THE BLOG

Into the Toilet

08/16/2013 09:06 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
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How do they always end up being about bathrooms?

I'm talking about the debates and protests that accompany any attempt to ensure that gender-variant individuals have the same rights as everybody else.

It happened here in New York. It's happened in other cities and states where someone tried to add language to existing civil- or human-rights laws or enact school policies (like A.B. 1266 in California) to ensure that transgender kids are treated with dignity and respect.

When transpobes -- let's call them what they are! -- can't think of any logical reason to keep us from living in peace as the people we are, they try to whip up fear about what will happen if some boy or man feigns gender identity issues in order to peek at girls' privates. Their "argument" is practically the definition of a red herring.

We all know that there are some things that combat veterans will only tell each other. The same holds true for trans people: We are frank about our pasts in ways that we can't be with most of the rest of the world. In the many conversations I've had with other trans folk, I haven't heard anyone mention going to the bathrooms of the "opposite" gender while they were in school, workplaces or public spaces in the long years before they "came out." Yes, we longed to use those bathrooms, but only because we believed that we would feel safer and more comfortable in them.

Many of us can recall some incident or another in which a schoolmate or someone was caught peeping in toilet stalls. Of the people who recall such incidents, not one (with whom I've spoken, anyway) recalled the peeper claiming that he "felt like a girl" or that she is "really a boy." Likewise, in all the incidents in which an employer or store owner placed surveillance cameras in bathrooms, showers or fitting rooms (usually women's), not one claimed that he did it because he "felt trapped in the wrong body."

If anything, I would think that men who peep, whether in person or remotely, wouldn't ever want to admit to feeling female or feminine in any way. In that sense, they are like nearly all cisgender males -- whether straight, gay, bisexual or of some other orientation -- I have ever met. Even most cross dressers I've met have absolutely no desire to be, in their "civilian" lives, anything but the gender to which they were assigned at birth.

As for females who sneak peeks in men's bathrooms, I don't doubt that they exist, but I haven't heard of any. Somehow, I can't imagine that they would do such a thing because they believed themselves to be male. At least, I've never heard of any girl or woman claiming that she's "really a guy" in order to use the men's room. Very few women, I think, are stupid enough to subject themselves to the hazards of such "explorations."

(I want to add that a married heterosexual man molested me in a restaurant's bathroom when I was a child. I knew the man: He was a close family friend who, as far as I knew, never had any liaisons with adult males.)

In short, I think that the reason that people (usually males) peek into the toilet stalls of women is, basically, voyeurism. When you think about it, such lurid curiosity is antithetical to what trans people feel. Even when we are very young and do not yet know what genitals look like on people of the gender with which we identify, we don't feel that we are acting out of some compulsion to look at what is forbidden to us. At least I don't think that my wish (upon which I never acted) to use the girl's bathroom had anything to do with a wish to fulfill a depraved desire: I simply longed to pee in peace.

I'd venture that that's all any of us wants. As long as we have that, nobody has to worry about which bathroom we'll use. Then we can worry about discrimination in housing and employment and simply enjoying the same sorts of relationships with family members, colleagues and other people whom cisgender heterosexual people take for granted.

Could that be the reason that the folks at Faux News and their cohorts always seem to drag the fight for our rights into the toilet?