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.

Another Bad Month

candleAugust was another bad month for trans people.

When I recount the violence I know about, remember that many crimes against trans people go unreported, don’t get media attention, or are treated as ordinary violence in media reports.  Sadly, the majority of crime against trans people falls into this unreported and ignored category.

Even so, what is reported is horrifying and shows us, again, that we need to continue to fight for trans people.  Not for marriage.  Not for employment.  Not for bathroom access.  Just for the right for trans people to exist.  Just to exist.

As always, I strive to respect who people are.  Unfortunately, the preferred gender identities, names, and pronouns of victims are not always evident from reports.  In addition, some cultures have different views among trans people of who they are – all the world doesn’t view gender as western society does.  I’ve tried to be respectful of people, and am sorry that not everything linked here goes to that same trouble.  I also know I may get it wrong, as I am forced in most cases to rely on media reports.  I welcome correction and will update this post accordingly.  I’ve also tried to be respectful in what I link, but at the same time, some of the only reporting is often horrifying or degrading.  Please keep this in mind when clicking links.

During the beginning of the month, a trans woman was brutally attacked by a group of thugs in Russia.  The attackers even video taped themselves brutally attacking the woman.  Unfortunately, we don’t know if the woman’s physical wounds have healed or not, but it is clear that the attack will have lifelong consequences.  It’s hard to imagine that not only could someone do this to someone else, but they could actually make a graphic video about it.

On Aug 18, 2013, in Ankara, Turkey, a crowd violently attacked a group of trans people, beating them with bats, gassing them, and destroying their automobiles.  When the crime was reported to police, with license plate information, the police claimed that the license plates were false.  However, the victims report that they are concerned that the apathy of police will cause these attacks to continue.

In Dhobi Ghat, India, on Aug 19, a trans person was raped.  The rapist went on to rape severely ill person (who died, in large part due to the attack according to relatives) only a few hours later, followed by participating in a gang rape against a photojournalist two days later.

One day later, on Aug 20, in Fontana, CA, USA, Dominique Newburn was murdered in a violent struggle with her attacker.  Some of her belongings were stolen, and a manhunt continues for the suspected killer.

On August 22, in New York City, a Islan Nettles was brutally attacked, dying several days later having never regained consciousness from her injuries.  The murderer was a student at a local university who was apparently so enraged upon finding out that the woman he was hitting on (and who turned him down) and her friends were trans brutally attacked Islan in front of a New York City police station, leaving her unconscious.  Islan’s friends were also attacked, although with less significant injuries.  Meanwhile, the suspected killer’s mother, seems to have found another man to try to take the blame for the murder, to spare her son jail time.  Fortunately, police are still investigating Paris Wilson, the originally suspected killer.  It should be noted that others were also likely involved in attacking the trans women.

Of course, even in all of this, several of the victims of the crimes described above faced additional injustice when they reported the crimes to apathetic police, endured misgendering, were referred to as “drunk” or “prostitutes” by police and/or media, and even when their families used the wrong pronouns or names in talking about the victims.  The attack rarely stops when the physical violence ends.

This article puts it in perspective, speaking about July:

These findings were based on statistics released by the Organization of American States and included incidents from Canada, the United States, Central America and South America. The report found that in the month of July alone, 39 people were murdered: 23 transgender people and 16 gays and lesbians.

The article goes on to talk about that, while gays face more risk of violence than straight people, trans people, particularly trans women and non-white trans people, face violence at an incredibly increased rate compared to even gay people.

This has to stop.  When you see people devaluing the humanity of another, whether it’s a crass joke, intentional misgendering, laughing at someone’s gender presentation, or gossiping behind their back, you need to speak up.  These things are not violent attacks, but they lower the social status of trans people and make them less than fully human in some people’s eyes.  And they’re asshole things to do besides.

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).