By Dale Peacock
When I first heard about the great bathroom debate following NDP MP Randall Garrison’s private member’s bill, C-279 way back in 2013, I thought it would be a slam dunk. After all the Bill seeks to fight hate crimes against transgender individuals by adding gender identity provisions to both the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights. Who would be against that?
Well, apparently many Canadians are against it because the Bill also seeks to address the fact that public gender-specific bathrooms can be very difficult and even frightening for transgender individuals. Some transgender people have even experienced harassment and violence as a result of not fitting in with traditional gender roles.
I believe that it is becoming increasingly clear that gender is something of a spectrum and not a binary along the line of being male or female. This really just acknowledges that we are just people and maybe we should stop putting ourselves in little restrictive boxes. I can hear the religious right saying, “God doesn’t make mistakes.” Well then, maybe we need to consider that being trans or male or female is not some horrible affliction or mistake by God or anybody else.
So, back to toilets. Trans people should not have to enter a bathroom in fear and trepidation. It’s a big deal for transgender people – especially young people – and it is no big deal at all for the rest of us. The fact is that any number of bathrooms already exist that have the symbol for male and female on the door. I personally hate them as men tend to have wretched aim and don’t have the good sense to sit down but that’s a whole different issue of courtesy for others using a public space.
Twenty years ago when we delivered our daughter to York University, her dorm had a huge toilet/shower facility that was used by women and men and very likely transgender people too although we may not have had a name for it back then. I confess to having a moment….for a moment….but it was so obvious that these ‘kids’ had zero issue with it, that any issue I might have had disappeared. They did not shower or s**t together – they just walked into a room together! And don’t we all do most things unsegregated already?
If women already use toilets with a male symbol on the door and have to step in the damp evidence and raised seat of a man having been there, what IS the big deal? I heard a kid say not too long ago, “It’s like being afraid of the dark. You’re afraid of what you don’t know so it takes on a bigger importance than it really is and even makes you imagine stuff.”
Some of the things imagined/considered by those in opposition to gender-neutral bathrooms are the same Victorian notions that led to the segregation of gender in rest rooms in the first place, including the idea that women had to be protected from the baser instincts of men. It was paternalistic then and it’s more so now.
Good grief, if men can stand ‘cheek to cheek’ in a line of urinals how distressing could it be for them to go into a gender-neutral stall to do their business? There is infinitely more privacy in the multi-stall gender-neutral scenario.
Further fears include that pedophiles will follow kids into gender-neutral toilets and assault them, but what parent of young children allows them unaccompanied access to a public bathroom anyway?
Bathroom opposition tends to affect way more than bathrooms and in many cases, so-called “bathroom bills” create obstacles for all LGBTQ individuals in a variety of different settings. The “I’m afraid of” opposition may just be a smokescreen for other issues of discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
For transgender students just going pee is fraught with hassle. They either hold it until they can get to a locked door single stall toilet, which is very physically unhealthy, or they make the emotionally charged decision to put aside who they really are and use a bathroom that matches their genitals. It’s a crappy choice, no pun intended.
When I read the points of opposition on sites like Canada Family Action, whose tag-line is “Protect Women and Children, Defend Our Country’s Morals and Prevent Gender Confusion” I shake my head and wonder if it’s 1950 again? Sad to say but the greatest threat to women and children, if all the sexual offence statistics are correct, is a sub-set of sick, white, heterosexual men, not LGBTQ folks or gender-neutral bathrooms.
Gender-neutral bathrooms create private, individual spaces that are accessible to all people. Let’s grow up and cease being Puritanically grossed out by bodily functions. It’s time to move on to a more enlightened bathroom solution which many places in the world have already adopted.
Following a career in the hospitality sector and the acquisition of a law and justice degree in her 50s, Dale embarked on a writing career armed with the fanciful idea that a living could be made as a freelancer. To her own great surprise she was right. The proof lies in hundreds of published works on almost any topic but favourites include travel, humour & satire, feature writing, environment, politics and entrepreneurship. Having re-invented herself half a dozen times, Dale doesn’t rule anything out. Her time is divided equally between Muskoka and Tampa Bay with Jim, her husband of 7 years and partner of 32 years. Two grown ‘kids’ and their spouses receive double doses of love and attention when she’s at home.
Kudos to HuffPost for for capturing the debate so succinctly in the lead photo.
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