All posts in the laws category

Changing The Changing Rooms (or Transphobic Toilet Panic II)

Published November 4, 2012 by Sez

Am I weird? Am I actually transphobic? Do I have internalized homophobia? Am I a massive prude?

What has sparked this cavalcade of doubt? The Jezebel post on the story about the complaints about a trans woman sharing a space with teenage girls.
This blog post came to my attention because of the outrage on Twitter about it. I don’t believe in linking to articles to point out how bad they are – (why send more traffic?) but it’s easily findable if you’re interested. The main criticism was that after calling out other coverage of the story on transphobia, the Jezebel writer repeatedly misgendered the trans woman involved. Accusations of sloppy and inaccurate reporting were also leveled by the twittersphere.
But, correctly or incorrectly, in the Jezebel version of events, the trans woman was walking around the communal changing space naked. She’s pre op, so her penis would have been visible.
I can actually see this being upsetting. As someone with (i hope) a nuanced and sensitive understanding of trans issues, this story raised a primal “someone showing their knob to teenagers aaarghhhhh” response. How much are we expecting of the teenage girls involved?

BUT BUT BUT in my other blog post about this I totally took that argument down: having a penis does not make you a rapist! so what’s going on, brain?

I think part of this stems from feelings about the inherent physical power imbalance at play here. A male assigned at birth adult and cis female teens. I think what bothers people here is that the power is perceived to be with the person with the larger frame and the penis. SHE is making the choice to be in that bathroom, and SHE is choosing her behaviour around those teenagers. Instead of the smaller, younger, vagina having people being in control. This perception is flawed in that a trans woman has far FAR less societal power than a cis man, or a cis woman, or a cis girl, but the physicality thing is a factor. For example, imagine an Assigned Female At Birth trans person asserting his right to change in front of a male sports team. Different vibe.
I believe that the answer to this lies in the education of the general population about trans issues, rather than the restriction and oppression of trans* people’s lives. But we have a long way to go.
Another issue with this story has been that the woman in question prefers women, leading to the horrible assumption that lesbian trans woman = cis straight man saying he’s trans to GET YOUR DAUGHTERS.
This nasty train of thought leads me to the question that if this trans woman’s sexual orientation is relevant in the changing room, why isn’t mine?
I see naked women in the changing room at the gym. It makes me feel uncomfortable and I often change in a cubicle and spend as little time in there as possible. I quite like the idea of being naked around other naked people in a queer friendly space, but in the palaca of heteronormativity that is the gym, it seriously gives me the creeps. Basically, my internal monologue goes “These women might be homophobic. I can see their bodies. If they knew I was queer they might freak out and I’m all naked and vulnerable right now!” add in some school PE changingroom PTSD (seriously, 5 years of twice weekly emotional/physical hell. Still have nightmares) and the one place where public nudity is acceptable becomes the least safe space EVER.
I think it’s this whole thing of “sex segregation = safety” that’s so deeply ingrained in our culture.
Once you question it, the false consciousness that assumes everyone to be straight and cis and assumes that men CAN’T CONTROL THEIR MALE URGES starts to crumble.
And with it, assumptions we didn’t even realise we had about ourselves come to the surface.
Something has to change.


On Transphobic Toilet Panic

Published October 26, 2012 by Sez

There’s an ongoing debate, particularly heated in the USA. It goes like this: “Should transgender women who have a penis be allowed to use ladies’ toilets?”
Let’s get one thing out of the way: my opinion on that…

Yes. Of course they should.

However, many people would disagree with me there. One such is Roseanne Barr. Ms Barr feels that affording a trans lady the basic human right to curl one out in peace, her gender identity respected, is tantamount to having a penis waved in her and other (cis) women’s faces. Seriously. That’s her position.

So let’s deal with that first.
seriously, we’re all just there to spend some quiet time getting slightly, temporarily lighter. Nobody is waving anything in anybody’s face. Least of all anybody dealing with transphobia and gender dysphoria every damn minute of her life. I mean, come ON.

But Roseanne isn’t worried about a trans woman literally waving her penis around, sticking it in the Airblade, pissing in the lady-sinks like they’re urinals. Not really.
Roseanne is worried about men coming into the ladies’ toilet with the intent to assault women.
Roseanne and those like her think of trans women as men.

Penis = man.
Man = rape risk.
Penis free zone = risk free zone.

So let’s go stage by stage here, so as not to get lost in the abyss of bullshit we’re staring into.

1) Trans women aren’t men.
2) Having a penis doesn’t make you a rapist.
3) Having a (home grown) vagina doesn’t make you unable to assault people.
4)Trans women aren’t men.

An issue Ms Barr likely hasn’t even begun to consider is that there are people who don’t identify as a gender catered for by single sex bathrooms. There are people who are only just taking their first steps toward transition. There are genderqueer people and people to whom gender is an irrelevancy. The either/or culture of public toilets, changingrooms etc. hurts all these people.
So, why not gender neutral toilets?
The reason usually given is that some cis males rape and assault women, and some women feel safer going into a female only space like a toilet if they feel threatened by some creeper. Knowing that the guy isn’t allowed to follow them in there gives them a sense if security gender neutral toilets would erode.
Here’s the thing. HE ISN’T ALLOWED TO RAPE YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE. you REALLY think a picture of a bald woman with one leg is going to stop a determined attacker? I’m sorry to tell you this, but gender segregation doesn’t tend to make for a happier, more liberated society. The safety you feel in a room with a sign that says men can’t come in is false.
Assaults happen in ladies’ toilets. you can be assaulted by a cis woman, or by a bloke who’s come in after you. Assaults on cis women by trans women? In a ladies’ toilet?
The reverse? Quite a few.
I believe the answer lies in a radical redesign of how we build toilets. It’s possible. People thought the indoor flush would never catch on, and now look.
So lets aim for all new builds having individual lockable stalls, well lit, open plan hand washing areas, open to all genders, and pre existing buildings providing at least one gender neutral toilets, and everyone growing the hell up about self defined men and women using the toilet that’s right for them.
Seriously, who is that oppressing?