You Want To Talk Bathrooms?

If you listen to the right wing, their opposition to every LGBT protection law that includes gender identity comes down to bathrooms.

In California, AB1266 recently became law.  This law basically made it explicit: trans people have rights, even if they are children, and that includes the right to be treated as a member of the gender they identify as.

What gets lost in the discussion of the law is that this law didn’t change the law!  Seriously.  It was already California law that you not discriminate, and there has been plenty of case law in other areas establishing that treating a transwoman as a man (for example) is sex discrimination, both federally (this is a positive recent change) and within California law.

What it did do is end a bunch of legal bickering that occurred in more conservative districts whenever a trans person wanted rights in schools.  It made it easy for the bigots to figure out the law – they didn’t need to think anymore, which apparently is good for bigots.  Now they have no excuse and no legal arguments over what the law actually says.  So it did do something, even if it wasn’t necessary: it made it harder for districts to waste time in court while being an asshole to a trans student.

That’s probably why it was supported by so many people.  According to the bill’s Senate Floor Analysis, it was supported by Equality California, Gender Spectrum, GSA Network, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union of California, Anti-Defamation League, Bay Area Youth Summit, California Communities United Institute, California Federation of Teachers, California LGBT Health & Human Services Network, California State PTA, California Teachers Association, Child & Adolescent Gender Center, Family Equality Council, GLSEN, GLSEN Orange County, HonorPAC, L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, Labor/Community Strategy Center, LAUSD, LGBT Community Center of the Desert, Los Angeles Gender Center, MALDEF, National Association of Social Workers, CA Chapter National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, North County LGBTQ Resource Center, Our Family Coalition, Pacific Pride Foundation, Public Advocates Inc., Public Counsel, Restorative Schools Vision Project, San Diego Cooperative Charter School, San Diego LGBT Community Center, San Francisco Unified School District, The Center Long Beach, The Center OC, The Trevor Project, and Youth Justice Coalition.

Yes, that’s a lot of support.  Who opposed it?  You would think that if this created problems in schools, at least one education-related organization would oppose it.  So let’s see…who opposed it officially?  It’s a short list:

  • California Catholic Conference
  • Capitol Resource Institute
  • Concerned Women for America
  • Traditional Values Coalition

I had to look up “Capitol Resource Institute” (CRI) to find out who they were.  They are a right-wing Christian lobbying group, who opposes gay marriage, LGBT rights, and other “left” causes like public money funding public schools (rather than vouchers, which of course CRI supports). They are also working with the creators of California’s hateful Proposition 8 to come up with a ballot initiative to remove rights from trans students.

The others are also right wing Christian groups.

Not one educational organization was willing to officially oppose the bill.  That should tell you something: restating existing law is hardly the end of the world as we know it.

So, what is the opposition?  The guys trying to appear to be sane according to a Huffington Post article that quotes an AP story, say,

In an interview with the Associated Press, Donnelly said that his sons, aged 13 and 16, are “horrified” at the prospect of using the same bathrooms as peers who were born female.

Yes, I’m sure that Donnelly’s kids have no idea that vaginas exist.  After all, I suspect Donnelly believes in saving sex for marriage – you shouldn’t know anything about it until then, after all.

But, more significantly, the opposition is always about bathrooms.

Except it’s not about bathrooms.  It’s about basic dignity.  It’s about being treated as who you are.  And it applies to far more than bathrooms – it ensures that a girl is treated as a girl in all aspects by the school.  That’s what it’s about.  It’s not about seeing penises or vaginas.

But, if they want to talk bathrooms, let’s talk bathrooms.

One California Representative opposes the recent law because it invades the privacy of the other 98% of students.  For instance, he says:

Some of my most pressing questions are: What are the long-term repercussions of this measure? Will some kids be too embarrassed to use the bathroom or locker rooms, knowing that a member of the opposite sex could enter any time? Could this create unneeded anxiety with students, creating a massive learning distraction? Will creating gender neutral facilities increase the likelihood of a sexual assault on campus?

Let’s look at that.  Let’s start talking about kids not being able to use the bathroom.  Let’s talk about the 7% – a large part of that “98%” he talks about – who have trouble using public facilities due to Paruresis, a medical condition commonly known as “shy bladder.”  According to the International Paruresis Association, restrooms could be designed better.  To give people privacy.  Then this 7% could pee in peace.

But it’s not just that 7%.  We have gay people in our society.  Really.  And it’s 10% of the population.  The California legislature concerned about the privacy rights of the 98% is also concerned that somehow transgender students will be attracted to the students in the bathroom they are using, but not the bathroom that doesn’t match their gender.  Apparently he doesn’t realize that not all trans people are gay.  Heck, most aren’t.  Duh.  But 10% of the population is gay, and is using showers and facilities.  They might even be attracted to someone.  Rick Santorum was definitely worried about this when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was being repealed.  So we have to worry about that 10% too.

Of course it’s not just gays – there are those pesky bisexuals.  46% of the male population, according to a Kinsey study on behavior (not attraction) or reaction (you can guess what that means) of men to men and women, showed they were at least somewhat bisexual.  That’s an older study, but I suspect men in the 1940s and 1950s were even less likely to tell a researcher about their bisexuality than it would today.  Now, most of this 46% doesn’t identify as bisexual, but does that matter to the right wing?  Probably not.  And plenty of other studies have confirmed Kinsey’s studies, although it is important to distinguish between differing definitions of bisexuality (as an aside, Kinsey disliked that term). And would they want a bisexual student peeing in a urinal next to their boy? My guess is no. So they must be excluded.

So let’s see… 98% of the population needs privacy from trans people.  Of that 98%, 7% of them can’t urinate with others in their space or sound area.  So that’s .98 multiplied by .93 which yields 91% of the population doesn’t need bathroom design changes if trans people aren’t allowed in any bathroom.  If we take that 91% and multiply it by 90% (let’s exclude the 10% of gays from bathrooms, so nobody worries about the gay guy checking them out), we find out that 81% of the population is now okay.  But, remember, 46% is bi.  So 54% (the non-Bi chunk) of 81% is 43%.

43% of the population would be just fine if trans students, people with paruresis, bisexual attractions or behavior, or gays were banned from restrooms.  Of course that would require us to ban 57% from the bathroom.  Or at least build bathrooms, showers, and other environments that are accessible to the majority (the 57%).

You know what meets the needs of both the 43% and the 57%?  Private facilities.  Seriously.

But of course none of the legislators or right wing lobbying groups talk about making facilities private.  No, they just talk about excluding people. Even though 57% of people is a lot of people not peeing if they have their way.

It’s time the 57% get their rights back.

In Remembrance…September 2013

In September, we lost at least 5 people through murder.

I hate writing about this.

I’m not going to editorialize this time, although I could talk about how people are referred to (again) after their death, and how even LGB news services don’t always respect names and genders of dead trans people.

Instead I’m going to ask that you take a minute and reflect that the following people had their lives taken. Reflect on what we need to do to make change and to stop the violence.

The links below will go to third party news sites that don’t always respect the identity of the victim.

Sometime before September 1, 2013, in Savannah, TX, USA, Konyale Williams was killed. No additional details are known.

On September 9, 2013, in Baldwin Park, CA, USA, Melony Smith was murdered. Melony was forced to leave home at age 16 because her parents did not accept her gender identity. While living in hotels, she completed her high school education and was working to save up for further education at the time of her death.

On September 12, 2013, in Baton Rouge, LA, USA, Shaun Hartley was murdered. Hartley was to be the key witness in a murder trial.

On September 19, 2013, in Sakaew, Thailand, Kornsirinya was brutally murdered.

On September 24, 2013, in New Brunswick, NJ, USA, Eyricka Morgan was murdered in her home.

I apologize and will make corrections if I misgendered or misnamed any of the people above.  I did my best to find their preferred names and pronouns, but I can make mistakes. I do not desire to dishonor the dead.

Think on the names above, the locations where these crimes occurred, and realize that trans people are sadly not safe anywhere. Also think on those I didn’t name, but lost their lives just as tragically – those who were victims of suicide, having left the world to escape the pain. Think about what we can do to change that.

Defending Marriage of Cousins and 14 Year Olds

The right wing in the USA is defending us against gays marrying. And also the threat of trans kids not being accepted by their schools (see the actions of the National Association of Marriage).

But there’s a few things they don’t campaign against.

14 year old marriage, for instance.

There is no minimum marriage age in Maine. There is a requirement for people under 16 years old (who could be marrying a person of any age) to go through a court hearing, but, in theory, a 6 year old could marry in Maine. This is not unusual – several states have similar laws.

Or, until recently, Kansas. Now you have to be 15. This was enacted after a 14 year old from Nebraska was married to an adult, also from Nebraska, in the jurisdiction of Kansas.

Lots of states let 16 year olds get married. Ohio may have one of the strangest – the age is 18 for men, but 16 for girls (with consent of parents). That’s not the strange part – lots of states have had different ages for males and females. The strange part is the section about how a Juvenile Court can give consent for the 16 year old girl:

3101.04 Consent by juvenile court.
When the juvenile court files a consent to marriage pursuant to the juvenile rules, the probate court may thereupon issue a license, notwithstanding either or both the contracting parties for the marital relation are under the minimum age prescribed in section 3101.01 of the Revised Code. The license shall not issue until section 3101.05 of the Revised Code has been complied with, and until such child has been born, or it is found beyond doubt by the juvenile court that the minor female is pregnant and intends to have the child.

Yes, that’s right. She should be pregnant and not intending to abort. Thank you, Ohio, for letting children marry, but only when they don’t believe in abortion. Abortion is wrong, after all, but it’s not wrong for a kid to marry (yes, that’s sarcasm).

As I said, age based on sex is not unusual. But New Hampshire has this gem:

RHA 457:4 Marriageable. – No male below the age of 14 years and no female below the age of 13 years shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage that is entered into by one male and one female, and all marriages contracted by such persons shall be null and void. No male below the age of 18 and no female below the age of 18 shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage between persons of the same gender, and all marriages contracted by such persons shall be null and void.

Yes, they write in 13 for girls and 14 for boys. But only if they aren’t gay (same sex marriage is legal in NH, but only for adults). If they are gay, they need to wait until they are 18. Because 13 year old girls having gay sex is wrong. Straight sex? I guess that must be okay in New Hampshire. To be fair, 13 and 14 year olds referenced above would need a court hearing.

(yes, they mean sex, not gender above, as these are typically confused in statutes – I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t let a 17 year old transman marry a woman)

Interestingly, 13 year olds getting married (as long as they aren’t gay!) doesn’t seem to bother the likes of the National Association of Marriage. Go figure.

Nor is cousin marriage. In 2010, the Governor of Hawaii was famously quoted saying,

For those people who want to makes this into a civil rights issue, and of course those in favor of the bill, they see it as a civil rights issue. And I understand them drawing that conclusion. But people on the other side would point out, well, we don’t allow other people to marry even — it’s not a civil right for them. First cousins couldn’t marry, or a brother and a sister and that sort of thing.

Just one problem – Hawaii does allow first cousins to marry.

Apparently, poly-bi people are set in Hawaii too. Hawaii doesn’t prohibit a man from marrying a woman, even if he’s married to a man in another state – here’s the restrictions on multiple marriage:

The man does not at the time have any lawful wife living and that the woman does not at the time have any lawful husband living

Remember Arizona? Cousins can marry. If they are old.  From statute title 25, section 101.B:

Notwithstanding subsection A, first cousins may marry if both are sixty-five years of age or older or if one or both first cousins are under sixty-five years of age, upon approval of any superior court judge in the state if proof has been presented to the judge that one of the cousins is unable to reproduce.

So a 64 year old woman who has had a hysterectomy couldn’t marry her 64 year old first-cousin. But if the man was 65, she could, with court approval. We’re worried about kids after all – if no kids are involved, cousins can marry. Unless they are gay and thus the two can’t both be biological parents of the same kid.

And, Maine? They let cousins marry, if they have genetic counseling. If they aren’t gay.  See 19A 701 B:

Notwithstanding paragraph A, a man may marry the daughter of his father’s brother or sister or the daughter of his mother’s brother or sister, and a woman may marry the son of her father’s brother or sister or the son of her mother’s brother or sister as long as, pursuant to sections 651 and 652, the man or woman provides the physician’s certificate of genetic counseling.

There is no such exception for gays.

Of course, in general, the idea of cousin marriage overall is not unusual. In fact, 20 states allow cousin marriage without any requirement of sterility or court permission.

These child marriages and cousin marriages will be recognized everywhere in the USA except possibly Arizona and Utah. Of course a same-sex marriage from other states isn’t recognized in 48 states. The actual number is much smaller, generally only in states that themselves allow same-sex marriage licenses.

Meanwhile, the right wing is protecting us from gay marriage. For the Children. But it’s okay with them, apparently, to recognize child marriage. Or cousin marriage. Or any of the other things that the right wing uses as an argument against gay marriage.

Maybe, just maybe, we should focus on fixing the mess of marriage laws in the USA, and strive for at least a semblance of consistency within a state (if heterosexual cousins can get married, why not gays? If a 13 year old girl can get married, why not a 13 year old boy – note that I will go on record as definitely not supporting either 13 year old being married!).


Reflections on My Hate…and that of Ole Miss


In 1998, when I was a student at the University of Wyoming, a gay college student – Matthew Shepard – was brutally murdered in an anti-gay hate crime.

candleMatthew did nothing to provoke the attack, as police reports and trial evidence makes clear.

At the time, I was opposed to “legalizing the gay lifestyle” and believed I was right – because “God” told me so.

I am ashamed of that part of my life.

So I’ve thought a lot about Matthew Shepard’s death. Even when I was an anti-gay college student, I could recognize that Matthew shouldn’t have died. I had a lot of things wrong in my belief, but I understood that he was human and should have lived.

Matthew was killed as a result of people who couldn’t accept a world with a gay person in it. They took matters into their own hands, causing an unimaginable amount of pain – and the death – of someone just trying to live an authentic life.

That brings me to the present: on Tuesday, the theater department at University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) put on a production of The Laramie Project, a play about the community and the response to Matthew Shepard’s death. It is very well written and accurate.

Now, this play has been performed thousands of times in many different venues. What happened at Ole Miss was different.

Students not only disrespected the performance, but actually shouted anti-gay slurs at the performers (among other things), apparently encouraged by some football players.

The next few days will tell us not only about the football players and other students, but about whether or not the administration will accept this behavior or use this as a teaching moment. I thought we learned something from the Matthew Shepard murder as a society. Apparently not everyone has learned it. And for that reason, I am glad that The Laramie Project is playing at Ole Miss. It’s message clearly needs to be heard on that campus.

I will say that people can change their views. I did. I’m ashamed of what my views were when Matthew died. But people can grow and learn – if they listen. And, right now, a few Ole Miss students need to listen.

Collecting People

Most of us want others to recognize we’re good people. That, in itself, is fine, particularly if it causes someone to actually do good.

What’s not fine is collecting. Collecting is when a person gathers a variety of people around them to show how good and open minded they are. I’ve seen it in conservative circles around religious people who want to show how they are “reaching the world for Christ” – so they’ll hang around with a prostitute or drug addict to show they are doing this thing that others don’t find comfortable – witnessing to the people that make others uncomfortable. In liberal circles, it involves letting people know that you hang around with gays, trans people, blacks, poor, and others society excludes to some degree.

The difference between collecting and not is simple: a collector wants recognition. Someone who accepts diversity and isn’t a collector doesn’t need that recognition.

Trans people, unfortunately, are, too often, the targets of collectors (so are plenty of others, like autistic people).

Here’s a quick test. Let’s say you go to church and your pastor is a transwoman (that is, someone who does believe they fit the binary). How do you tell people about your pastor?

Do you say:

  • I love my pastor, she has a really great way of explaining things
  • -or- My pastor is trans, and that’s cool with us!

If you said “My pastor is trans, and that’s cool with us,” you probably are a collector.  Seriously.

Here’s a few things you should keep in mind when talking about trans people:

  1. Most trans people have binary gender identity and expression, with the possibility of a transition time when they expression less binary – but that expression is often not a desired expression (they are doing it to make your life easier, but it’s not what they want – they know they are binary)
  2. Most trans people want to be recognized as the binary gender that matches their identity. They don’t want to be recognized as trans or as a third-gender.

Now, there are of course non-binary people and this identity must be respected too. But don’t assume a trans person is non-binary. They most likely are not, at least statistically. If you’re not sure, ask what their preferred pronouns and method of address is. If they give a binary answer, respect that.

Part of respecting their identity as binary (if that is their identity) is to not treat them differently than anyone else that has made the same choice. For instance, If someone was labeled as male when born, raised as a boy, and live as a man, they very likely still live as a man by identity – in the same way a transman is a man by identity. A transman should get the same respect I do and be treated as a man, not as a transman (which would be, essentially, a third gender, which isn’t what he wants if he identifies as man). Now, if someone doesn’t identify as binary, don’t treat them as if they are. But remember most trans people, like most non-trans people, are binary, and have no particular desire to dismantle the existence of gender. They just want their identity accepted.

So, with that in mind, the minute you tell someone your friend is trans, if your friend is binary (as are most trans people, albeit not all), you have essentially said, “I see a difference here.”

Now, there are some exceptions to this rule. The first and most obvious one is where your friend identifies as trans and doesn’t want to be simply known as their binary gender. Respect that too! But just because someone tells you they are trans doesn’t mean they might not rather be seen simply as, for example, a woman.

So, with the pastor example, she might be out and proud of her trans identity. However, it’s likely still far more respectful to refer to her as your pastor rather than your trans pastor! Most trans people want to be accepted in their identified gender as someone of that gender. Doing this is the most respectful thing.

If you do think you need to tell people she’s trans, then I ask you to think about “why?” If you are combatting prejudice or bigotry, it should be sufficient to say that trans people need respect and dignity without needing to name specific people. Certainly, it’s not advocacy but collecting the minute you try using your relationship with trans people not to inform your view, but rather to give credibility to yourself. Yes, it’s fine to say you have trans friends (if you do) and that they inform your view (but be careful, as you could easily say something bigoted or wrong and try to use your friends to justify it – “I know that you can call them a ‘tranny’ because I have trans friends” would be an example of this).

Respecting your friends is the biggest part of advocating for your friends. And this starts with treating them as they want to be treated. You aren’t advocating for them the minute you start referring to them as something other than their gender identity (which is likely not “trans” but rather “man” or “woman”). You’re saying “they are different.” Yes, there’s times that is okay, but it’s rarer than people think.

There’s lots of subtle ways to collect, too. For instance, someone might say, “I’m going out with a transman, so I guess that makes me pansexual.” No, it doesn’t. Pansexual, of course, is meant as a non-binary way of saying “I’m attracted to all genders”. It’s different from bisexual because some say bisexuality only includes men and women, and not intersex or genderqueer – or, in some people’s eyes, trans people. Of course plenty of bisexuals would differ, as would Kinsey if he was still around (Kinsey disliked the term bisexual because he felt it the word was nonsense unless the person was attracted to individuals who were, entirely in themselves, both male and female – he preferred the word “hermaphroditic” to what most refer to people who are bisexual (I haven’t seen people identify this way, and would think it would be confessed for someone attracted to intersexed people). In 1948, Kinsey and others said,

Until it is demonstrated [that] taste in a sexual relation is dependent upon the individual containing within his anatomy both male and female structures, or male and female physiological capacities, it is unfortunate to call such individuals bisexual

But, Kinsey’s objection aside, many bisexuals are attracted to trans, intersexed, and other genderqueer people (as are plenty of homosexual and heterosexual people). The most problematic part of the idea of pansexual including trans people, while bi does not, is that trans people are somehow different than men or women. Certainly, trans people who identify as non-binary are. But, for a trans person that doesn’t identify this way, they are not different. A transman is just as man as any other man is. Now of course not everyone is attracted to every possible person who has the “right” gender. A heterosexual man might not like skinny women, for instance. Likewise a heterosexual who dates a woman who had a hysterectomy is not suddenly pansexual – he’s still dating a woman, so unless he also has attraction towards people other than women, he’s straight. And a woman who is romantically and sexually involved with a man who lost his penis through an accident is not suddenly pansexual, at least not if she doesn’t have attraction to people other then men. You see, genitals (or surgical histories) don’t define gender. Or, for that matter, orientation. Sure, plenty of people might not be interested in someone who’s genitals were mutilated in an accident, someone who is sterile, or someone who is otherwise different than their idea of a perfect partner. But only being attracted to a specific idea of a “perfect” body doesn’t make someone straight or gay, and there are plenty of people of all orientations who prefer a certain gender but don’t necessarily require their partner to fit some stereotype of that gender.

So, I have to wonder, why would someone feel the need to tell me they are attracted to men, women, non-binary, and “also attracted to trans people?” The only conclusion I can come up with is that they don’t see trans people as other people, but as a unique category (and not just non-binary trans people as a unique category, but rather all trans people as a unique category). I don’t like that.

Now, if you are pansexual, that’s fine – you can say you find all genders, not just men and women, potentially attractive. I don’t have a problem with that (as you’re telling me that you also find non-binary people attractive, which is fine – of course many bi people would also say they find non-binary people attractive, but I’m fine with someone who wants to emphasize that). But you might be careful of how you describe it, unless you really do see all trans people as different. The minute you start telling me that you find trans people hot, I’m starting to wonder, “Do you see a transman as a man or something else?”

Again, you can’t grok trans people without groking the reality that most don’t want to be something other than the gender that matches their identity. Trans is rather unique compared to other minorities in this regard, as some people consider the ultimate success as losing the trans identity! Few other minorities would have sizable populations that want to disappear as a population and blend in completely with the majority society. But that is the case with many trans people, and respecting it means not forcing a battle against the binary upon them if it isn’t a fight they are interested in (that said, it’s fine to fight with anyone – trans or not – who doesn’t want to provide a decent world for people who aren’t binary – but that doesn’t need to involve erasing the binary to accomplish).

And the minute you start distinguishing trans people from non-trans people, you’re saying trans people are different than non-trans people. And that can be collecting (or just bigotry). Certainly, there are places this makes sense, but, again, it’s less often than people think.

Of course trans people aren’t the only people that are collected. I know in another community, the autism community, I’ve seen autistics used by autism organizations not to inform the organization (which may be run primarily by non-autistic people), but rather to build credibility. The autistic isn’t really listened to, but the organization gets bonus points for having an autistic person involved. “See, we involve autistic people.” You also see this when people go out of their way to mention a person’s race when it’s not really relevant. It’s probably a problem with every minority community.

Don’t collect, do respect.