The Bathroom Law the Right Wing Actually Wants

I’m going to help the right wing out here.

They claim their goal is to keep people with penises out of women’s locker rooms and bathrooms, to keep little girls safe. Of course little girls aren’t generally in danger from strangers, nor from trans people, nor from anyone in bathrooms – they are at risk from people who have authority over them or who have a close relationship with them or their families.  People like parents, siblings, priests, coaches, teachers, doctors, dentists, babysitters, family friends, uncles, etc. Usually the people abusing them are men (but not always), although the most common molester of young girls is a straight, non-trans man – almost certainly not someone who uses the women’s room, even in places that have non-discrimination laws that treat trans people like actual human beings.

The second fear is that a girl might see a penis. Of course we know that no girl should see a penis until her wedding night. Until then, she should assume that they are like Ken Carson (you know, Barbie’s boyfriend of 30+ years – but, hey, Barbie is a fairly progressive girl who won’t be tied down). That is, if you take their pants off, they, like Ken, have some sort of intersex condition that renders them penis-less (I’m happy that Ken and vagina-less Barbie found each other, as I’m sure both know what it is like to not fit expectations of gender).

The incompetent politicians behind these bills have stated that this isn’t meant to apply to people who have had surgery. For instance, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s misnamed “Myths vs. Facts” email about HB2 includes this:

6. Does this bill mean transgender people will always have to use the restroom of the sex of their birth, even if they have undergone a sex change? 

  • Answer: No. This law simply says people must use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate. Anyone who has undergone a sex change can change their sex on their birth certificate.

Of course the answer isn’t correct – not everyone can, as some states don’t allow anyone to change their birth certificate, “sex change” (his terminology, not mine) or not. I know several people in this category – people with vaginas but with “M” on their birth certificates. And plenty of people can change their birth certificates without any surgeries – something I suspect Pat McCrory wasn’t aware of, since that would defeat his intentions of keeping women’s bathrooms penis-free.  (I didn’t mention female-to-male transsexuals since that’s not a concern to McCrory – he’s not worried about boys seeing vaginas; and McCrory clearly has no idea that non-binary people exist).

So, if we ignore that wanting to force women – trans or not – to use the men’s room is evil and bigoted, and we want to ignore that it will cause great emotional distress to transwomen and result in violence towards trans people, and somehow we suspend our ethics long enough to engage in a thought experiment, we find that the bathroom laws being proposed screw up in two ways (usually):

  • They don’t talk about penises, just birth certificates or “biological” sex (which is a lot more complex than “has penis” and “doesn’t have penis” (note that it is “doesn’t have penis”, not “has vagina”, in common application by bigots; note they also tend to think intersex people don’t exist)
  • They don’t tend to make it illegal to use the “wrong” bathroom (occasionally they do, but neither North Carolina’s or Mississippi’s bathroom bills do this)

So I’ll help out: if you want to do this evil thing to trans people, who aren’t doing anything other than wanting to pee, you make a law that has the following:

  • No person with a penis should ever enter a woman’s locker room or bathroom, except for the conditions the law lists (NC’s lists things like helping disabled people or bringing a baby boy into the woman’s room with his mother)
  • There is some sort of punishment if a person with a penis is there
  • People can be asked to prove they don’t have a penis to any interested party that sees them go into a restroom. Whether they have a penis or not, they should be required to yank down their pants and undergarment and prove it upon request. If they don’t have a penis, then they should be able to proceed.  After all, we’re not worried about kids seeing vaginas.

Okay, maybe the last point would be too much for the immoral politicians proposing the bathroom bills.

But there’s a problem with the first and second point too: the right wing not only doesn’t want anyone to see a penis, they don’t want to say or write the word. If you’re a guy and say it, maybe they think you’re gay or something. I don’t know.  The right wing just can’t say “penis.”

That’s why we get this legislations that references birth certificates, even though it actually requires some people with penises, if a business wants to discriminate, or if a government agency tries to “enforce” the law in a public building, to use the women’s locker room – because it’s very possible for some people with penises to have birth certificates that say “F” for many reasons. Don’t think that referencing chromosomes, “biology”, or whatever else gets you off the hook, either – XY chromosomes don’t guarantee a penis, after all. Never mind that XX and XY aren’t the only valid configurations of genes in humans – and some people who don’t fit expectations of people with no more than an elementary understanding of genetics might not even know that they have genetic weirdness (it is often found out when a couple has trouble getting pregnant and seeks medical advice).

Of course passing this “no-penis” legislation wouldn’t go far – it’s unconstitutional (for many of the same reasons HB2 and Mississippi’s laws are). When these kinds of laws are applied to a large population (like a state’s population), you also find out about the exceptions. What about people with prosthetic penises? If a woman is carrying a dildo, does that count? What about a man who lost his penis in an accident? Or someone who is intersexed and may not fit either M or F boxes neatly?

But at least, conceivably, it would accomplish their aims. Unless their aims really have nothing to do with girls seeing penises, and everything to do with trying to torture gender nonconformity out of trans people.

Spikes in Divorce – Same Sex Marriage?

One of the talking points of right-wing commentators is that same-sex marriage will both increase the divorce rate and lower the marriage rate.  Essentially, the argument is that same-sex marriage will soil the word and institution of marriage so badly, that straight people will not want to be in marriage anymore.

The CDC keeps statistics of marriage and divorce.  There is some caveats with this data, and there are slightly different versions of it, so the numbers very slightly.  However, they don’t vary enough to change the conclusions from anything I’m saying, and I have normalized for missing states (not every state reports the data every year).

Historical USA Divorce RateWhat you can see in the chart to the left is interesting.  While there are some data oddities (the drop right around year 2000 is due to data gathering differences), the trend is clear – the divorce rate is not sky-rocketing as a result of gay marriage being legal in several states.  Instead it’s flat or maybe slightly down over the last few decades.

I’ll define the terms “divorce rate” and “divorce rate” briefly – they simply are “how many marriages were there that year per 100,000 people living in the USA” and “how many divorces were there that year per 100,000 people living in the USA.”  As you can see, in the 80s and 90s, there was nearly one divorce for every two marriages, although it’s dropped a bit down since then.

What this chart doesn’t show is 1946 (my data source for that time period didn’t break it down by year) – there was a massive spike in divorce following WWII, one that rivals the modern 1980 spike.  Why?  Nobody really knows, but the two biggest theories are (1) it was hard to get divorced when you were in the army (and likewise hard to divorce someone who was in the army) and (2) the war put a tremendous strain on young families.  The divorce rate in 1946 was 4.3 divorces per 1,000 population, versus 2.0 divorces per 1,000 people in 1940 and 2.6 divorces per 1,000 people in 1950.  In fact, 1946 had more divorce than every year from 2002 onward on a per-capita basis (when compared to marriage rate, 1946 also saw a very high marriage rate – but the divorce rate was still much higher than the previous and following year, even on a per 1,000 marriage basis).  So war is bad for marriage.  One wonders how US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are reflected in the above graph – would our divorce rate be lower if we didn’t go to war (sometimes I wonder how the right wing reconciles their definitions of pro-life and pro-family with their support for going to war).  So here’s similar data from the CDC (but different scale, so not directly comparable) about divorce in the USA that shows, clearly, the spike:


From – data from 1920 to 1980

The other spike was gay marriage being legalized.

Okay, no it wasn’t.  At the end of the 70s, beginning of the 80s, there was a massive change to USA divorce law: the no-fault divorce became legal nearly everywhere.  In 1969, California instituted no-fault divorce.  In 1977, the 9th state changed their law to allow no-fault divorce.  In 1983, all but one state (South Dakota) did likewise (South Dakota did so in 1985).  Before this change, you had to legally prove, essentially, guilt of one spouse in an adversarial trial.  One spouse would attempt to prove guilt, while the other could defend against the claims.  And the claims had to be something tangible, not simply “we don’t get along” or “I’m not in love with her.”  It had to be something like abandonment or adultery (but not rape of the wife – up until 1982, there were still states that did not recognize that a husband could rape his wife, as she supposedly consented to any sex her husband ever could want when she said “I do”).  No fault divorce let one obtain a divorce without proving to a court that your spouse did something wrong.  Obviously, that made it easier for a divorce to occur when only one spouse wanted to get divorced (since now there was no defense against divorce to force the court to keep the marriage intact legally).

Who was divorcing in 1980?  They were married a median (not mean) of 6.8 years.  That means (no pun intended) that 1/2 of people divorcing were married less than 6.8 years, 1/2 more than 6.8 years.  It meant that 1/2 got married either before or after 1973.  The median age of women divorcing was 30.3 and the median age of men was 32.9.  In other words, the median birth year was 1947 (men) or 1949 (women).  Of course 1/2 of divorcees were born before then, 1/2 after.  In other words, these were the kids on Leave it to Beaver.  They weren’t pro-gay people!  In fact, if we calculate things, we find out that this group now has a median age of 64 (women) or 66 (men).  Do you know what is interesting about that?  According to Gallop, only 41% of 65+ year olds believe gay marriage should be legal, while only 46% of 50-64 year olds do.  Going back to 1996, 30-49 year olds (our median ages for those who divorced in 1980 would have been 47 and 49 in 1996), showed only 30% believing it should be legal.  In comparison  today, 70% of 18-29 year olds think gay marriage should be legal and 53% of 30-49 year olds.

So, this group that divorced more frequently than people today is also more anti-gay.

If we look at 1975, with a divorce rate nearly as high as 1980, we see the median length of a marriage at time of divorce was 6.5 years.  In 1968 (1975 minus 6.5), the median age of marriage was 21.5 (woman) and 23.6 (man) which put their age at time of divorce at roughly 28 and 30 years old in 1975.  That puts their age of birth at 1945 (women) and 1947 (men).  Maybe this is less the age of Beaver and more the age of Wally Cleaver.  Regardless, this group too still holds a significantly more anti-gay viewpoint than the children of the 80s and 90s (ironically these are children, often, of divorce!).

Anti-gay attitude doesn’t seem to make marriages more successful.  One would think things like communication and compromise do.  But of course promoting those things isn’t nearly as important as being anti-gay for “pro-family” organizations.  Should any pro-family organization want my advice, here it is:

  • War is bad for marriage.  We better be darn sure the war is worth it because even just war like WWII (Gallop says 9 out of 10 Americans believe WWII was just) has tremendous consequences for marriage.
  • Being anti-gay doesn’t seem to correlate to having successful marriages, if history is any example
  • Maybe the Leave it to Beaver family wasn’t quite as perfect as we remember.  It certainly didn’t prepare people for lasting marriage (children of the 70s and 80s are doing better at staying with their spouse).
  • There probably were a lot of unhappy marriages before no-fault divorce.  Rather than attacking these laws (such as by so-called Covenant Marriages which roll-back no-fault divorce laws), maybe we should figure out why so many people are unhappy enough with their marriage to want a divorce

Now, I don’t want anyone to think any of the above is any sort of criticism of people who have divorced.  It’s not intended that way.  I recognize that there are lots of reasons why people divorce, and I can’t imagine anyone divorcing without substantial thought and a broken heart.  So I recognize that divorce is not a moral failure.  That is why I’m opposed to the covenant marriage movement.

Again, what do all of these statistics show?  They show marriage is complex.  It’s affected by lots of things (such as no-fault divorce laws and WWII).  But one thing that isn’t seen in any of the statistics: the institution of marriage is not particularly any worse off today than it was when Reagan was president, nor is legal recognition of same-sex marriage creating any apparent impact upon our divorce rates (the same can be said for marriage rates, too, but that’s a different post).