October 10, 2005

After gay marriage: "gender fluidity."

Wisconsin State Journal reports:
"Even though I see myself as a male, often I'm talking to other people, especially within the LGBT community, and I refer to myself with feminine pronouns and nouns and think nothing of it," said [a UW student]. "(It's) kind of a dichotomous relationship between my anatomy and my mannerisms and behavior."

Eric Trekell, the director of the campus center, referred to this kind of expression as "gender fluidity." He believes that the way society reacts to people who don't conform to gender expectations will be the next public debate after gay marriage.

"What we're seeing more and more are students coming out of high schools who are rejecting the common notions of gender," Trekell said. "They say, 'I express myself how I want, whenever I want.'"

While researchers have yet to quantify the trend, Caitlin Ryan, a clinical social worker at San Francisco State University who's conducting a long-term sexual orientation and gender survey of youth and their families, says in the last five years, she's seen more young people coming out as transsexual - those who believe they are one gender trapped inside the body of the other.

She and others in her field also are seeing a noticeable number of young people who are ... taking it further by purposely evading gender definition, expressing androgyny with wardrobe, hairstyle or makeup - sometimes going as far as calling themselves a "boi" or a "grrl."...

[P]eople who stretch gender stereotypes do not always feel safe doing so publicly. Trekell, of OutReach, said many of the gender-fluid students he meets conform to their biological gender at school, work, or any place they perceive as hostile toward gender variance....

But as young people continue to challenge gender distinctions, the answer to the question "boy or girl?" will become more complicated. Trekell said it may be more difficult for the straight public to accept gender fluidity than gay or transgender culture.

"Gender identity is still such a pervasive part of our society that students that are really fluid in that are still seen, I think in some ways, more as 'freaks' than trans(gender) people," Trekell said. "It's like, 'Choose. What are you?'

"We still have that dipolar concept of what you should be."
Is "gender fluidity" the next public debate after gay marriage? Gay marriage requires legal changes and demands that others readjust their behavior. To make "gender fluidity" into a political cause, do you need to generate tangible political demands that the individual should have choices about which sex-segregated facilities to use or that sex-segregated facilities be abolished? I'm not a fan of strict sex stereotypes, and I'm very tolerant, especially of young people experimenting with their identity. But as soon as males claim a right to use the women's bathroom, I'm flipped over to the other side. But those who want "gender fluidity" to be a political movement seem intent on creating this opposition (see the linked article). Too bad!

MORE: I've written about the "transgender bathrooms" before. Here's an old post (collecting links to earlier posts). There are detailed discussions of the problems in the comments.


F said...

I think though that if you expand your thinking about gender beyond bipolarity you realise it's not "males" asking to use the women's bathrooms, but people who self-identify as female or 'nongendered', therefore there's not such a huge problem

I think that in terms of specific demands there are some that can be put forward in order to ensure that public debate doesn't descend into something like "but you can;t just decide you want to be a woman" etc.... So demands for changes in birth certificates and passports, the right to be recognised as father/mother on a child's birth certificate, the right to marry someone of your born gender etc... can all be used as focus points for the debate as they have been in Europe (see the ECHR cases on Article 8 of the COnvention relating to gender reassignment and recognition thereof, especially Goodwin v UK).

Interesting times ahead for the US...

Just as a last note - I don't like the automatic connection of trasngenderism and genderfluidity with the gay movement: gender identity is different to sexual identity but because of the shared stigma and 'outcast' status we tend, for the most part, to be connected politicaly which can take away from the truth of gender identification issues.

Sloanasaurus said...

You will start to see more activist judges ruling that private businesses must allow men, who see themselves to be women, be allowed to use the woman's restroom. It is their civil right!

For an example, see http://www.ntac.org/law/goinsvwestgroup.html

In that case the Minn Court of Appeals decided that "An employee who is denied use of a workplace restroom facility because of an inconsistency between the employee's female self-image and the employee's anatomy states a prima facie case of sexual orientation discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act."

Believe it... there are judges who come up with this stuff.

Nick said...

Honestly... beyond bathrooms... what is the political fight here? Are people going to try to turn acceptance into a political fight? I've never been a fan of trying legislate acceptance of someone's lifestyle. People may have to tolerate it, and you have every right to do what you want, but you don't have the right to force acceptance of your lifestyle on others. Besides, it never really works anyway.

knoxgirl said...

I truly feel bad for transexuals because it would be torture to be stuck in the "wrong" body. But when someone refuses to adopt either gender it seems like their whole point is to be rebellious or unique. I doubt they are truly struggling with their identity like transgendered people. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with someone calling themself a "boi" or "grrrl" and dressing or acting accordingly... but I don't want public bathrooms made co-ed for any reason and the thought of the potential lawsuits is depressing.

F said...

but knoxgirl isn't the point that we presume a bipolarity of gender that most people who study this stuff in depth (like Judith Butler) tend to reject - gender is a contiuum rather than simply two polar opposites!

Paul said...

Once again, thanks a lot liberal educators for dumping more of your enlightened thinking into children's heads. Just when I think you're done, you do it again. A horde of children wandering the earth contemplating what clothes to wear, what bathroom to use, who or what they are. What a great job and a nod to some of our enlightened judges too, without whom much of this would be impossible.

peter hoh said...

Paul, if you are correct, then I have to ask this: why did conservatives stop teaching, leaving the field to be dominated by the liberals?

Simon said...
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Simon said...

The problem with that slippery slope is that it's so damned slippy.

knoxgirl said...


Yes, I do believe it's possible that gender exists on a continuum. But I believe that the number of people who truly, psychologically cannot bring themselves to identify one way or the other is probably infinitesmally small.

I am certainly not in favor of forcing them to conform, I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. But I have no interest in letting someone who looks totally male and may call himself "she" in the stall next to me! It's just not safe (because of the sexual predators who could take advantage of the situation)

I don't think it's intolerant of me to feel that way. I think it's intolerant of anyone to expect women to sacrifice their physical safety in this way.

Eddie said...

At least you didn't quote the CapTimes, aka "Pravda."

F said...

Well I'm with you on the safety issue - it's complex and certainly these issues have to be considered in some depth. But it would probably be equally unsafe for a man who identifies as female and is open about that to be in a male bathroom (think of all the gay bashing that goes on in male bathrooms; 'tranny bashing' is not far behind it). Perhaps the solution might be something quite pragmatic like 'men', 'women' and 'unisex' bathrooms so people who have security fears can use the women's bathroom and people who identify as non-gendered or are not particularly worried can use the unisex bathroom??

All these practicalities can be worked out once the principles are agreed upon. And of course the issue goes much further than bathrooms - birth certs and passports and social security numbers etc... would be of more immediate concern on the transrights agenda.

Steve said...

Bathroom usage and gender fluidity-- Now that's funny.

I am still waiting for the culture to mature beyond its outdated religious oriented taboos so that I may express myself 'how I want, whenever I want.'

Like Arlo Guthrie in 'Alice's Restaurant', "I wanna kill-- I want to see blood and guts and gore and veins in my teeth-- I wanna kill!' I have found that if I express that, people look down on me.

Oh, yeah, I guess the Neo-Nazis, Skinheads, Bloods, and Crips already have that market cornered.

Well, I just need another avenue by which to demonstrate my uniqueness.

MMMmmmm... Beer!

Paul said...

Peter, I don't really know. The easy answer is perhaps they were harassed from the field. I think it more likely they became disgusted with the invasion of lawyers into their classroom (Sorry Ann) and the few parents bringing them, which eventually, I think, frightened them, thinking they had no support.
The other theory is that people who took refuge within college during Vietnam were mostly liberal in thought and Majors. Which I believe, led to teachers, the results of which are being seen now in matters like this.

Charles said...

Somehow that article seems to be internal advertising or discussion to others of the same mindset, rather than written for persuading those with definite ideas. So not sure if there is much there besides a member talking to other members.

As far a non-gender specific bathrooms... you can bet I am going in to see the other side's place. And if it's decorated, business owners better start worrying about similar decorations on the men's side, or lawsuits will abound! Our side is less germ filled according to some survey done about a year ago.

Freeman Hunt said...
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Sean said...

Based on my own youth, and the people I knew back then, I think that gender confusion and/or ambivalence is something that many people have in their teens and twenties, but grow out of. As such, it isn't likely to be the basis of a political movement, except on college campuses.

There's a tendency on the part of students in each generation, to compare themselves not with the students of ten years ago, whom today's students can't see, but with the adults of today. Thus each generation may believe that its confusion and ambivalence about sex and gender is something new.

Freeman Hunt said...
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bearbee said...

How does one define for example a gay male with a female gender identity or a heterosexual female with a male gender identity. Is the end purpose to eliminate all gender reference, specifics and divisions?

How do drug companies conduct gender specific tests for new drugs? Would gynecologists be subject to lawsuit if they refused to examine a male with female gender identity?

Kathy Herrmann said...

I think the issue has greater or lesser relevance depending on circumstance. In the gay or avant garde part of a town, it's likely to be more relevant -- and those parts of town already seem to have their own ways of working through the issue.

Bruce Hayden said...

I am not the least bit surprised. Eugene Volokh talked a lot about the Slippery Slope of gay marriage when it first came out. He concentrated on polygamy, etc., but no reason to not extend it here.

I don't think that most people are really in favor of having the other gender, sex, etc. in their bathrooms.

But before women think that our shorter lines are a godsend, they should think about all the times when they asked another woman at the table if they wanted to visit the restrooms (together). Maybe now her date will join her instead.

You are starting to see a lot of "family" bathrooms now. With the sometimes addition of a second, lower toilet, they are identical to normal ones. But they provide an answer of when kids need to start using the gender appropriate restrooms - even with the opposite gendered parent along. I know my daughter wasn't really ready for this.

So, we just have a third set of bathrooms some places, with the M/F or F/M logo on them. No big problem. If the weakly or inappropriately gendered don't have one available, they would just go elsewhere. That really just leaves truly public facilities.

Bruce Hayden said...

I should add that sometimes women use women's restrooms to escape from certain guys. At least my girlfriend does, so was somewhat shocked a couple of years ago when she was followed in there by a Lesbian. I thought that it was a lot funnier than she did.

Bruce Hayden said...

I agree with Kathy Herrmann (aka Roaring Tiger) that those most concerned about this on a personal basis will tend to migrate to the avante guard, etc. section of town, where there will be a financial incentive to solve this problem - as is apparently happening.

The problem with this, as I see it, though is that of companies that, say, have one or two people like this in a population of hundres, if not thousands. How much should a company have to pay to set up facilities for this sort of thing?

PatCA said...

I find it hard to believe that "gender fluidity" is any more prevalent today than, say, 50 years ago, but Calfornia law now dictates that high school students can self-identify which gender they are. Sorry, but this is crazy, and many parents are fighting this. If a child is truly in trouble, solve it on the local level. We do not really need yet another nanny state law that assumes that the majority of adults are incapable of dealing with this situation.

Does a school system now have to deal with ever changing statistics on who's who, lawsuits about children who have been "discriminated" against, etc. to satisfy what I believe is a small number of confused children?

Jeff said...
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bearbee said...

*How much should a company have to pay to set up facilities for this sort of thing?*

Sooner or later Will a case be made for coverage under the Americans with Disabilites Act?

Jeff said...

It's simple. Like most large bathrooms now have a wheelchair-accessible stall, let each "Men's" room and "Women's" room have a "gender-fluid" or "questioning" stall. The "Women's" room addition could have a urinal in the stall, while the "Men's" room addition could have... a cleaner toilet.

Simon Kenton said...

I think this is a late-stage density effect. The cultures that manage density durably do so with fairly rigid cultural norms. Those that don't, see the same manifestations in people as people in rat-crowds - gender confusion or reversal, slinked fetuses, aggression, collapsing birth rates. It functions as a feedback loop; population collapses until there's new vigor, either autochthonous or imposed; or until the society drops below a threshold and winks out.

miklos rosza said...

Maybe no one here has seen it, but for the last several weeks the Sundance Channel has been running a "reality" series called "Transgeneration," which features two male-to-female and two female-to-male transsexuals. And their on-campus friends.

Freeman Hunt said...

I think the whole idea of self-identification of sex is ridiculous on its face. Suppose a blonde self-identified as having black hair. "I know that I have blonde hair, but I feel like a person with black hair." She could feel that way all she wanted, but until she actually dyed her hair black, her driver's license would still describe her as blonde.

By the same token, a boy can say he feels like a girl all he wants, but he is still going to be a boy until he actually has himself physically altered into a girl.

People are always saying "be happy with yourself" or "learn to love yourself." Why then all the verbal gymnastics? Why can't a masculine girl love herself as a masculine girl instead of trying to say that she is a boy which she clearly is not?

Ann Althouse said...

Freeman: You say "until he actually has himself physically altered into a girl." But a man can never become a woman. He still has his Y chromosome. He has no womb or ovaries. I doesn't get his period, cannot become pregant, etc. He's simply had some surgery done and takes hormones to resemble a woman. If we call him a woman for doing this, we are just being accommodating and cooperative. Why not go along with other things? As long as they don't impose on others: by demanding to use the women's bathroom, the women's locker room, etc. For those facilities, I support a simple penis rule. And anyone who doesn't ought to just think about how you'd feel if your young daughter had to change her clothes in a locker room at school where boys who said they felt like women got to hang around. Or if your 8 year old daughter went into a public restaurant and you -- if you're male -- could not go in to protect her, but you saw a man go in after her.

Freeman Hunt said...

Ann, if anything your argument convinces me that we shouldn't call a "girl" the boy who has himself physically altered. You ask, "Why not go along with other things?" Because words have meaning.

It is for the same reason that I will not call an atheist friend of mine an Episcopalian. He has stated that he does not believe in God, but he self-identifies as both an atheist and an Episcopalian. I have told him that I find this utterly ridiculous. One cannot be a denominational subset of a religion that he does not believe in no matter how he self-identifies.

I will not, as far as I am able to recognize it, acquiesce my language usage to someone's self-identification that bears no resemblence to reality. Words have meaning. A feminine boy being called a boy is not hateful or bigoted or intolerant. It is up to him to learn to love himself as he is and not up to everyone else to pretend that he is something he isn't by using inaccurate pronouns.

Note: I'm not saying that "a boy should act like a boy." As far as I'm concerned, a boy (or girl) can act or feel however he wants. That is entirely up to him. I'm just saying that he shouldn't expect everyone else to tiptoe around their own use of pronouns to accomodate him.

Jeff said...

I agree with Freeman on the language issue. My biggest beef with PC-ness is the Orwellian use of language as a means of re-ordering culture to suit one's political agenda. The complicity of the media in this was one of the major things that unmoored me from the "left".

The "gender is a construct" academics and their media fellow travellers have engaged in a 30-year long (at least) campaign to define language in their terms and render any dissent as thoughtcrimes.

Shielding a sexual minority from violence is one thing, but forcing the other 90% of humanity to subscribe to their way of thinking about human nature is quite another.

Pogo said...

Take it from one who knows: if you make pretending to be the sex you are not any easier, you will have more of it.

People at the margin always measure the relative costs to themselves of taking a certain path. If it's easier to pretend to be a girl, those at the margin (and they are there, at the margin) will do so.

Ann is right. One's mere wish to be something not only doesn't make it so, it surely doesn't mandate societal participation in the charade, especially at risk to your safety.

Sigivald said...

And here I'd always thought "boi" was how a certain subset of gay men referred to themselves (without any androgyny), and "grrl" was an attempt to be more "assertive", short-lived in mainstream culture, and mainly mocked.

Now evidently these are somehow transgender terms, it seems. Somehow.

I can't help but join the doubt that there's any more real gender confusion (in the sense of a body/mind mismatch) now than previously; I do strongly suspect that it's more of a campus fad or rebellion thing. (Like girls "playing lesbian" for a while in college, which evidently makes Professional Lesbians very unhappy, but I don't follow such infighting.)

bearbee said...

*... I do strongly suspect that it's more of a campus fad or rebellion thing.*

This sounds more serious than just a fad:


Stephanie said...

I do strongly suspect that it's more of a campus fad or rebellion thing.

While I doubt this is true for most transgender people, I have a suspicion that at least a significant minority of the gender fluid people are rebelling or being myopic. I'm sure there are people (maybe even a lot of them) who genuinely don't fit into a bipolar model of gender (even beyond those who are physically at one pole and mentally at the other). However, it seems like a number of the fluidly gendered/nongendered/androgynous people I've encountered are doing it a) because society's conceptions of gender offend them, so they're being all "screw the system, man!" or b) because they're young and don't think or act like the stereotypical member of their gender, and are so short-sighted that it's apparently unthinkable to identify as a nontypical man or woman. (Disclaimer: all of the gender fluid people I've really talked to have been people I've encountered online, and this has been in places that tend to skew young. So adult nongendered people that are actually living their, er, nongenderness could well consist of people doing it for more personal and thoughtful reasons.)

Pogo said...


No, you are right. The older group are just as thoughtless, myopic and selfish. Perhaps less 'screw the sytem' than sheer 'screw my family, I have my own needs'. Kinda sad mostly, in both camps.

knoxgirl said...

Freeman said:

"A feminine boy being called a boy is not hateful or bigoted or intolerant. It is up to him to learn to love himself as he is and not up to everyone else to pretend that he is something he isn't by using inaccurate pronouns. "

...this is a pretty good point. The whole world can't be re-ordered to accomodate someone who's made uncomfortable by what the vast majority of people consider the standard.

Jennifer said...
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Jennifer said...

A feminine boy being called a boy is not hateful or bigoted or intolerant.

Excellent point, Freeman Hunt. It does seem rather counter productive to rail against gender stereotypes, and then embrace them by declaring that being a boy or girl is defined beyond just having the requisite equipment.

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, why isn't it like the way I could say I don't really feel that I'm my real age? I feel that I am 28, so I insist that everyone's records, my driver's license, etc., all list me as being 28. They would say no, and they wouldn't be trying to interfere with my sense of myself in a way that would be right for me to object to.

Jennifer said...

Yeah, why isn't it like the way I could say I don't really feel that I'm my real age? I feel that I am 28, so I insist that everyone's records, my driver's license, etc., all list me as being 28.

On second thought, I reverse my support. Excellent point, Ann. I want this option available to me at some point. Now, I'm all behind the boi/grrl movement.

XWL said...

As Prof. Althouse has already demonstrated with respect to age, identity fluidity should extend to all aspects of life and be truly fluid, static identities are the oppressive tools of the evil majoritarian culture.

When going to movies and eating at restaurants then I am a 92 year old man so should be eligible for discounts.

When applying for law school I am a 23 year old lesbian Navajo (nevermind my penis, that shouldn't get in the way of my identity, I still prefer women, so that makes me a lesbian and ethnic identities are purely social constructs so if gender can be fluid then obviously ethnicity must be fluid) double amputee (I know you can see that I have all my limbs, but internally I've always felt both my legs were missing) with dyslexia (so I should be allowed extra time on the LSAT even if I've never personally exhibited any reading problems, I've always identified with people who do).

And on plane flights the terror of the moment regresses me to the status of an infant (age 18 months or so, with some verbal skills and potty trained) so I should be allowed to fly free and sit on my mother's lap for the duration.

This is a fun game, clearly the fluid identity game can be played to win.

and as far as the bathroom issue, in Santa Monica the city ordinance already allows anybody to use any bathroom if there is a line of more than three people outside of either bathroom (mainly meant for the benefit of women who would rather head for the men's stalls rather than wait for their normally assigned seats).

Simon Kenton said...

Freeman Hunt wrote:

Why can't a masculine girl love herself as a masculine girl instead of trying to say that she is a boy which she clearly is not?


This is what we used to call a "tomboy." For me - and a lot of other males, I suspect - finding one that was willing to wield her own rifle or shotgun when you were hunting; take the oars or the motor when you were rafting the Grand together; leave you splayed on the Slickrock Trail near Moab? I'd swap fifty whining delicacies for one such.

Eli Blake said...

Why fight over bathrooms? There are practical solutions already in place.

1. The 'family restroom.' They have one in more and more places, primarily for the purpose of people training young children, but when not in use, this bathroom is assumed to be open to either gender.

2. A lot of small businesses just have one public restroom with a locking door and available on a first come first serve basis. I know of a small business in Flagstaff that has two restrooms. Instead of making them male and female, they have both either in use or not in use by whoever enters. There is no reason you couldn't design new restrooms in the same way. It would be no more of an architectural problem than complying with ADA was a few years ago, and they managed to do this.

Honestly, why do people assume that the way things are now sets the framework for the way they will always be?

John(classic) said...

For a century, inebriated English men, sooner or later, have ended up dressed as women, often in a chorus line dancing.

The exception to this is Monty Python's Search fo the Holy Grail, solely because the armor of the knights in the chorus line did not lend itself to cross-dressing.

I vividly remember a dozen or so men walking down the middle of the street in a wide line in the rain from London's China town after a 4:00 am ending to a rather alcoholic computer business dinner, hands over each others' shoulders, oh...never mind.

Eli Blake said...


Of Mad Dogs, and Englishmen...

Europeans don't have the hangups about discussing sexual matters that Americans have.

a survey out today confirms that. And one line I found really interesting:

African-Americans (44 percent) are more likely to have the conversation (about STD status with a potential partner) than whites or Hispanics (38 percent and 40 percent, respectively).

What this tells me is that a lot of it has to do with societal or 'prudish' hangups, because African-Americans have in past surveys tended to be less prudish when talking about sex than whites.

Jacques Cuze said...

First of all, I first read "Trekell" as yet another form identity, one that I identified as for many long years and still do.

Second, bathrooms are not the problem, but restrooms may be. But restrooms are terribly designed anyway. Ask my two young daughters that have to stand in a fifteen minute line at the State Fair to get into the women's restroom while I stroll in and out of the men's room within three minutes.

Where I work has two restrooms side by. One says men. One says women. Both have locking doors and contain only one toilet.

The Marin Headlands for the Arts is a former Army Barracks. It's a wonderful, beautiful place to have a wedding. It has one large, co-ed restroom. Works fine.

pst314 said...

peter hoh asked: "why did conservatives stop teaching, leaving the field to be dominated by the liberals?"

Starting in the sixties, there was a lot of talk on the left about embarking on a "Long March through the institutions." Lots of lefties were interested in teaching, journalism, etc as ways to propagandize for radical left ideas. This had a great deal to do with the imbalance.

Furthermore, the intolerance of these leftists not only tended to make more conservative people feel unwelcome, but also manifested in active discrimination.

Lawyapalooza said...

"Shielding a sexual minority from violence is one thing, but forcing the other 90% of humanity to subscribe to their way of thinking about human nature is quite another."

"Gay marriage requires legal changes and demands that others readjust their behavior."

The postings here seem to have minimized the importance of the role of the law to protect the minority from the majority. Any time I read the phrase "activist judge," I think the same thing. What is labelled "activist" or "demanding that others re-adjust their behavior" depends almost entirely on your point of view. How long do you suppose it would have taken to establish basic civil rights of racial minorities and women had not the judiciary stepped forward to protect the minority from the majority? It's all well and good to debate the theoretical, but you must not ever forget the practical impact of your decisions and your postiions on real people.

I am 100% supportive of gay marriage. It is a legal protection denied individuals and children without any legitimate competing state interest. Does that mean I am demanding other people readjust their behavior to meet my needs? Short of asking the IRS to stamp my file correctly, my insurance company to cover my daughter like any other child, and the state to grant an adoption for my child, I really don't care what you think about me. I do not expect the 90% of others to change their behavior. Though I will note that most straight people are supportive of equal legal rights for gays and lesbians. So is it actually a minority who feel threatened by legal recognition and protection of particular groups? Is it a vocal minority who are "forcing" humanity to think the way they do?

Freeman Hunt said...

Lawyapalooza's post

Did you read "gay marriage" in Ann's post title and think that this was a discussion about gay marriage in general? Oops. It's not. We're talking about "gender fluidity" or how gay marriage relates *specifically* to the issue of "gender fluidity."

Diane said...

Freeman Hunt,

Gender is simply Not. That. Black and White.

Some people are born with both and neither. Physically judging a male from a female can be very very difficult. They aren’t “Boys” or “girls” much of the time. They very physically fall somewhere between the camps. They are actually much more common than we would think.

And even “X” or “Y” chromosomes are not always telling. What about a person born with a Y chromosome, but with an utter and complete ability to use testosterone. Their cells lack any receptors to pick it up. You can’t really call these people completely male, because they don’t have any of the hormonal “male” training.

Your typical man is very different from your typical woman physically, mentally, and emotionally. Because I have seen much to support this, and because I know that sometimes nature makes people a-typical with respect to physical gender, it ain’t all that hard for me to imagine that people are born with minds that are completely at odds with their appearance.


I have a friend who went to the woman’s Restroom in a gas station, and was raped by a man who hid there looking for victims. No one else was there to hear her scream. I’m actually comforted by the idea that men might come in the bathroom with me. I’m not strong enough to fight an assaulter off. Banning men from the bathroom will get rid of the honorable men. Not the dishonorable ones. Maybe if some honorable men were allowed in their with us, we’d be protected. It won’t protect us all the time, but the judge is right. Segregating bathrooms doesn’t make us safe. It just provides the illusion of safety.

Diane said...


Actually I’ve noticed that while some Taboos are reduced, other taboos have strengthened. We aren’t making a culture with no taboos, we are just rearranging our Taboos. Some taboos I wish would come back. I think that there is a good reason to stigmatize people who steal from the government. I think there is a good reason to stigmatize draft-dodgers. Social condemnation of behaviors that hurt society is a good thing. It is a stronger deterrent than law could ever be.

Still to claim that all taboos are going away is not accurate. I can name several that have actually become worse. Most of them for good reasons.

For instance:

The Taboo against pedophilia has increased. It is to the point where in highschool these days, it is no longer considered acceptable for a boy to date a girl younger than himself. In my parents days (twenty-four years ago), they regularly dated between college boys and high school girls.

I had a friend in college who dated a sixteen year old girl. When other friends found out they eased off friendship with him. Even though this boy was obviously religious, and was not sexually taking advantage of her.

The “forbidden words” now are racial slurs. My grandmother couldn’t make herself say S**t, even when quoting people. I can’t make myself say the N-word, even when telling a story that condemns racism. I have a psychological block.

The idea that society is rule less, though, is not accurate in my opinion. You might not like the rules it has now, but they are there.

Freeman Hunt said...

They are actually much more common than we would think.

Exactly how common then? I hear this often, but on what basis? I'm sure that there do exist people with both or neither sexual organs, but I am inclined to think that this is *extremely* rare.

If we're talking about boy/girl minds or chemical processing as opposed to boy/girl sex organs, I think that's something else entirely. My point is that boy/girl designates sex and refers to sex organs. Gender, a term which encompasses the vague world of feelings and identity, is not even something I would bother labeling.

If I refer to someone as "he," it's because I think he has, to the best of my knowledge, a penis. If I refer to someone as "she," it's because I think she has, to the best of my knowledge, a vagina. Nothing is implied beyond the sex organs.

I am not going to alter my use of "he" and "she" to mean "someone who feels like a boy" or "someone who feels like a girl." Aside from being too subjective and potentially meaningless, I think this would be extremely hard to keep up with and to use appropriately. There may be all sort of genetic, mental, and physical anomalies, but I don't think it's necessary for us to have gender labels for every one and then alter our use of sex-related pronouns to match.

knoxgirl said...

Diane said:

"I’m actually comforted by the idea that men might come in the bathroom with me."

Sorry, but this is too much to believe!

I'm sorry that your friend was raped, but this is most certainly a rare occurence, as male sexual predators presently have to *sneak* into the women's room. If restrooms become unisex, it's no longer an anomaly to see a man go in.

Besides that, if you're female, and straight, and you don't mind men being in the room while you take care of business, you're... unique. I don't buy it.

Freeman Hunt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Freeman Hunt said...

I have to agree with knoxgirl. Plus, the idea of being hit on in the bathroom. . . ack!

knoxgirl said...

Who wants a man to overhear every plop-plop, every fizz-fizz...

especially if he's cute!?!?

Sean E said...

This all reminds of a "lesbian trapped in a man's body" line I heard a comedian use once. Next time I guess I'll need to stop and question whether it's meant as a joke.

I'm really having trouble getting my head around this. Apparently we have some subset of men (for example) who may or may not want to dress like women, have sex with men (or women) or have their bits and pieces swapped out for their female counterparts. But they can all agree that they don't want to be called "he" and they do want to be able to pee wherever they want. Sounds like the makings of a real grass roots movement to me.

Diane said...

I might be a-typical, but this has much to do with the fact that I was raised by a nurse with a no-nonsense mater-of-fact attitude towards bodily functions. I wish we weren't so silly about these things.

Besides, just because he's in the bathroom doesn't mean that he's in the stall with you! In public bathrooms there is usually too much noise to *hear* plop plop fizz fizz.

As such I never developed this sense of “Oh no! He’ll figure out I’m a human being with bodily functions like his!” If I plan to have a long-term relationship with a man he better be aware of me as a gross human being with bodily functions just like his. I might need him to take care of me while I’m sick. I don't want to date a pansy who can't handle the fact that I do the same gross things he does. That is why I am not bothered by the idea of a man in the bathroom with me.

I try to avoid places where I feel unsafe, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. If I have to go to the bathroom in a gas-station in the middle of the night, I’d usually break the rules and make my husband come in with me. I see it as no different from having boys walk girls home from exams after dark.

You aren't keeping out bad men with the rules as they are now. You are only keeping out the ones who follow the rules.

Diane said...

Freeman Hunt;

As for how common intersexuality is, it depends on where you draw the line. Do you include Kleinfelders and people who are born with deformed genitals but normal chromosomes and hormones? If that's the case, then it is as high as 1-100. IF you don't include them, then it is as high as 1 in 500.

We don't hear about it much because families treat it as a dirty secret and often keep it secret from the child themselves. Children usually only find out after they grow up, and even then doctors are reluctant to let them look at their own records.

I studied genetics in college, and came across several of their stories. IT changed a heck of a lot of my preconceptions.

They might be uncommon, but I think that is a significant enough portion of society to have a bearing on our rules. I also think that it is a significant enough portion of our society to consider the fact that our minds might not be as simply sorted by "penis" or "lack of penis" as we think.

I'm not saying that we should make new pronouns. I am saying, though, that the feelings of the individual are the only way we can *make* a cut and dry rule as to a person's gender. There *is* a continuum. It muddies the language, but keeping inaccurate definitions is worse than having less concrete definitions.

Besides, how exactly do you define “Penis”? A clitoris is just like a penis only much smaller and without a urethra going through it. What about a person who is born with testicles, a short bit of erectile tissue (the size of a clitoris), and their Urethra is behind it, and as large as a vagina. I’d call that a man, but he doesn’t have what most doctors would define as a penis. What about a man who has his penis destroyed in a horrible accident? Shouldn’t he be allowed to call himself a man still? Or should we force him to give up his gender because he was unlucky?

I can’t say that gender is as simple as you think it is. And I think it is cruel to force these people to fit into one gender or the other, when it’s obvious they weren’t made that way. Almost always, they are not pained by their unusual birth, and they are completely healthy. You have what could be a very happy person, and we make them miserable by forcing them to fit into one category or another. Read some of the stories on the Intersexual Society of North America. It’s heartbreaking.

The truth of the matter is a person’s feeling are a more accurate a gage than anything else we have. Messy and imprecise, but it is more accurate. I don’t see how they are hurting anybody by insisting on being neither gender. I do see how we are hurting them by not letting them be what they are. I say we give them their pronouns and let them use our bathrooms.

Eric said...

Interesting; I found this post on Althouse more than a year later, and so it seems unlikely anyone will notice my response. But where ever did I suggest a "political cause"?

Not all public debates must inherently become a political cause. I personally believe that morality cannot and ought not be legislated; gay marriage is a case in point - it was turned into a political cause, but in the end, we will see gay marriage in the US because of the public debate, not the political cause. We have proof of that already; the public debate will eventually overturn the constitutional amendments (i.e.: political cause), which are nothing more than attempts at legislating morality.

Anonymous said...

I often think of Anne Frank and her family croutching in the corner of an attic in the Netherlands when I think about the life quality of many gender varient persons across the world. I wonder what heterosexuals would do about who they held hands with in public were they under some sort of persecution by a genderless foe who outnumbered them.

As for the costliness of bureaucracy, is it not more important that our bureaucracy reflect identity as it is and with honesty. If that is not the case, are we not toppling near the edge of anarchy? Good government had better be about doing the right thing for each person as they perceive themselves and less about preserving a comfortable misrepresentation of gender identity.