new laws mandating public bathrooms be used only according to a person’s sex at birth. President Obama went the other direction and issued a directive that all public schools must allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice. The Justice Department and North Carolina traded lawsuits over the issue. Then 11 states joined together to sue the administration for conspiring to turn schools, “into laboratories for a massive social experiment.”

Can we all just take a breath here?

Remember, for a moment, what it was like when you were a teen. Adolescent angst revolved around pimples, proms, driver’s licenses, whether you looked fat in what you were wearing and whether the person you liked liked you back. It’s not much different today.

But imagine if you were a kid who never felt right in their own body, struggling to understand why every fiber of your being wants to let your hair grow, to wear a dress and heels to the school dance instead of a tuxedo. I would imagine the inner turmoil alone would keep that teen in self-check to the point that going into a shared bathroom would evoke secrecy not aggressive behavior.

GI Christine Jorgensen Changed Sex Back in the 50's

GI Christine Jorgensen Changed Sex Back in the early 50’s – Jorgensen Seen Here in the 1980’s

“There is probably no meeker creature on earth than a newly transitioned woman,” wrote Meredith Russo, a transgendered woman in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Russo penned a recent Op-Ed  explaining how her former employer forced her to use the men’s room (because she hadn’t had “the surgery” yet) and how the intimidating glares from male co-workers made her feel. She stopped drinking water at work, tried not to visit the toilet at all. The workplace became excruciating.

The social experiment has been underway for decades.

Russo, represents the majority of transgender Americans. The Census Bureau has estimated that some 65% were born male but identify as female. Addressing the worry that an adult transgender might sneak in a public bathroom and cause harm, Russo wrote, “The main thing I wish the supporters of these (restrictive) laws would realize: We are much more frightened of you than you are of us.”

Meredith Russo in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Meredith Russo in Chattanooga, Tennessee

One gets the idea reading Russo’s words that transgendered males-to-females are not preening, strutting peacocks but more like scared sparrows ready to flee in a flash.

Russo’s comments make me wonder – After the shock of realizing the person in front of you has voluntarily changed their sexual identity – what is it some of us are so afraid of? A person born female who decides they are more comfortable living life as a man is a threat because … why exactly? Or is our fear really focused on those born male who transition to female and choose not to remove their male genitalia? Ponder that a moment.

The fear and concern being expressed today is likely rooted in ignorance about sexual orientation. Those struggling to make a new life for themselves seem unlikely to add to their burden by being aggressive with others – in or out of a public bathroom.

The media have certainly kept the raging debate front and center but there has been a lack of real dialogue. Filing lawsuits or clamoring for new laws isn’t going to make anyone safer. Issuing a presidential proclamation doesn’t help fix the situation. In fact, it could create a divisiveness that makes confrontation more likely.

What we need is a meaningful conversation in this country about tolerance and personal choice, sexual orientation and what that really means. Every citizen should feel free to pursue happiness on their own terms.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond May 30, 2016 at 2:16 pm

ABQ Journal Reader Lew Suber writes:

“Good morning Diane,

First, your columns are the bright spot in my newspaper reading day — although unfortunately it only appears in the Albuquerque Journal a couple times a week. They always appear well thought out, & of course, I enjoy them more because I invariably agree with you opinions, particularly your writing about law enforcement.

Second, your column was spot-on on the topic of the current media frenzy over all the issues of transgender folks in our society. I believe that you are absolutely correct that the prejudice is largely based on fear.
That many people fear that which they don’t understand I think underlies many of our societal issues — racism, sexual orientation ….

I had one distant personal experience with a transgender person a few years ago. After “early” retirement from a 33 year career as an engineer, I became a paramedic & worked for several years in EMS. A male paramedic who worked in a nearby community & that many of us knew casually “came out” as a woman. A few months fter hearing about his decision, I encountered him/her at one of our local hospitals when we each were dropping off patients. He had longer hair, lipstick & the shape of breasts under his/her uniform — all of which were changes from the last time I had seen him.

I wish I could say that I reacted differently because I regard myself as tolerant & accepting, but my reaction was disgust & I turned & walked away. I never had a chance to make up or apologize for that behavior because I never saw her again.

A few years later on the recommendation of a good friend, I read a book called “She’s Not There” by Jennifer Finney Boylan.
In it, she recounts the long agonizing process of transitioning from male to female in all its aspects including the difficulty of admitting his feelings and the effects on everything in his/her life including the pain inflicted on his wife. Her story has completely altered my view & attitudes & I highly recommend the book.

Sorry but this turned out much longer than I intended.
Thank you for your wonderful writing! I look forward to every column.”

Lew Suber
Albuquerque, NM

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Diane Dimond May 30, 2016 at 2:17 pm

Reader Douglas Price writes:

“Ms. Diamond,

You noted in your article that transgender individuals comprise .3% of the American population, but that 1% of today’s young people identify themselves as such. That got me to wondering about causes for such an upsurge among the young. Like most issues, I’m sure it’s attributable to many factors. Here’s one. Maybe this is something we should actually be afraid of.
Are EDCs (endocrine-disrupting chemicals) Blurring Issues of Gender?

Environmental Health Perspectives, US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1281309/

Connecting the Gender Dots
It’s premature to call it a theory; at this point, it barely qualifies as a hypothesis: some observers are putting forth the proposition that prenatal EDC exposures may affect gender identity—how a person identifies him- or herself, regardless of physical characteristics. This idea presupposes two basic concepts: first, that transgenderism (in which a person experiences “gender dysphoria,” a strong feeling of having been born the wrong sex) is physiological in origin, most likely due to events during prenatal neurological development; second, that intrauterine EDC exposures can and do disrupt prenatal neurological development.

Notes:
1. Two key components of hormonal contraceptives are: Ethinyl estradiol, the synthetic estrogen used in most oral contraceptive formulations, and Levonorgestrel, a synthetic progesterone used in combined oral contraceptive pills, emergency contraception, the Mirena IUD, and progestin-only birth control pills.
From: Does it matter that hormonal contraceptives are endocrine disrupting chemicals?
Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, March 6th, 2013 by Laura Wershler http://www.menstruationresearch.org/tag/endocrine-disrupting-chemicals/

2. Ethinyl estradiol (EE2) is an orally bio-active estrogen used in almost all modern formulations of combined oral contraceptive pills and is one of the most commonly used medications. Endocrine disrupting substances such as EE2, have the potential to adversely affect the sensitive hormone pathways that regulate reproductive functions.
http://www.toxipedia.org/display/toxipedia/Ethinylestradiol )

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Diane Dimond May 30, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Reader Alan Taylor writes:

“Dear Ms. Dimond,

I read your recent column concerning the angst and reactions to the notion of Transgender Rights. The point of your column seemed to be that to fear a trans-gendered male in a women’s restroom was a baseless fear. I tend to agree with you on that assertion. The tiny handful of trans-gendered males I have known have had no interest in molesting or frightening women. These males who identify as females go into the Ladies Restrooms for no other purpose than to answer nature’s call.

Here is what I do fear. I am a male, and as an adult male I know what it is like to be an adolescent male. In every school in our nation there are 14-15 year old boys who have not yet connected the relationship between actions and consequences. These are the boys who will accept any “dare” regardless of how silly, stupid, or dangerous it might be. Because the directives being received from our Federal Overlords say that we cannot question ones “self-identification,” there is nothing to keep one of these boys from going into a girls locker room at school on a “dare.” All he has to do is to claim that he identifies as female. He would get an eye full of what most adolescent boys think about and would have titillating tales to tell his friends. The 99.7% of the girls who are female and know they are female do not need to fear that some boy who, even on a dare and for a day, “identifies” as female will invade their privacy and create confusion and embarrassment in their locker room.”

Alan Taylor

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Diane Dimond May 30, 2016 at 7:23 pm

Noozhawk Reader AN50 writes:

“The problem is that the law is not specific enough and therefore open to abuse. Lets try not to be naive. Further, we have an economical system of providing hygiene to the masses that falls apart under this new law for less than 1% of the population. And since it is suggested that the rules apply to locker rooms as well it becomes perverse. At some point you have to say that a society is limited in what it can accept as “normal behavior” and all others are subjugate to that norm. Otherwise chaos ensues.”

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Diane Dimond May 30, 2016 at 7:24 pm

Noozhawk Reader Cwhandleme replies to AN50:

” You’re pandering. No school is going to force a child to strip naked or shower with someone they aren’t comfortable or with anyone for that matter. No student is forced to strip in front of others or do ANYTHING similar around others if they don’t want to. You’re argument here is assumes that a trans child will force their way into a situation that just doesn’t happen, period. It’s a very weak argument.”

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Diane Dimond May 30, 2016 at 7:25 pm

Noozhawk Reader AN50 replies to Cwhandleme:

“No pandering. Just qualifying the argument.”

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Diane Dimond May 30, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Facebook Friend Carmen Matthews writes:

“Yes. We do need meaningful conversation about what it means to be transgender; what those who are transgender are afraid of; what social change means to everyone; and what’s getting in the way of accepting individual choices (in terms of honoring the transgender’s need to be accepted and respected). Those parents who are worried about the transgenders doing harm to their children just might have some of their own shame with sexuality.”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 30, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Facebook Friend Robert B. Reno writes:

“As long as they hit the target and don’t leave a disgusting mess I don’t care who uses what bathroom.”

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Diane Dimond May 30, 2016 at 7:28 pm

Facebook Friend Ronnie Kaminski Latimer writes:

“Thank you Diane! What a perfectly written article! The voice of reason and sanity in a fear mongering society.”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 10:50 am

Twitter Pal IntuitiveKind writes:

“@DiDimond Female reproductive organs are increasingly regulated by the government, denied full access to care. Yet somehow…bathrooms.”

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Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 10:52 am

Twitter Pal M2Chalet writes:

“@DiDimond amen!!!! And I’m conservative and enjoy you but disagree often but on this one…..Yes please! Everyone needs to move on stat!”

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Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 10:53 am

Twitter Pal SuperHerosWife writes:

“@DiDimond I don’t think it’s the Trans Community, people are worried about?? I THINK it’s the “Pedo’s” that will USE this law to help them? //(140 characters are Not enough ?)
I THINK that the “Pedo’s”, who will abuse this law, are what most people are worried about…?// (LOL) That and the naughty teenage boys, trying to sneak a peek?”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 10:54 am

Twitter Pal pwtn2015 answers why are we afraid ?

“@DiDimond Most don’t know why it does, it just does. Hidden fear from childhood.”

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Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 10:54 am

Twitter Pal LexRoberts2 writes:

“@DiDimond When people go to festivals, they have portable toilets, no one complains then.”

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Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 11:02 am

Twitter Pal lovespink22 writes:

“@DiDimond I had to go so bad today at a bookstore that I decided I identified as a male since the women’s was taken!!!! lol”

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Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 11:11 am

Twitter Pal amandajnmaui writes:

“@DiDimond do unto others and you would have them do unto you. The golden rule, I don’t want grown men, in the women’s bathroom, not right.//too risky. God made two sexes. Period.

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Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 11:11 am

Twitter Pal SunriseSunset7 writes:

“@DiDimond Just build a THIRD bathroom with a ? on the door! You will never get me in one of those public ???? bathrooms!! DISGUSTING.”

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Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 11:11 am

Twitter Pal ps92264 writes:

“@DiDimond first it’s going to be restrooms and next going to be locker rooms. //I work in Retail see transgender customers. Guy- who wears dress . A girl – with a beard.//How would you explain that a lady is man in ladies room to 6 year old daughter . How would your husband explain it 12 yo son?”

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Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 11:12 am

DD replies to ps92204:

@ps92264 why would you have to explain to a child what the person in the next bathroom stall has under their clothing? Really. Live let live

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Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 11:12 am

Twitter Pal Twitter Pal Gerard79758803 replies:

“I just tell my kids it’s a person with a mental disorder”

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Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 11:13 am

Twitter Pal mwzuke writes:

“@DiDimond Evry citizn shud feel free to pursue happiness on their own terms including those who dont want a man in a womans bathroom right?”

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Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 11:13 am

Twitter Pal amandajnmaui writes:

“@DiDimond do you have children?”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 11:13 am

DD replies to amandajnmaui:

“@amandajnmaui yes I do. And grandchildren. And we teach them to be careful and respect everyone’s choices as long as it doesn’t hurt others”

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Diane Dimond May 31, 2016 at 11:13 am

Twitter Pal ShirleyWhel07 writes:

“@DiDimond the privilege of self identifying will be abused with perverts”

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