It always involves the bathroomBottom Highlights, Trans Progressive Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Commentary: Trans Progressive
“Jim Crow states passed statutes severely regulating social interactions between the races,” states a Web page for the Ferris State University’s Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia. “Jim Crow signs were placed above water fountains, door entrances and exits, and in front of public facilities. There were separate hospitals for blacks and whites, separate prisons, separate public and private schools, separate churches, separate cemeteries, separate public restrooms and separate public accommodations.”
“Some places had three restrooms; one labeled ‘white ladies,’ another ‘colored women’ and the third for ‘white men,’” is what the 2000 documentary film Out Of Obscurity, stated about restrooms in Jim Crow America.
Somehow African American men were considered sexual predators of white women, and that about a quarter to a third of lynchings were for alleged rapes of white women. “If it takes lynchings to protect [white] woman’s dearest possession from drunken, ravening beasts, then I say lynch a thousand a week,” said the first woman appointed to the U. S. Senate in 1897, Rebecca Latimer Felton. She was expressing her feelings about the alleged rapes of white women by African Americans.
I’m talking about this not to appropriate African American experience and say it’s just like trans experience – the trans civil rights movement isn’t just like the black civil rights movement. But we should note that pretty much all of the major civil rights movements in the United States have included bathroom and/or locker room issues, and often the bigotry against a minority population included alleged predatory behavior.
The tendency to reduce civil rights and integration into society for the disabled to bathrooms and bus lifts permeated coverage of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) – probably the only one that didn’t have a predation element to the bathroom argument. Critics of the ADA argued that it cost too much to make public accommodations for the disabled, that it would promote frivolous litigation, enjoyed little business support and mandated federal intrusion while discouraging negotiation, as well as ignoring market forces. According to the Job Accommodation Network, one-third of workplace accommodations cost nothing, and in another third of cases the average cost of compliance is less than $500.
But the women’s civil rights movement is one where predatory behavior was implied. For example, Phyllis Schlafly was a major leader of the anti-ERA movement. As the leader of the Eagle Forum, Schlafly argued that the ERA was unnecessary because women were already protected by the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, both of which barred sex discrimination. She also argued that the proposed amendment would outlaw separate public restrooms for men and women, implying that men as a class of people are predators who, in public unisex restrooms, wouldn’t control their deviant sexual urges.
And for the gay liberation movement, in discredited researcher Paul Cameron’s paper Child Molestation and Homosexuality, he stated that gay men were more likely to commit child molestation than straight men. His discredited report suggested 1-3 percent of adults who practice homosexuality account for between a fifth and a third of all child molestation – the argument implied gay men as a class of people can’t be trusted with children in public restrooms.
For gays and lesbians in the LGBT civil rights movement, in arguments against repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell put forward by the socially conservative Center For Military Readiness included ones that gays and lesbians would engage in leering at other males and females in latrines, showers, barracks and ships’ berthing spaces. Their spokeswoman, Elaine Donnelly, stated at a 2008 House Armed Services personnel subcommittee hearing that lesbians would take pictures of people in the shower, that there are “inappropriate passive/aggressive actions common in the homosexual community” that are incompatible with LGB military service. She warned of the prospects of “forcible sodomy” and “exotic forms of sexual expression,” and cited a case of “a group of black lesbians who decided to gang-assault” a fellow soldier.
In 1993, Commander James Pledger, a former commanding officer of the destroyer U.S.S. Arthur W. Radford stated, “[My crew is] repulsed by the prospect of having to shower in view of homosexual shipmates, as well as sleep no more than two feet from homosexuals.”
Should we not then expect that bathrooms, locker rooms and showers to come up when discussing trans civil rights?
As the trans subcommunity of the LGBT community looks toward a possible referendum of the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266), we know we’re going to hear “bathroom bill” arguments against trans primary and secondary school students who are going to engage in predatory behavior. The tale of a female transgender student at a Colorado high school engaging in “harassment” of cisgender girls in school bathrooms is being spread by Matt McReynolds and Brad Dacus of the Pacific Law Institute (PJI). “This is a nightmare scenario for the teenage girls – some of them freshmen – and their parents at this school,” stated PJI staff attorney McReynolds in an early October press release. “This is exactly the kind of horror story we have been warning would accompany the push for radical transgender rights in schools, and it is the type of situation that LGBT activists have been insisting would not happen.”
And apparently this type of situation didn’t actually happen at that Colorado High School, as Cristan Williams at The Transadvocate has documented. But on one level it doesn’t matter that the story PJI and other social conservatives peddled is untrue. The painting of trans youth as bathroom predators – in the same way that men in “unisex bathrooms,” African American men in general (to include all public facilities in many states and localities), and gays and lesbians in barracks, showers and locker rooms – should be expected.
In civil rights movements, bathrooms and locker rooms are always part of the story for oppression of minority populations before they acquire ordinary equality under the law.
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