Transgenders and Restrooms: Myths, Ironies and Insanities


Every now and then — and with increasing frequency these days, it seems — Americans totally lose their minds and make a towering Mount Everest out of the tiniest of molehills. At the moment, the nutcake cause du jour is spreading panic about transgender-friendly restrooms.

A firestorm erupted in the media –and social media — after an announcement from Target stores that it would make its restrooms accessible to transgender persons. This was by no means a radical shift in direction; it was just a reaffirmation of the same policy that Target, and many other retail chains, have followed for years without incident.

But all of a sudden, reactionaries proclaimed that the sky was falling. Facebook exploded with comments like this:

For those unaware: Target will be allowing men in the girls’ restrooms of its stores, and will also allow women in the boys restrooms of its stores — all to support queerism and confusion.

This utterance of righteous indignation was posted by two Ohio men who later were arrested because for the past  year they’d been protecting a girl in their family from “queerism and confusion” by keeping her chained up in the basement. Which is something I’m pretty sure the CEO of Target has never done.

Meanwhile, a man in Illinois was arrested for causing a disturbance when he showed up at a Target store to protest the chain’s supposed lack of family values and its supposed endangerment of children. Two days later, he was arrested again when his wife reported him for being violent toward her and their 8-year-old son. And so on.

Many have made the declaration that Target was caving in to pressure from LGBT activist groups (nope) and even from President Obama (double nope). The president did later issue a letter to school districts nationwide reminding them that discriminatory practices are as unconstitutional in the bathroom as they are elsewhere. This shouldn’t have come as a great shock; it’s sort of included in his job description.

Yet many proclaimed that he was trying to be a dictator, “shredding the constitution”. Evangelist James Dobson flew into a frothy-mouthed, holier-than-thou fury, which he justified by citing (I kid you not) his own mortification as a child when he wandered into the girls’ restroom by mistake:

Who is it that is warping our children? It is Barack Obama, one of the worst presidents in American history, and it is time we stood up and said so!…Obama, acting like a king, is wielding dictatorial powers never envisioned in the law. He is determined to change the way males and females relate to one another, and worse, how children perceive themselves…The president has already maneuvered the courts to undermine a 5,000-year-old definition of marriage, after experiencing his infamous epiphany. Now he is determined to change Western civilization forever. He becomes more reckless and defiant as his second term comes to an end. Never has an American president been so absorbed with the use and abuse of power…The bottom line is that [“feminists and LGBT activists”] want to destroy human sexuality and take with it the foundation of the family. That is their goal, and they have a president in office who is willing to use his executive authority to force this nonsense on us all.

Don’t mince words, James; how do you really feel about the president? Yep, Obama must be the worst president ever if he defends the rights of people you hate. As refreshing as it may be to hear a fundamentalist demagogue rally to the defense of “human sexuality”, Dobson’s  unhinged rant is as irresponsible as it is delusional. Sure Obama wants to destroy the American family; after all, he’s never had one of his own, has he?

While it’s unfortunately not surprising that this issue has been so intensely politicized and polarized — isn’t there an ironclad rule that Americans have to politicize and polarize every frigging little thing to the nth degree?– the reactionaries have gone overboard even by their usual standards. They’ve also been exceptionally errant in assigning blame.

Here’s a popular little Internet meme of the day:

James Woods


Aside from the straw man about “men peeing in the ladies’ room” and the absurd implication that a person can fight for only one cause at a time (in fact, people who fight terrorism, starvation and disease are likely to fight social injustice as well), the venerable Mr. Woods misses a crucial little detail: it is by no means Democrats alone, or even primarily, who have pushed this issue center stage.

President Obama, like Target, was responding to drives by the legislatures of several states to pass laws that discriminate in a constitutionally questionable fashion. Foremost among them is North Carolina, which succeeded in enacting such a bill. The legislature of North Carolina is 62 percent Republican. Furthermore, of the 9 states in which such laws have been proposed, the GOP dominates the legislatures in 8. It is they if anyone who are obsessed with regulating who can use what bathroom, and ignoring other pressing issues in the process. (And incidentally, Dobson above seems to be unaware that the Supreme Court decision “redefining” marriage was passed down by a court dominated by right-wingers who defy Obama at every turn.)

Of course, you might counter that North Carolina was (over)reacting to an ordinance passed by the city of Charlotte. But use of restroom facilities within city limits is a perfectly appropriate matter for municipal governments to concern themselves with. The state, however, imposed a heavy-handed edict over restrooms throughout all cities and towns in the state –a law that ultimately can be enforced only by requiring people to show their birth certificates before they can go take a whizz. Did we mention that the GOP prides itself on being the party of “limited government”?

The Dobson/ Woods mentality holds that you are born either male or female and that’s that. Even if that were perfectly true, it wouldn’t begin to account for the malicious campaign of hatred, misinformation, and defamation being waged against transgenders. But it’s not perfectly true.

Some individuals are born with one of a variety of genital anomalies that prevent them from being easily classified as either male or female. So how do they fit into a Dobsonian black-and-white universe? Which bathroom should they use? Should they just cross their legs and wait for their state to deliver a ruling? And if external and internal physiological gender can be so muddled, why is it so hard to accept that psychological gender can too?

The James Dobsons of the world would have you believe that transgenderism is a very recent development, a contemporary subversive plot concocted by the Evil Obama and the rest of them librulz to destroy the family, destroy American society, convert everyone to Islam and leave Americans powerless against an impending invasion by the lizard people from outer space. In fact, there is nothing at all new about transgenders.

Better duck! Here comes a history lesson…

The first sex reassignment surgeries were performed in Europe in the early 1930s. Which is a rather short time ago in the grand scheme of world history. But long before modern surgical advances made such a process possible, there were individuals who made the decision to live as a gender other than the one they had been assigned in early life. This extends back into ancient history. Some Native American tribes, before the arrival of white settlers, recognized transgender or third gender members. Hundreds of female-born persons secretly fought in the Civil War  passing as men, and at least a couple of them continued living as men after the war was over — there were probably many others that have not been documented.

In short,  transgenders have lived among us for ages — probably from the very beginning. In some cases, they have even (shudder) used the same facilities as the rest of us. There is little if any evidence that they have caused problems; at least the family unit and civilization have still survived. But now, because they can live in somewhat less secrecy than previously, we’re supposed to believe that suddenly they’re going to turn violent. We’re supposed to believe that, because James Dobson is as morally confused as an adult as he was directionally confused as a kid, individuals who have struggled long and hard to establish identities as women are suddenly going to develop an interest in molesting little girls in public restrooms.

Sorry, but it just hasn’t happened. What has happened is that transgenders themselves have been the victims of harassment and violence. What has happened is that yahoos have attacked individuals they wrongly suspected of being transgender. What has happened is that transgenders have been falsely blamed for invasive bathroom incidents, even if they do not involve transgenders, children, or transgender-friendly bathrooms. What has happened is that “Christian” agitators have dressed in drag so they could sneak into women’s restrooms. Hey guys, if that’s really how you get your jollies, you don’t need Target’s permission.


It’s especially ironic and hypocritical that so much of the fear and loathing directed toward transgenders should come from the religious culture. Not just because Christianity (so it is rumored) was intended to be a path of love and compassion rather than bigotry and hate. Nothing new there; Christians (or “Christians”) have been spitting in the face of their own avowed values for centuries. But what makes the pious protestations of concern for the safety of children especially jaw-dropping is that children are more likely to be molested in a church setting than in a public restroom. Far, far, far more likely. Infinitely more likely.

Quick, how many known cases have there been of children being molested by transgenders in a public restroom? Answer: a grand total of zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. And how many known cases have there been (Are you paying attention, Mr. Dobson?) of children being molested by church leaders? Thousands upon thousands. And those are just the known cases, which are surely just the tip of the iceberg; experts agree that this phenomenon is vastly underreported. Nor is it just a matter of Catholic priests abusing choirboys. Churches of all flavors provide a perfect haven for predators, giving them a goody-goody persona and ready access to many vulnerable young lives they can ruin forever, children who look up to them with respect, trust and loyalty.

Meanwhile, many of their fellow congregants (and in some cases the predators themselves) are scrambling to cherry pick biblical passages they can brandish in support of their prejudices and their declaration that because President Obama defends constitutional protections for all citizens, America has surely turned its back on God.

Fueled by this ironic, hypocritical, bigoted Bible-thumping zealotry, state governments are wasting time and resources that could be wasted more entertainingly elsewhere. Even worse, they’re wasting time and resources in pursuit of a problem that doesn’t even exist. Insanity indeed, Mr. Woods.

By all means, let’s protect our children. Which might mean, among other things, that it’s not a good idea to send them unescorted into a public restroom of any kind. But hysteria and scapegoating benefit no one. And when it comes to laws regulating bathroom usage, it would make much more sense to check church affiliation at the privy door than to check birth certificates.




  1. POP—I’m glad to see another installment of your posts, since it has been quite some time since the last one—at least it seems that way to me.

    Your latest comments about Transgender People and the last stand at the Alamo—err the restroom—happen to be something of particular interest for me. For the last week or so I have been responding to some very biased and “religious” people (par for the course) and trying to rebut some of the self-righteous beliefs they have.

    One thing I agree with you about “totally,” as today’s youthful “hipsters” say, is the incredible way this entire bathroom controversy has left the boundaries of reason completely behind, even though as you point out, it is debate about a problem that really doesn’t exist. I guess those of us who have not been endangered by the evil forces of liberalism many years before anyone even suggested that people with different sexual orientations were real human being WITH ACTUAL HUMAN RIGHTS, that we were lucky not knowing if those damn “preverts” actually peed in our restrooms or molested our children while they were not restrained by law. So now, what do we care if all the facts point out that there will be no real changes to any of our restroom habits anyway, or that there have been virtually no, zilch, nada, nein, not, cases of Transgender people abusing children in the privies that they feel most comfortable in?

    Perhaps it is the sexual anxieties and hang-ups of those who most deny the existence of different sexual orientations who feel especially inclined to stick their noses into the personal matters of others. And of course, to maintain the illusion that even though virtually all social sciences, now agree that LGBT people are not any more, or less ill, than straight people, and just as capable of being good parents. Apparently the only course a self-respecting religious fanatic can take, is to simply deny what thousands of psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, MDs and pediatricians (in fact virtually every major scientific body that studies human sexual behavior) has to say concerning the nature of human sexuality. In other words, they must simply reject the work of social scientists and presumably of all science itself, because otherwise they might be forced just to live a bit more in reality.

    To lean on their self-righteous claims about liberals, (or any other group that differs with them), they claim the defense of being chided and persecuted for their beliefs. So if they are presented with empirical proof that dinosaurs lived many millions of years ago, they then simply decide that “gay conspiracy loving” scientists are among those who are tempting them away from God—well many of us know that the situation is just the opposite—that fanatic Christians, and other religious organizations, are rejecting and criticizing science in order to maintain the presence of their biased and backwards beliefs, instead of adjusting those beliefs according to proven reality.

    The reason I have had a special interest in the LGBT community, is that I grew up with a gay next door neighbor who was also a great childhood playmate and a creative source of fun for many others in my close-knit rural community. So although, when we are young, we seldom pick and choose friends according to which of them are the most normal or the most “adjusted,” it never occurred to me in my high school years, 1966-70, that this great, creative and spiritual being next door must have been suffering greatly for the fact that in those days, Psychiatrists and other social scientists, almost unanimously considered that being gay, lesbian, or transsexual, was nothing less than a form of pathological deviancy—something only sick people would consider healthy.

    The most important thing to meditate on about this entire issue should be to remind ourselves that anyone who has ever felt picked on, rejected, or loathed for being what they are, should be able to completely understand. And when our uniqueness involves our sexual desires and or own sexual Identities, while enduring the onslaught of peers who judge us on such an unfair basis, adolescent life must become extremely hard to bear. Yet may Christians who claim they are being treated unfairly simply for embracing religious fundamentalism, are blind to the fact that gay people, lesbian, people, or transgender people, usually don’t give a rip about what “religious” people might believe or not believe, they just don’t want people with those unyielding attitudes to justify their hatred for what gays are, just because someone else doesn’t approve of it?

    Anyone can rationalize or interpret biblical verse to justify their own points of view, but they usually ignore that the underlying bedrock of the Christian faith, and of most other faiths, is the wiliness to love God and also our fellow men. Instead many people dote on what must be the (only ways) to worship or the (only moral beliefs) to have. In the meantime, they have blindly inflicted millions of our most creative and caring people, with unbearable guilt for not fitting into conventional sex orientations. Today many of them have the strength to endure extreme social criticisms, bolstered by gradually changing social attitudes, but some of them have taken the only road out that they can see—suicide! Anyone who watches the Oscar nominated movie, “The Danish girl,” will hopefully be able to see LGBT people and transsexuals in a different light. At least if they remain receptive to the basic human travesties committed in the name of conformity and for fear of those who are different. This Danish girl did not “decide” she was a woman inside, she “knew” that she was! She didn’t undertake the physically taxing and emotional draining process of transitioning, to be immoral, she did it because it offered her a path to become what she truly was, and therefore a chance to obtain a real measure of human happiness and fulfillment. Unfortunately, most of us feel far more comfortable being part of the herd and can see no other alternatives than living “normal” lives. Unfortunately, when given the choice to act with true conviction and moral character by allowing others to be themselves without fear of judgment, and without of fears of being disliked or rejected, we choose to act with insensitivity and cruelty anyway—perpetuating the whole perverse and ugly zeitgeist that has been the status quo for thousands of years!

  2. I just wanted to mention that I did click on the link to news articles which supposedly supply evidence that many transgender men have been sneaking into women restrooms and covertly filming female customers. Out of about a half dozen that I examined, a couple of them led me to a “this website doesn’t exist,” notice, and almost all the others reported male offenders who were not identified as being transgender or transvestites, in those news articles. The closest story that was said to document transgender sex crimes, was actually an article about a man dressed in women’s clothing–which of course is not necessarily something only transgender people do.

    I recommend that the readers of this post check out the links for themselves, because out of the half dozen articles I read, none of them truly implicated Transgender people as committing sex crimes.

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