Gender Neutral Facilities Aren’t on the Table, but They Should Be
In a clever inversion reminiscent of how the pro-H8 campaign ran as a no campaign, professional transphobes have laundered their unprecedented anti-trans legislation as a protection of the status quo, painting their opponents as degenerates bent on bringing us gender-neutral bathrooms and other facilities. Even neutral and trans-sympathetic articles are misleadingly running with an image of a gender-neutral bathroom sign.
It’s important to fight the misinformation. It plays into the general lie that conservatives only ever go on the defense against societal changes and never go on the attack. It’s important that people get that trans people are being harassed in ways they weren’t in the past at the same time as making gains.
But since we have to pay the price for allegedly pushing for gender neutral facilities, a change to the status quo (but also a throwback to before building codes required separate bathrooms), we might as well push for it. Because if done right, it needn’t be at the expense of the more pertinent goal of ensuring trans women and girls can use the women’s room. It could be a huge improvement for the general population, which contains more trans and gender non-conforming people than is widely assumed.
It’s wrong to equate “trans women” with only openly trans women, especially when you understand what it is to be trans. A trans woman wasn’t a man up until she came out. She wasn’t even necessarily fully seen as such. Though some may describe themselves as having been male and becoming female, either out of making things easier for cis people to understand or even out of genuinely seeing things in those terms themselves, it’s generally the case that trans women were female all along, trans men male all along, and so on.
A substantial portion of trans individuals are either in the closet or haven’t even come to terms with being trans. There are many costs to coming out in terms of discrimination and complicating interpersonal relationships. Though it may ultimately improve things, many closeted or unrealized trans people are in a comparatively comfortable local maximum, meaning that transition will make things worse before they gets better. Many other are non-binary, navigating a society that tries so hard to place them into one of two narrow boxes they just don’t fit in.
Thus I see the population of “boys” being subject to undressing in front of each other in the boy’s locker room as a population that’s not entirely boys. It’s unavoidable: even if our policies become comparatively tolerant and we universally allow openly trans girls to use the girls’ facilities, we’re still inadvertently forcing girls and other non-boys to use the boy’s room. Further, I resent the notion that I’m supposed to feel comfortable getting undressed or busting out my wang before a urinal just because I’m supposed to be among my own kind.
The old status quo of no explicit laws that prop up birth certificates as an authority on gender is better than what lies ahead if reactionaries have their way, but it’s not ideal. It’s what we fight for because we’re put on the defense. Our culture and legal system demanding dual facilities is built upon the lie that everyone is cisgender, heterosexual and not intersex. That no one is made uncomfortable around other bodies just because of some anatomical similarities.
Our facilities should be built as if we’re forcing people of different genders to use them together because it’s unavoidable that we’re doing exactly that. We might as well admit so and build anything new from the ground-up with privacy in mind, not with the barbaric idea that urinals without even dividers between them are just fine.
So it’s time to stop just being on the defense, because many conservatives are really reactionaries at heart. It’s time to be on the offense and push for the most politically incorrect thing of all – gender neutrality before the law.
Gender Neutral Facilities Aren’t on the Table, but They Should Be by Thomas J. Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.