Thursday, March 28, 2013

Transgender Bathroom Use

So, it seems that Arizona has made it illegal for males to use the bathroom for females, and vice-versa.

This has angered advocates for transgendered people.


Call me old-fashioned, but I suppose I'm rather a fan of the sex-segregated bathroom system. To be honest with y'all, I don't particularly like taking a whiz in front of other dudes, much less non-dudes. It's not, like, a major thing with me or anything. But I'm not exactly passionately opposed to the current system.

Does the system of sex-segregated public bathrooms make any sense sub specie aeternitatis?

Um, I don't think so.

But, then, neither do any number of handy and not-unreasonable human ways of getting along. There's probably no way to defend laws against public nudity, either, God bless 'em. Nor laws against having sex in public.

Anyway, if you're going to have a sex-segregated bathroom system, then I reckon you want it to split people up by, y'know, sex.

And that means: not by gender. The rule isn't: masculine people use one, feminine people use the other one. It doesn't split people up by, say, clothes. Or whatever.

So, though I don't think that Arizona should be going out of its way to be mean to people, I don't see the law as some kind of major affront to reason. I think you shouldn't be mean. But I'm having kind of a hard time working up outrage about this.

I don't particularly think we should give up the two-bathroom system. But I recognize that it's hard to defend without using a whole lot of highly contingent and conditional premises. Get rid of the system if you want...but, if it's in place, and if it's legitimately enforceable by law, then this seems like the right way to enforce it.

Maybe it doesn't make sense to segregate bathrooms by sex. But it makes even less sense to segregate them by clothes.

We could, of course, have a three-bathroom system: exclusively male, exclusively female, and open to everyone/anyone. But that's not going to happen. If we did have such a system, people with sex/ gender incongruities would have no grounds for objecting about being excluded from the bathroom for the other sex. (I wonder whether they would object, though? This isn't some kind of matter of principle in that respect, is it?) But we don't have such a system, and it'd be too expensive to retrofit everyplace.

I do have sympathy for people who have sex/gender mismatches. Life's got enough hassles without feeling like you're stuck in the wrong body. But there are limits to what "identifying" with a group can do. Identifying with males doesn't make you male. Identifying with Armenians doesn't make you Armenian. Identifying with astronauts doesn't make you an astronaut. Identifying with Holocaust survivors doesn't make you a Holocaust survivor.

Personally, I kinda think that we ought to just adopt a modus vivendi according to which, if you basically think of yourself as a dude, you use the dude's bog. There are enough exceptions, and the system is already incoherent enough that we probably ought to do whatever makes things go most smoothly. But I don't, in general, think "I identify with xes" is a terribly powerful reason for demanding that other people treat you like an x. Hell, if it is, I'm going to start identifying with excellent philosophers, or rich people, or super-hot people, or pro basketball players...

Finally: I do think that women have an interest in keeping guys out of women's rooms. But I'm bored with this topic already. Ergo I quit.


Anonymous Jimmy Doyle said...

Ha ha I had to laugh when I saw you said "bog." Isn't that totally British?

7:54 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, I think only you Brits call it that. But it's the handiest / best / most amusing word for the can that I know of.

11:17 PM  

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