May 24, 2005

"Common fear" and "severe misunderstandings."

The city of Eugene, Oregon is about to consider banning discrimination based on "gender identity." Among other things, it would become illegal to deny transgendered persons their choice of whether to use the men's or the women's public bathroom:
[City Councilor David] Kelly said one of the biggest things looming over the heads of those involved in writing the actual ordinance is the common fear that allowing transgender people and people with differing gender identities equal access to bathrooms will be seen by sexual predators as an invitation to start hanging out in bathrooms looking for victims....

Kelly said such fears are typically the result of severe misunderstandings about what the ordinance intends to do. He said allowing transgender people access to the bathroom of their choice does nothing to make bathrooms more accessible to sexual predators.

"There's no physical bar at the entrance of bathrooms," Kelly said, referring to the current lack of laws or ordinances that prohibit members of the opposite sex from entering any bathroom they choose.
Get the message, ladies? You're already completely vulnerable. So stop standing in the way of progress.

UPDATE: Here are my older posts on this topic:
"De-gendering" restrooms."
The single-sex bathroom issue again.
Is this sex discrimination?
"They encircled me in a very menacing and hostile stance."
In search of the right bathroom.

38 comments:

Sloanasaurus said...

I am all for "don't ask-don't tell" when it comes to this issue.

However, at least in this case, you have a quasi-legislative body passing the law instead of some lefty judge.

If this was imposed by some judge it would be an outrage!

Ann Althouse said...

Well, I think the legislative body is going to have difficulty passing this, because there are a lot of women who worry about violence, even in Eugene, where I assume people are inclined to be sympathetic to the transgendered.

Sloanasaurus said...

Check out Goins vs. West Group (Minn Ct. of Appeals 2000). http://www.ntac.org/law/goinsvwestgroup.html

Apparently the judge in that case did not think violence was a good enough reason to deny a transgendered person their civil rights to use their bathroom of choice.

Charles said...

Bathroom use might be a human right I suppose, but I don't recall the Constitutional provision. I am for bathroom use, considering the alternative. But you know this is going to end up bad. Guys hanging out in the ladies room and claiming their city ordnance right to be there. I guess it will take a few assaults to get rid of this. Could they just use the "family" bathroom and lock the door?

EBuz said...

I respectfully disagree. I say cheers to Councilor Kelly for disarming the common pretextual argument about "safety" of women in the women's room. If anyone has a safety concern, it's the MTF who has to, by default use the men's room.

I also think that the whole idea is sex segregated bathrooms is insultingly paternalistic, out-dated, puritanical, and heteronormative.

Joe said...


I also think that the whole idea is sex segregated bathrooms is insultingly paternalistic, out-dated, puritanical, and heteronormative.


Outdated as they may be, separate bathrooms is still the only proper course of action in say, a public pool. And if you believe this discriminatory, I'd first ask you to consider a five-year old girl visiting the pool on a field trip or with her daycare.

leeontheroad said...

"Get the message, ladies? You're already completely vulnerable. So stop standing in the way of progress."

Well, right. Stupidly phrased on the councilmans' part.

Meanwhile, there's some stark truth to what he says. Anyone suggesting an ordinance to legally limit the use of the ladies room to women would be suggesting another unenforced and probably unfunded mandate.

Transgendered persons who are presenting as men or women and just trying to use the public restroom for the intended purpose are unlikely-- given that very lack of enforcement provisions-- to encounter problems in many areas.

Let's think about this, after all: women's restrooms have stalls; I've not known anyone to do a genitalia check there, whereas the men's restroom does not always have stalls and therefore the facilities to accomodate an individual who would have to struggle to use a urinal for its intended purpose.

Presumably, however, there is both desire and need to curb housing discrimination. There are instances of folks skirting existing and commonly agreed upon anti-discrimination laws, and it's not a far stretch to see there might be valid concern in that area.

jult52 said...

Is the EBuz comment a joke? It's got to be.

JB said...

I don't know that anything helps conservatives more than just letting liberals attempt to do their thing in some places.

I also think that the whole idea is sex segregated bathrooms is insultingly paternalistic, out-dated, puritanical, and heteronormative.

If that's the perspective liberals want to take, by all means please do. People want to get along, no doubt, and that's why a don't ask don't tell works, but eliminating sex based bathrooms. Hah, please become more vocal about this issue is all I ask of the Liberals.

Sloanasaurus said...

Unenforced? What about Lawsuits. The next step is mandating the rule to private business. What is a private business supposed to do. Will business be forced to have three bathrooms, one for men, one for women, and one for "other persons." In the end all the woman will use the bathroom for "other persons" and the transgendered person will use the bathroom for women. But, then there will be another lawsuit forcing the woman to go back into the woman's bathroom under a "de facto" descrimination argument.

What a joke.

Will this PC movement lead to the end of quasi-public restrooms. What business would want to risk a lawsuit, just tell people to go to the bathroom elsewhere. Going to public restrooms sucks in Europe. Why do we want to be like them....

Meade said...

Until this issue gets works out legally and/or culturally, I'll continue to remind my daughter that, wherever she goes, if she finds herself in a situation in which she's being threatened (unless it's a crowded theater) her proper response is to yell "FIRE" at the top of her lungs. Almost always, help will arrive.

leeontheroad said...

Sloanasaurus, you don't need an ordinance violation to file a lawsuit, especially a frivolous one whose main purpose is to force cheap settlement as an alternative to litigation. As you well know.

jeff said...

You know, I like my privacy - perhaps we should force all restrooms to become "one person" rooms...

SteveR said...

At my workplace they just created a handicapped bathroom to comply with the rules. Its a one stall, with a lock and its quite popular with men and women er male and female (without regard to their heteronormativity) So I see a future where there's just a bunch of single user restrooms in every place, just like outdoor events with rows or portapotties

mcg said...

I also think that the whole idea is sex segregated bathrooms is insultingly paternalistic, out-dated, puritanical, and heteronormative.

While we're at it why don't we just force every man to have transgender surgery and undergo hormone therapy just to make sure the playing field is truly level.

Stever's idea is easily the most sensible. There need be no stigma attached to a third bathroom choice because frankly there are many reasons why one might seek an extra dose of privacy.

rafinlay said...

I must admit I don't know how this ever became an issue. Even the men's room has stalls. Generally, no one is aware of what, precisely, one is actually doing in there. If the transgendered individual goes to the room s/he is dressed for and does not expose h/self to others, who would ever know?

Ann Althouse said...

Rafinlay: Let me guess. You're not a woman.

Freeman Hunt said...

This is crazy. The bathroom segregation is based on sex organs not gender identity. I don't care what laws they pass, if I am in a women's restroom and see a person who is obviously a man in there, I am leaving that restroom immediately (running not walking).

DirtCrashr said...

severe misunderstandings about what the ordinance intends to do.

Is this how you legislate intention?

leeontheroad said...

If it were that simple, Freeman Hunt. I'll focus on a segment of transgendered folks for whom the public restroom issue is a public access problem, that is, folks who seek sex reassignment surgery or other medical therapy for what is called in the Diagnostic Standard Manual "Gender Identity Disorder." Some are intersex and have ambiguous genitalia; some are not.

To seek this "sex change," one has to a) have the psychiatric diagnosis; and b) live as a person of his or her perceived gender for at least one year. Normally, the individual undergoes hormone treatment therapy, thereby changing the outward appearance. Eye of the beholder if it's "convincing," I'd say.

A person who is in this situation should be able to enter the public restroom he or she would have no trouble accessing after the reassignment surgery.

Ann Althouse said...

Dirtcrashr: Yes, see my other post today about Madison drafting something that would have outlawed the Wienermobile.

Leeontheroad: See the links in my update to my earlier posts on the subject, where I've discussed this problem at length.

Steven said...

Let's remember there is serious risk of both battery and rape in going into a men's room in a skirt and makeup, even when it's the physiologically apporpriate bathroom. So, does allowing transgendered individuals into women's bathrooms actually increase the risk of violence to women?

Well, if it does, then sure, keep the transgendered out; there are more women than transgendered.

But if (and it's clearly a quite debatable if) all it does is provoke fear, with no actual corresponding increase in risk, then the answer is to let the transgendered in. Which is admittedly harsh to women who have that fear, but not as harsh as leaving others at a genuinely higher risk of rape and battery.

Ann Althouse said...

Steven: The risk is REAL. Read my old posts that I've linked, which include commentary from people with law enforcement experience. And picture sending your young daughter into a public restroom and then seeing a male enter after her.

Drethelin said...

personally, I have no problems with people who want to act female, but I do have problems with people who try and deny reality.

A man with penis and testicles is a MAN, however the hell he feels about it.
It may feel better to him to go into a women's bathroom, but it's not worth A) the apprehension on the part of the women and B) possibility of abuse.

rafinlay said...

Ann, I agree with you about the risks involved. My point is that IF this is about transgender "rights" it would not need to come up, as there is no need for an adverse discovery in the privacy of a stall. Therefore, I tend to think this is a false issue being raised for ideological effect. The transgendered are not looking to feel "comfortable" as much as they want to flaunt their status and demand acquiesence/approval from others.

Ann Althouse said...

Rafinlay: What concerns me is that once a law like this gets passed, people who need to protect themselves and others will have to hold back and accept situations that their instincts tell them are dangerous.

And let me emphasize that I have no interest in making life harder for people who see themselves as transgendered. The problem is that they procure legislation that makes it easier for bad people to do harm.

Ann Althouse said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joe said...

I suppose we'll need to hire 5 million bathroom security personnel (working for the TSA, no doubt) to ensure that only hormone-taking, psychologist-seeing transgenderites are cross bathrooming.

Everyone will have to show papers before entering.

Because no creep or rapist would ever dress up simply to get in the ladies room.

Felice Luftschein said...

Eugene is the sort of town where old hippies go to die and young anarchists come to spawn.

We sell jewelry at the Saturday Market in Eugene (a great monument to libertarian capitalism, clothed in hippy leftism). The closest municipal bathrooms, in the nearby parking structure, have stalls with doors for the women's room, and stalls but no doors for the men's room. Don't ask me why. I always felt there was a double standard in that.

Eugene also has the ugliest trannies in North America, unless I just assume the beautiful ones are women...
Eugene is not the sort of town where you get beaten up for how you look, topless women, perpetually barefoot men, dreadlocks in all colours of the rainbow, punks, freaks, geeks, costume wearers and goths are constantly in view when hanging out in the downtown. There is a high ratio of kilt and skirt wearing men. It is the only town where "Nice Cloak" is a common compliment overheard in passing.

I would hazard a guess that Eugene is more radical than Madison, if you can believe that. (and I love some of the Eugene culture, it's just a shame that it comes with a bunch of leftist political baggage/garbage).

Charlie Eklund said...

Madness.

If one is born with a Y chromosome, that person is a male. This is true whether he possesses a penis or testicles or some other type of naughty bits or none at all, and still true whether he chooses to wear a leather mini-skirt instead of a Homburg hat.

Sex change operations are merely superficial and do not change the sex of a person at the chromosomal level. Persons with a Y chromosome are male and therefore should use the men's bathroom, regardless of any other notions they may have about themselves.

That this issue has become a bone of contention says a lot, I think. None of it good.

PatCA said...

This is another instance that proves there is so little wrong with life in this country that people have to go to absurd lengths to make it up.

Worrying about the vulnerabilty of women is paternalistic? I don't go jogging in Central Park at midnight, either.

Steven said...

Ann, one can prove quite nearly anything through statments by "people with law enforcement experience". Remember the hysteria over ritual Satanic abuse of children? Or the claim that Dungeons & Dragons caused suicide? Or the tales of poison and razor blades in Halloween candy? Law enforcement officers were major vectors for those myths, which didn't make them one whit less phony.

Now, I favor retaining the status quo, because the threat is plausible. But no, I don't think that the threat is established as real; I reserve my "if"s.

(As far as a daughter, I'd have a hard time being more apprehensive about her fate in that scenario than if I were a woman watching a man go into the men's bathroom after my son. I certainly remember that as a boy, I personally was scared enough of men that I had a very hard time using public bathrooms.)

leeontheroad said...

"And let me emphasize that I have no interest in making life harder for people who see themselves as transgendered. The problem is that they procure legislation that makes it easier for bad people to do harm."

So does concealed weapons legislation, but a) it's strictly correct to say "guns don't kill people; people do;" and b) that legislation tends to be viewed as constitutionally protected (though, strictly speaking, at the time of the Framers, guns were typically kept in a local armory).

I say this not because I'm against gun owners; quite the opposite. To paraphrase a platitude: "some of my best friends are gun owners."

But men who dress up as women to harm women in public restromms, etc. are not transsexuals; I suppose they're technically transvestites, but most accurately, they're criminals. In other words, "transexuals don't rape women; rapists do."

People used to think it was a legitimate health issue so they created separate restrooms and water fountains for "whites" and "colored" people. This is a different matter, indeed, but a "creep out" factor is not sufficient to me to limit folks' access to public accomodations.

G said...

Most telling is the statement:

"Kelly said such fears are typically the result of severe misunderstandings about what the ordinance intends to do."

It reminds me of something Justice Louis Brandeis said:

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficial. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding."

Ann Althouse said...

Lee: the problem is that if the law is in place, people become obligated not to react according to their natural instincts about what is dangerous. You'd have no way to know whether a given man in the ladies room had transgendered feelings giving him a right to be there. So what are you supposed to do? You can't act where before you could. It's not fair to women and girls. Violence against women is a serious matter that is not taken seriously by these cities.

bob said...

Next thing you know, they'll be handing out citations for leaving the lid up.

PJ said...

If someone believe themself to be a cat, it doesn't matter how certain they feel about it, if their genetic make-up is still that of a human, thn it's not O.K. for them to pee in the garden. Apply this analogy to the "which toilet should a transgendered person use" issu... answer: the one which suits their biological gender, not their instinctive gender

PJ said...

oh and I would just like to add, transexuals are no less (or more) likely to rape people than non-transexuals are.

Also I never read through the whole post because it's too long.