The Argument That Just Won’t Die: Sex, Gender & the Public Restroom


By the “old standards,” sex was determined by private parts, among other things. Does that not apply now in this “new age?” In this “new age,” if I have male body parts, but I feel like I am a female, I get to call myself a female, use female restroom facilities, locker rooms, dressing rooms, just because I, a biological man, decide I am a woman? Lord, did you just open up room for rapists and perverts to enter private female facilities. This makes no sense at all.



First, let’s get our terms straight. Biological sex is determined by chromosomes. A typical biological female has two X chromosomes (XX) and the typical male an X and Y (XY). In contrast, gender actually refers to social and cultural differences we typically associate with male or female behavior and outward presentation, rather than biological differences. Gender is seen through the lens of comparing an individual’s behavior to one’s own perceived ideas and societal norms.

Whether in the “old age” or “new age” as you refer, an individual has always had the option of calling his- or herself a male or female in terms of gender, it’s just that there were often harsh consequences for making those types of assertions in the past. Today, Western civilization is more accepting (in general) to those who were born one sex and who identify more with the other gender (or no specific gender at all).

Individuals have several options available to them with regard to their non-acceptance of people who are non-conforming in their gender expression. This list, is of course, limited to those options that are legal here in the U.S.

1. You can grow as a person and learn to accept that there have always been people who feel that their gender does not match their biological sex.

2. Become actively involved politically in order to try to limit the rights of non-gender-conforming individuals. There are plenty of organizations out there who share your views, believe me.

3. You can simply stop living, therefore no longer needing to share space with people who do not meet your definition of man and woman. I’ll spare you the list of ways I can think of to bring this specific idea to fruition.

Regarding restroom and locker room use, those of us who identify as trans* should check our state and local laws to be sure it is indeed legal to enter facilities designed for the sex that does not match what it marked on our legal identification. Some states do have transgender-friendly laws on the books that allow us to enter the facilities of our choice. In those locales, if you don’t like the laws in place, you have several choices to remedy that. (see list above)

Today, some private businesses are experimenting with the construction of a third restroom for gender-variant individuals, but I do not see this becoming the norm. We as a society tried this in the 1960s – it was called segregation. Don’t get cozy with this idea because it won’t last long once people start to make that connection more readily.

Lastly, with regard to the assertion that bathroom or locker room laws open the door (no pun intended) to suddenly allow “rapists and perverts” to enter the womens’ facilities and do no good – let me point out that those blue signs on public restroom doors that differentiate “mens room” versus “womens room” are not preventing bad people from entering and doing bad things to unsuspecting victims right now. The idea that a man putting on a dress and lipstick is going to suddenly allow him access to women-only facilities that he previously could not enter is ridiculous. The concept that the public restroom door as it is now is some sort of an impenetrable safety barrier for women inside is nothing more than an illusion, so why all the hysteria?

The answer to the ‘predator theory’ is that it is really nothing more than a convenient lie. The real reason for all this restroom drama is transphobia. The idea of maintaining such close quarters to someone trans* in a space where we all at some point have to drop our panties squicks some people. Don’t get me wrong, they are entitled to their feelings, but at the same time, there are trans* people who need to pee, and presenting as one’s non-birth gender and entering our birth-gender-specific restroom is no less dangerous than the scenario I laid out for cisgender women above. Presenting as female and stepping into a mens room (and vise versa) effectively outs trans* individuals upon entering, and opens us up to the potential of highly negative attention we otherwise would not have drawn to ourselves.

So, what will the tangible harm really be if non-gender-conforming adults use whatever restroom or locker room facilities they feel most comfortable? That answer is as simple as it is obvious. None.


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