In his April 11 opinion column defending the sanctity of the water closet, Journal Inquirer managing editor Chris Powell questions (without taking a clear position) whether a person born with one kind of genitalia will threaten the modesty of those born with another should they find themselves sitting side by side in walled, closed-doored women’s bathroom stalls or standing side by side, as men do every day, in the more open atmosphere of a men’s bathroom.
Powell pretends to sympathize with the trans community by acknowledging that their lives “may be hard enough already” without the threat of even further challenges, then (amusingly) claims that even the “worst reactionaries and most fervent religious fundamentalist … probably would not advocate oppression” of that community–this in the same week a law passed in Mississippi inviting businesses to discriminate against gays.
Not allowing a human who identifies as a female to use the female bathroom isn’t oppression, Powell implies, but a simple matter of modesty and propriety. He asks, “Has modesty, the rationale for separate-sex washrooms, really been so oppressive all this time?”
“Men go here; Women go there” probably doesn’t oppress or offend any cis-gender male or female using his or her appointed restroom. No one is arguing that men and women shouldn’t continue to look for the cute little symbol on the door that tells them where they can make. The only change is an expansion of the purely biological definitions of “man” and “woman” to include the psychological and emotional components, the self-identity of the human being separate from the body parts born–or not born–with.
Powell argues that modern political liberalism operates under the illusion that “merely proclaiming something makes it so,” later categorizing the transgender community as equally delusional when he writes, “As for whether men can be women and women can be men simply by their own assertion…”
It could just as easily be argued that Powell and those like him who would insist that whether a person is a man or a woman is absolutely and entirely based on the originally assigned visible reproductive organs are trying, like those “modern liberals,” to make something so simply by proclaiming it. Gender is more complex than sex organs, no matter how loudly the idea is protested, and claiming it’s otherwise won’t make it so.
Until we have unisex bathrooms, insisting that a human who lives, dresses, and identifies as a male use the women’s restroom (can you imagine, Chris Powell, your discomfort were someone to force you to only and always use the women’s restroom?) is oppression. It’s a denial that the person’s gender is valid and an open refusal to treat the human being with the basic respect and dignity you, Chris Powell, are afforded every time you perform the simple act of opening the door to the men’s restroom.
*Originally appeared in the Journal Inquirer April 20, 2016