Conversations Revolving Around Transgender Bathrooms

South Park

So there have been many, many times when I’ve had a lot I wanted to write about, but I end up talking about it on Facebook and getting most of my thoughts out. This is fine but the consequence is that I never get to document those thoughts, and they’re lost among endless streams of Facebook conversations. I’ve been trying to find a way to compromise between having serious discussions on Facebook or writing all my thoughts out on my blog, so I’m going to try something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’m going to take the comments and conversations between myself and Facebook friends and structure it like a blog post, with their comments and questions between what I’m saying. It isn’t a perfect way to get my thoughts out (ideally I would take everything I wrote about on Facebook, then sit down and restructure it into something thought-provoking and eloquent), but I write best flying by the seat of my pants, and besides the second method takes a lot more time.

Recently the issue of where transgender people will use the bathroom has become political, with at least one state (North Carolina, as it happens, I guess they just really want to make it impossible for me to ever be proud of where I come from) passing legislation forcing transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender they were assigned at birth. What’s honestly unusual about this is that people seem to think this is the first time anyone’s ever had this issue, whereas trans people have still had to go to the bathroom just like everyone else for all this time, we just weren’t talking about it (or in some cases, getting enraged about it), until now. Most likely we’ve all been going to the bathroom with trans people in the next stall and never thought anything of it because, well, it’s the fucking bathroom, what do you expect? So, I decided to talk about it on Facebook and what follows is a slightly restructured transcription of the conversations that followed.

Original Post

Here’s what confuses me about people who freak out over transgender bathroom usage… If you’re a straight man, you already share your bathrooms, public showers, and locker rooms with gay men. And some gay men actually legitimately use those spaces to hook up with one another. The fear among conservatives is that this will lead to a lot of sexual deviance, but there are already people who might be sexually attracted to you in your bathrooms and nothing bad has happened to you yet (as usual, straight men are so arrogant that they think gay guys are going to be perving on them while they’re pooping, because you’re so great and they have nothing better to do).

The world hasn’t imploded; kids aren’t being harassed or molested (which is what these straight people claim is going to happen with trans bathrooms). Literally the only thing different will be that someone who isn’t cisgender will pee in the same room as you.

Comments and Conversations

(Savannah: Personally, I couldn’t give a flying feck who is in the bathroom with me. As long as you don’t try to relieve yourself ON ME….. It’s all good. I don’t understand why people are so up in arms.)

Honestly, when it comes to transgender people, I think people go STRAIGHT to their genitals in their head. And this is something that I wish people talked about more. Yes, it is strange to see two men kissing, to see a man who looks completely like a man but know that he has a vagina, to see two women in wedding dresses being married. It’s okay to admit that these things are strange to see, or unusual, but it isn’t because they’re WRONG or BAD, it’s because we just haven’t seen them before! There was a time when people thought black people marrying white people was wrong simply because it was very unusual to see.

I think it disturbs people on a deep personal level to know that there are men just like them who have fundamentally different bodily functions, or women just like them vise-versa. Because people internalize that and start imagining THEY’RE the ones with a different set of genitals, and they just don’t know how to process it. People are taught from the earliest age “the difference between boys and girls is that boys have this thing and girls have this thing.” So when you throw a wrench in that, it shocks and confuses people.

But if we could all just TALK about the fact that for many people it’s unnerving to see gay people, trans people, etc. then we could take steps to move PAST that. But unfortunately what a lot of liberal culture is doing is PRETENDING that they don’t feel awkward at all when they see men marrying men or trans women using the same bathroom as cisgender women, etc. It’s a conversation that I think needs to happen.

(Savannah: I agree. I think what has happened though, is the group who should start the discussion, doesn’t see a problem with sharing their lives with all people…. I know for one, this who debate blows my mind, because it’s beyond me scope to care if you have a vag or not…. if you feel like a man, but are a woman….. This is all personal and we should all be free to be who we are. For fucks sake people…. we are all people!)

It’s because people who didn’t know how they felt about transgender individual are now being put on the spot and forced to pick a side, and because there isn’t a lot of understanding about who trans individuals are, a lot of people are just reverting to their base instinct and saying “No, this is wrong, this has to stop.” We haven’t really HAD the trans conversation yet, but now we’re being forced to have it and people don’t like to be forced to do something, so they’re reacting harshly as a defense mechanism.

(Mae: They’re fearmongering. Also, most Transgender bathrooms are single stall bathrooms. And for those who are scared about all of this, it is very likely that they have shared a bathroom with a transgender person before and they just don’t know it. There are bigger things at play though. There have been people that have been jumped, harassed, and killed for being in their preferred bathroom when they anatomically may not belong there.)

That’s true, and that’s something we need to talk about. I was just addressing the conservative side’s fears here. I wish we would all just talk more openly about these things. If there’s something I’ve learned recently it’s that most sides have some point of truth in their argument, no one is entirely correct or incorrect. If we could weed through the fear and indoctrination and talk about what conservatives are ACTUALLY afraid of and uncomfortable with, we can dispel those fears. I think that the way liberal culture has been fighting conservative hatred is just to pretend that hatred doesn’t exist, rather than analyzing why it does.

(Mae: Another thing that wasn’t addressed in the main section was that sexual orientation is being confounded as well. People assume that the people who identify as a deferment gender are going to be attracted to the one they choose, which isn’t always the case. This argument also leaves no room for people who are asexual, or gender non-conforming. Where should they pee?)

(Sarah: Honestly, it’s the first time I thought about this. That being said, I never had an issue with trans people using whichever bathroom they want to and never understood the fuss about it. But I also never thought about connecting it with homosexuality in this context. But it makes so much sense. You made a lot of good points about male-ness and female-ness being strongly connected to the genitals underneath Savannah’s comment. Also: sometimes I have the feeling that the people starting the discussion are not the ones using the public restrooms they’re discussing about (i.e. parents arguing over school toilets while many of the kids don’t even care))

I mean, I can say this. I’m a gay man from the American south, and I was taught my entire life that “gay” was a word that meant “wrong.” I didn’t even have an understanding of what it meant, but I knew inherently because of how I’d been conditioned that the sight of a man kissing another man was stomach-churning and disgusting. And so, when I began to become sexual in puberty, I was actively turned on by seeing men kissing men but I STILL had that stomach-churning response at the exact same time.

So now I was having two responses: arousal and joy, and disgust. One of them was inherent, one of them was taught to me. I have known so many gay people who grow up and live their lives as out gay people, but who still on some deep level feel that two men or two women being together sexually is just wrong, or deviant, or against nature. They feel that way because they were conditioned against it, and no matter how much their understanding grows and changes, there will probably always still be a part of those people (myself included) that sees homosexuality as gross, icky, wrong. Even gay people have this feeling (or should I say, ESPECIALLY gay people have this feeling).

I think it’s the same with transgender people. When I was a kid they never said transgender, they said “man trapped in a woman’s body” and they had episodes of Jerry Springer and Maury and Ricki Lake about this topic. These people were paraded around like drag queens and everyone’s perception was forever altered by the way trans people were being presented (and indeed the way they were presenting THEMSELVES, but I can’t fault them, because if you’re trans in a transphobic world and someone offers you a platform to show yourself, you’re going to take it, even if that platform is being paraded around like you’re in a circus). These people were considered anomalies and rarities and not actual real people whose feelings and thoughts we would need to take into consideration.

And so, we have a culture now where on the conservative side, people are just bluntly abusing trans people. They’re letting the world know they think trans people are wrong or delusional or sick. And on the liberal side we have people who, rather than talking about the inherent transphobia instilled in so many people, are PRETENDING they aren’t transphobic on any level, and anyone who disagrees is evil and bad. Liberals and conservatives are painting one another as villains instead of talking about the real fears they both have. It’s like when people try not to be racist by saying “I don’t see color,” it’s just inauthentic and untrue.

(Michael: Yes to all of this. It’s a difficult thing and yes it’s exactly like white privilege and owning up to it and dealing with it, even though it’s icky and difficult and we’d rather pretend we’re above it all and “don’t see color”. It’s happening though. It’s really happening now in the case of white privilege. In the case of transphobia the ball has only just started rolling, but it’s rolling. And it’s through people like you articulating the issue so fucking well and building that conversation that it is happening. ❤ )

(Michael: That was interesting about your dual responses to seeing men kissing. I’d never thought about gay men having that same conditioned disgust response that I remember having myself as a child. I grew up in a small rural community in England and was never exposed to anything but white Christian people. Nobody was gay (haha yeah except my best friend, I was to discover years later), nobody was a different race, nobody had issues with their gender (that was a thing I didn’t even know existed). But I was intelligent and very very logically minded.

When I first saw men kiss on tv I reacted negatively towards it and this bothered me a lot. Intellectually I was totally okay with men kissing men. But I would still have this emotional response and I didn’t like it, was ashamed of it. I guess it was a conditioned response because over time it’s gone away and I’m totally comfortable around scenes of gay affection now. Happily so because my social circle is now a fabulous rainbow of genders and sexualities.)

And see, I think it’s brave and awesome of you to ADMIT that. It’s okay to admit how we really feel, even if it’s a way that someone doesn’t WANT us to feel or that we don’t want to feel ourselves. I don’t WANT to find gay marriage weird and icky, but sometimes I do, and it isn’t because I ideologically oppose gay marriage, it’s because that’s my gut reaction. Is it my gut reaction because it’s how I honestly feel or because I’ve been conditioned to feel that way? Well that’s really the question, and it isn’t easily answered.

On some level, maybe we do, honestly, and sincerely, find homosexuality gross. Even if we grow out of it, at some point maybe we do genuinely feel that way. But there could be plenty of reasons: from an evolutionary standpoint, it doesn’t help us pass on our genes so that could be why we recoil at mating that doesn’t produce children, from an ecological standpoint it could be that we are in a culture that stigmatizes homosexuality, no matter how subtle the stigma may be.

But we can’t have an honest conversation about it if we lie about how we feel. On some level, yes, it makes me feel weird when I see transgender people. Why is that? Is it because I honestly don’t understand it? Is it because I think they’re wrong or sick? Is it because it just icks me out to think that a “woman” has a penis or a “man” has a vagina? It could be any of those things or none. But if I don’t allow myself to question it, if I don’t honestly shine a light on my own confusion, I can never find any answers.

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