Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Baño Too Far:The Bathroom Wars Erupt

Add the latest skirmish to the list of phony wars the conservatives believe we are fighting in this country over issues that should have been settled long ago.

Like voter fraud, those opposed to bathroom choice have created an image of a transgender man, or in the nightmare scenario, a man pretending to be transgender, going into the women's bathroom and abusing the real women there. Because this has happened how many times? Almost never? Really and truly never? I appreciate that conservatives want to anticipate problems before they appear, but why couldn't they have done it with a real issue like, say, climate change, smoking causing cancer or school testing, where the evidence was clear that these were terribly harmful to people?

Obviously, this is more than just a concern over bathrooms. It's the last gasp fight that many people in this country believe we need to have in order to save the United States from truly recognizing that all people living here have civil rights that the government needs to respect and protect. After all, we need to have enemies, the other, and the outsider in order to properly set them apart from so-called normal Americans who live with their body parts, their heterosexuality, Judaeo-Christian (only) beliefs, and who reject New York values. Losing the bathroom war might mean that we'd have to recognize that gender identity is not binary but fluid, and that it exists on a continuum that can shift daily.

And besides, this issue is taking attention away from the real national concern, which is how to use religious beliefs to deny engaged or married gay couples their rights. You can't use religion to deny the use of the bathroom because, well, you know.

As a educator for the past 30 years, I understand completely why parents and students would be concerned about the bathroom. But what I also understand is that without fanfare, transgender students have been quietly and dutifully going to the bathroom for generations without much fuss, and I suspect that many of them have gone to the bathroom in which they felt the most comfortable, which has been difficult because many transgender students have been made to feel distinctly uncomfortable in their own skin for millennia. I will also say that my colleagues and I have witnessed a remarkable shift in student attitudes towards their LGBTQ classmates in just the past two years because of the Supreme Court's marriage decision. One of the results is that my school district has a policy that recognizes the inherent dignity of all people and allows them to make their own choice of bathroom.

The big issue in the 1980s and 90s was coming out of the closet. For today's youth, it's going to whatever Water Closet they want to go into.

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