April 2, 2005

"They encircled me in a very menacing and hostile stance."

That's Pauline Park's description of the security guards who blocked the entry to the women's room at the Manhattan Mall and demanded to know "Are you a man or a woman?" Park, who was born male, answered "I identify as a woman." Park sued under an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law, which, the NYT reports, "forbids discrimination based on sexual identity whether or not it differs from a person's biological sex." Park won a settlement against the security company requiring it to "adopt and enforce a policy allowing people to use bathrooms 'consistent with their gender identity.'"

If you think only those born female (or only those who currently lack male genitalia) should be in the women's room, have you already lost in New York City? Is bathroom selection now a matter of individual self-perception? The NYT has been quite sympathetic to the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and to persons like Park who have had unpleasant experiences, but I am concerned about the progress of a movement, already well under way, that is making it unacceptable for women to object to men in women's room. I note that Park and the security company reached a settlement, so there was no judicial decision interpreting the New York City law to apply to bathrooms. Were the interests of the women, who can no longer rely on one mall's security guards to exclude men from the women's rooms, represented in this settlement? When the NYC law was amended, did the general public realize that it would be applied to bathrooms?

UPDATE: An emailer with a law enforcement background notes that posing as a woman can be a rapist's strategy. The security guards are being portrayed in the press as bigoted and cruel, but weren't they concerned about the safety of the women and girls in the restroom? How would you feel, if you were a father and had to send your young daughter into a women's room alone and saw what you thought was a man going in? I remember when the politically correct crowd was fired up about violence against women. Now, it seems that we are supposed to keep silent about that or else we'll look like bigots.

The same emailer connects this controversy to the Ward Churchill matter: do we accept the individual's self-identification with a racial or ethnic group or an Indian tribe? A person may have a motivation to identify with a group in order to obtain a particular job or status within a field, and we could be pressured to accept what people feel they really are. Prying into such matters seems offensive and intrusive, just like encircling a decent person who is only trying to go to the bathroom, but there are really problems of fraud and deceit, and there are people who are hurt.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another emailer writes:
I remember back in the 70s when the NRA was going to be passed. Opponents were saying it meant no more gender-segregated public toilets. The proponents responded with the usual three things: vilification of their opponents as bigots, saying it was an illusory fear and of course it didn't mean that, and that if that happened it would be OK. I recall David Brudnoy, RIP, having cops on his radio show who were seriously alarmed by this. Women get attacked in public bathrooms all the time, and if the cops could not remove men who were in there they were stumped about what they were going to do. I remember one cop with a thick Boston accent saying "the whole thing is ludicrist." He was right. This would be a serious problem of safety for women. Another consideration. Every time the Left puts some abstract ideal of equality ahead of public safety, they suffer in the democratic process. As a Republican I welcome that, but not at the cost of women -- like my mother, my sister, my wife or my daughters -- being hurt, or even made to feel unsafe. If someone looks like a man and has a man's build, that person may just have to evacuate his/her bladder and bowels in the men's room. We all suffer some impositions for the sake of public safety.
Women get attacked in public bathrooms all the time. I know if I went into a women's room and thought someone in there was a man, I would leave. If I had a daughter, I would teach her to do the same thing. Before we change the law to accommodate the tiny number of people who have made personal choices about how they want to live and who feel uncomfortable or threatened going into a men's room, consider the huge number of women who are going to be disaccommodated and threatened and the significant number who will actually be attacked.

STILL MORE: A reader sends this link to an article sympathetic to the needs of transgender persons and asks:
Who has a greater chance of being beat up or raped in a public bathroom; Transsexuals or "normal" women? I dare you to statistically prove that "normal" women are at greater danger and that therefore we should be protected at the cost of our transsexual sisters' freedom and rights.
I sent the emailer a personal reply, but the email address was rejected. Apparently, it's not a real email address. And here I was dared. Actually, I readily concede that a transsexual who looks like a man and uses a women's bathroom is in the greatest danger of getting beaten up, precisely because women feel extremely threatened by a man in the women's bathroom. Any person who looks like a man who goes in the women's bathroom has to know, unless he or she is in deep denial, that it is going to cause anxiety and fear. I cannot imagine wanting to disturb other people that way.

I understand that transgender persons would like to educate people about their needs and think somehow this will cause women to settle down and accept male-looking persons in their bathrooms, but it won't, because the fear of actual male attackers will remain. It's not bigotry to retain this fear. It's basic self-defense.

No matter how sympathetic I might feel to transgender persons, I would not be able to use a bathroom with a man in it. If I were driving on the interstate and stopped at a rest area and saw what looked like a man in the women's room, I'd rush back to my car, feeling quite upset, and drive to the next rest area, no matter how severe my physical needs were. I would seriously reassess my options: not traveling, restricting fluids, wearing an adult diaper, or carrying a weapon. I'll leave it to you to guess which one I'd pick.

So, let's see... you were talking about freedom.

1 comment:

Edwin den Boer said...

I know this is an ancient entry (for some reason the Rodney Dangerfield tag brought me here), but I have to comment on a terrible failure of empathy.

Actually, I readily concede that a transsexual who looks like a man and uses a women's bathroom is in the greatest danger of getting beaten up, precisely because women feel extremely threatened by a man in the women's bathroom.

Were you being obtuse or callous? How safe do you think a transwoman feels when she has to use the men's room? Would you feel comfortable doing your business surrounded by not one but maybe half a dozen men? Do you know how often transsexuals get beaten up and even murdered, not for entering any room but simply for being who they are?