Montgomery County, Maryland, is a focal point for the freedom to pee. Last year, the county commissioners passed an ordinance protecting one’s right to pee in a bathroom that matches one’s gender identity, but the law is on hold pending an appeal based on a citizen petition. [There are too many websites and blogs to mention that have commented or reported on this situation, but if you Google “Montgomery County bathrooms gender identity,” you’ll get ’em all, including a story of a man in a dress who demanded to use a women’s gym bathroom that turned out to be a stunt by the ordinance’s detractors.]

The opposition to this ordinance is a group called Citizens for a Responsible Government, whose website is called “Not My Shower,” obviously alluding to the specter of a “man in a dress” invading a women’s public shower or dressing room and wreaking havoc. Their argument is that one should use the bathroom that corresponds to their “natural” sex, whatever that is.

Well, says Zoe Brain, who writes wonderful blog and op-ed posts, let’s take this argument to its natural conclusion. Transmen (women who transitioned to men and who have beards and muscles) should use the women’s bathroom, and transwomen (men who transitioned to women and who wear dresses, makeup, and look like women) should use the men’s bathroom. Zoe has illustrated this reductio ad absurdum argument beautifully over on her blog in a mock flyer to be plastered all over Montgomery County. As Zoe’s flyer graphically illustrates, and as has been pointed out in a variety of places, if there is danger associated with transgendered people and bathrooms, the danger falls on the trans* people, and is associated with forcing transmen to use women’s bathrooms or transwomen to use men’s bathrooms, both of which would wreak havoc and threaten their safety.

Look, peeing is a fairly fundamental need, as I have noted in last month’s blog post, “Too Ra Loo.” It is disingenuous for the Montgomery County Citizen’s group to create fear in the citizenry around the image of mysterious men who wear dresses to exploit legal loopholes in laws designed to allow transgender people to pee in peace. If a creepy man is going to sneak into women’s bathrooms and bother people, the presence or absence of a “free-to-pee” law isn’t going to make any difference. I donated to Basic Rights Montgomery because while I feel my logic is impeccable, you read a lot of this sort of logic in blog comments and letters to the editor of newspapers (this one from TeachTheFacts.Org):

why is separating bathrooms by biological sex treating people “unequally under the law”.
It is very equal.
If you have a penis, you belong in the mens room.
if you don’t have a penis you can go in the ladies room.

Do a Google search on men-in-dresses who exploit free-to-pee laws in order to lurk in women’s bathrooms for evil purposes — guess what? It simply doesn’t happen.

Note: See anything written by Autumn Sandeen on the issue of bathrooms, starting with this one about males as predators / protectors and how the logic fails when we’re talking about children.

See also a fabulous political cartoon about this issue at Kevin Moore’s website, “In Contempt”

My university has taken an ad hoc approach to formulating policy regarding transgender issues, and has been progressive and reasonable for my situation and for a couple of students that I have known about. Three broad policy issues that face faculty, staff, and students are the following:

  • name and sex records in personnel forms, campus email addresses, university directory information, and other records
  • non-discrimination and non-harrassment policies
  • and the one everyone worries about, the “bathroom” policy

(Non-policy, but still important, is having a culture of acceptance and tolerance. )

There are many good reasons to work on any one of the three issues, but since we have to pee every day and since a lot of people have knee-jerk reactions to a “man in the women’s room,” the bathroom issue is probably one of the best places to start.

My university crafted an ad hoc bathroom policy that’s progressive and integrative: you use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex you’re performing. This seems quite reasonable, even if conservatives have been up in arms in Montgomery County, Maryland about the issue.

There are good reasons for integration in multiple-stall bathrooms: cost effective, socially conventional, and space-saving. But there are good reasons for non-gender-specific large bathrooms and single-stall bathrooms, violence and discrimination being the two most pressing issues. The Transgender Law Center (a California organization, has published a terrific pdf brochure called “Peeing In Peace: A Resource Guide for Transgender Activists and Allies.”

I myself am not sure if there can be a universal rule for all universities, organizations, and other companies, and I’m not sure how I feel about the issue. I lean towards integration, but I’m also mindful of how difficult it is for transgender people who are not conventional-looking to use those facilities.

See also

Bathroom Liberation Front
Transgender Workplace Diversity
FORGE Legal Issues