Disappointed with their failure to stop same sex marriage in its tracks, a ragtag coalition of right-wingers and evangelistas in various parts of the US are looking to reassert their hatred of difference by putting forward a range of “bathroom bills” designed to ensure that the right people are using the right loo.
Or to put it another way: that trans persons are forever more condemned to using the loo that corresponds to some sort of essential gender they are presumed to have, whether on the basis of genital arrangement, chromosomes or birth certificate.
This is widely represented as an anti-trans measure, which it clearly is. Overlooked, though, is how this is just more of the same, male privilege demanding the right to police women’s bodies, secure in the assumption that whatever laws they pass will never come back to bite them in the bum. Or any other part of their anatomy.
This is not, should not be true.
America’s potty obsession
For starters, this bathroom obsession is very american. I am not sure what it tells us about the character of the average US citizen, beyond the implication that US men may be more dangerous to women than the men of other states.
The difference starts with the reason for this current debate, which is that back in the 19th century, as women began to enter the industrial workforce, states started to pass laws about the use of loos. In the UK, who might pee where remained a largely unstatutory matter.
It was dictated firstly by custom (men went through THAT door, women through t’other), then by ownership (most loos existed on private premises, so it was up to the owner of those premises to say who was permitted to go where) and finally, by the fall back of common law. In various circumstances, an incursion of a man into the ladies’ could be deemed a breach of the peace, or at least conduct likely to lead to same.
Those rationales have slowly evaporated. Always less obsessed with matters lavatorial than our American cousins, the pressure to maintain custom has, it feels, also been somewhat less: more on a par with the situation elsewhere in Europe, where mixed changing and mixed loos have not excited quite the same panic.
The Equality Act 2010 did away with owner discrimination. Well, mostly. The situation is not 100% clearcut, but anyone saying they won’t allow a trans woman to use the ladies on THEIR establishment had better be prepared to defend that view in court. And with this shift in attitude, so the call for hard policing of loos has also faded away.
I’m not going to get too bogged down (sorry: pun not intended) in the minutiae of what is anticipated in the US should any of these ludicrous laws pass.
Others have argued at length the illogic and muddied thinking behind them. The mix of claims that predatory men will pretend to be trans women to gain access to women’s loos, segued seamlessly into the smear that trans women are themselves potential predators.
This despite the fact that there is next to no evidence for either of these claims – but plenty of evidence that men, dressed as men, will go to great lengths to spy on women in the privacy of the bathroom.
The almost total refusal to confront the counter-concern, that if trans people are pushed back to inappropriate loos, then it will become a legal duty for trans men such as Michael to use the women’s facilities. And if it is acceptable for someone looking like him to be in such space, then why would men bother pretending to be trans women to predate when its so much easier to pretend to be a trans guy!
The “show us your cunt” law
What is truly creepy, what needs to be turned on its head, is the fact that this law upholds and codifies the presumption – that runs from loo policing to FGM and demands for intact hymens – that women’s genitals must always be subordinate to the demands of men. And second, that men’s genitals will not be subject to similar policing.
Not so much a bathroom bill as a “show us your cunt” bill. Because, of course, such a law, which most people seem to anticipate will be applied almost exclusively to police women’s spaces, will involve requiring those suspected of breaking it to drop their panties to “prove” gender.
Oh my! Voyeurs paradise!
Not to mention existential conundrum for those proposing legislation that is satisfied not merely with absence of penis, but demands presence of REAL cunt. Will those doing the viewing be sufficiently trained, medically, to be able to distinguish trans from non-trans vulva?
Or, in some of the more backwoods police departments, will absence of porn star genitals be taken as evidence of transness? Who knows: the certain prediction is that mistakes will be made.
What’s sauce for the goose…
Notice, though, the grand absence from this discourse: the inspection of the genitals of cis guys. First, because the obsession of these mostly male legislators is with women’s spaces and what women have in their knickers: and second the tacit assumption that this is not an issue in men’s loos.
They really have not thought this through.
If ever such a law arrives on the statute books, I trust that trans people and their allies will be good citizens and, should they spot guys who don’t look sufficiently masculine entering or leaving the men’s loos, be insisting that the police investigate.
Because you never know. And if genital incongruence is such an important issue, who could possibly begrudge the police time and resource spent on such an investigation?
Of course, there will be some who fear that such an approach might inadvertently lead to the outing of actual trans men. So perhaps those doing the denunciation should start at the top, with those politicians and legal officials promoting such laws.
Because it is important that those imposing such draconian measures not only be innocent of any wrongdoing, but should be seen to be innocent. Important, too, that those who think that the way to “solve” a non-problem is to create a right to perv at the contents of other peoples’ knickers should themselves understand what it feels like for their genitals to be public property.
Do they, in fact, have the balls to submit to the same legal regime they would impose on women? Well that’s easy: they need only drop their off-white stained senatorial pants for us to check!